DepEd, in spite of recent MLE initiatives, is slow to scuttle archaic English-only school policies

By Napoleon Imperial
Deputy Executive Director
Commission on Higher Education

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After the issuance of the DO 74 in 2009, I am not sure if DepEd ever issued any supporting order to forbid the English-only policy and the practice of imposing fines on learners speaking in their mother tongue.

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Napoleon B. Imperial

Dr. Napoleon B. Imperial

It’s August and the month of celebrating our Inang Wika. So I feel compelled to express my thoughts on the recent controversy of three students “expelled” by a supposed Christian school (Saviour’s Christian Academy) in Ilocos Norte. I feel saddened and regretful that something like this still has to happen among the country’s basic education schools at this stage of our educational history.

I don’t wish to defend that sectarian school and its owner/manager. But I am not surprised at all. I can see that we had it coming and that it is still bound to happen.

I can well recall that even before and after we successfully (at last) worked on the DepEd Order institutionalizing MLE (DO No.74 s.2009), many private schools openly prided themselves of implementing a Speak-English-only policy. This was even supported or re-enforced by some local government chief executives that made them re-electable. After the issuance of the DO in 2009, I am not sure if DepEd ever issued any supporting order to forbid the English-only policy and the practice of imposing fines on learners speaking in their mother tongue.

Way, way back in my time and even decades before, such policy and pedagogical tradition of speaking the local or regional language inside the school was quite a big sin and made learners and parents feel that what they got was inferior education. Consequently, English-speaking pupils were looked up to as the superior and model students. No wonder, as late as 2010, the former president (allegedly upon the whisper of an irate American industrialist) issued an order reiterating and enforcing English as medium of instruction which sounded like equating teaching in English with “quality education” and the only way to bring about quality outcomes. Before this or maybe even afterwards, she was so angry that the subject Pilipino was still in the curriculum in basic education.

Old vices and attitudes indeed die hard. Despite the passage of the landmark legislation Enhanced Basic Education (EBE) Act of 2013 and signed into law on May 15, 2013, by President Benigno Aquino III, schools whether public or private might not yet have felt the direct day-to-day implications of such law, specifically its MLE provisions and may still be clinging on to the deeply-entrenched belief (or bias) that quality teaching means being taught and communicating in English only. I’m not yet sure if DepEd has already issued an internal order to operationalize support to the institutionalized MLE in a more practical way like dismantling the archaic pedagogy based on English superiority. I looked at the latest draft IRR of the EBE Law (whose purpose is to clarify and operationalize the law) and its section on Medium of Teaching and Learning gives no such details to instruct schools.

For sure, the Ilocos Norte controversy could have been avoided. But in any bureaucratic setting that thrived or was nurtured in MEMOCRACY, the private lesson that I learned from 35 years of observing innovations or reforms is: it may not happen easily or take root automatically as desired. It might simply require a well-disseminated reinforcing instrument called “subordinate legislation.” Unfortunately, education is not exempt from the travails of implementing change.  (Reprinted from TED (Teacher Education & Devt) LOOP, August 11, 2013)

5 thoughts on “DepEd, in spite of recent MLE initiatives, is slow to scuttle archaic English-only school policies

  1. There needs to be some sense of balance and common sense. Cultivating national heritage through our native language and culture is important. It is likewise important that our students speak English well in this era of instantaneous, global interaction.

  2. I think the DepEd should embark on an information campaign to educate the public on the importance of a mother tongue-based multilingual education. Parents especially need to know that the ability of the student to understand content in core subjects like mathematics and science is hampered by their difficulty in using a language they do not understand. We also need to inform them on the advantages of strengthening linguistic abilities in the mother tongue in terms of helping children learn a second language. The bias against the mother tongue is a result of the mistaken belief that teaching children in the first language will not help them learn the more prestigious Filipino and English.

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