The Kom Experimental Mother Tongue Education Pilot Project Report for 2012

By Stephen L. Walter and Kain Godfrey Chuo 


Executive Summary 

For five years, an experimental program in multilingual education has been functioning in Boyo Division in the North West Region of Cameroon. In this program, 12 experimental schools use the local language—Kom—as a medium of instruction in Classes 1-3. After Class 3, children in the experimental schools return to the standard practice of English-only instruction. The 12 experimental schools are matched with 12 comparison schools which continue to use English as the language of instruction. At the end of year 5, standardized testing was once again completed for children in both comparison and experimental schools in Class 5. The findings are presented in the various sections of this report.

For the complete report, click on THE KOM MLE PROJECT REPORT 2012.

8 thoughts on “The Kom Experimental Mother Tongue Education Pilot Project Report for 2012

  1. One main problem with these studies is the presence of multiple factors affecting education. Teacher quality is a very important factor. There are two countries that do well in education: Finland, which uses mother tongue and Singapore, which uses English as medium of instruction. Both countries do well because of highly qualified teachers. These two countries demonstrate what the most important factor is. What medium of instruction is used appears to be inconsequential if the teachers are highly qualified.

    • You know I posted the article here hoping that those in the Philippines who are now in the process of starting implementation of mother tongue as MOI pursuant to DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 will notice some similar issues they may encounter later such as those that relate to the requisite years of implementation, namely the first 3 or 4 years (including kinder) of primary school.

      Some studies are now recommending that the mother tongue be used as MOI for the entire duration of primary school for it to effectively sink in for the student to maximize the benefits when transitioning into L2. In hindsight I now feel I should have more fiercely resisted the naysayers among the members of the advocacy group behind DepEd 74 when I proposed that the mother tongue should continue as a language course from grade 4 up to high school to give the student the opportunity to study the grammar and literature of his own mother tongue.

      Further, some issues in the Kom study are especially more problematic in the Philippines on account of the many L1s being used and because it is possible that DepEd do not have the wherewithal to ensure that ALL teachers handling MTBMLE are fluent in whatever regional mother tongue they are supposed to use as MOI.

      • Mother tongue should continue through higher education. Universities and colleges need to cultivate the mother tongue.

        As medium of instruction, the question of whether an early exit is good or not is difficult to answer. Mathematics and sciences increase in difficulty with each grade level. This factor, unfortunately, further emphasizes the mastery of the teachers. The failure of the early exit program may not be due to the early exit, but due to having teachers already not qualified to teach grade 4-6 level of math in Cameroon. This clearly is the underlying cause of poor performance for both English-only and English-learner pupils in this Cameroon study.

        • You’re absolutely right about cultivating the mother tongue even through higher education. Not having had the opportunity to do that during college, I was kinda embarrassed with my poor, underwhelming Ilocano skills when I was invited in 1994, after 30 years of continued residence in the U.S., to speak before a formal Ilocano gathering back home. From there I made a conscious decision to study Ilocano to be able to effectively speak and write the language and enjoy its literature; mind you, the self-education in Ilocano paid off handsomely in my case — like it broadened what I can or wish to do with the rest of my life, especially as it relates to my continued advocacy for MTB-MLE.

          Did my knowledge of my mother tongue enhance my understanding and appreciation of other L2s and concepts in other languages? Of course, it did and continues to do so. Sometimes, one experiences and relishes those moments when one comes across an L2 expression or concept that one remembers verbalizing or attempts to verbalize in one’s mother tongue, perhaps similarly or perhaps differently — yet meaning the same thing! Those are my favorite aha moments…

  2. Joe, Let me emphasize one of the results of the above study:

    “….The math result is especially striking by how low it is. Because of the structure of the test, a
    theoretically minimum possible (or likely) score is 16.67 if one knows nothing at all and
    simply makes random guesses as to the answer to each question. The actual group mean
    scores were 16.3 for the English group and 17.3 for the KEPP group….”

    This study actually shows the other side of the puzzle. While Singapore and Finland show that good results can be reached with either medium of instruction. The Kom project above illustrates that poor results can happen with either. When the scores do not even go beyond random guesses, there is clearly no learning, not with English, not with the mother tongue.

  3. I’m not sure if I’m digressing from the issue here, but I just read the simplest, easiest to understand explanation about how to achieve that elusive “mastery learning” described by Benjamin Bloom a few years ago in Salman Khan’s Youtube video–check it out! Oversimplified perhaps, however, if both teacher and student could only have a confluence of understanding of the concept and an effort to actually practice it, then may be a huge part of the problem in Philippine education would be alleviated.

    • No grades, no exams yet, there is enormous feedback. Anyone who goes through this educational system has learned. It requires the teacher to really know each student. Sounds like Finland.

  4. Take a look at Kom experiment findings in graphic, animated illustration which I did for my radio?TV show. The language in use here is my own mother tongue but the graph is self-explanatory. This part of the show is only 8 minutes long and you can skip to minute 3 or patiently wait. I have been interpreting the results of the Kom, Cameroon SIL experiment for my listeners/viewers this way because I want to take this message to Kenya where the ministry of education is trying to introduce instruction in mother tongue up to class 4 but the parents and teachers are resisiting. Here you go:
    Kipkoeech araap Sambu DLitt et Phil

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