Speaking of Us

Reschooling The Adivasi Academy in Tejgadh, Gujarat

India’s certainly thriving in its linguistic diversity, if nothing else


Debarshi Dasgupta

Debarshi Dasgupta

By Debarshi Dasgupta
, Sept. 9, 2013

[NOTE:  With some 780 unique languages, India has more than 4 times that of the Philippines. Yet some of the problems of “privileging” one or two languages over the others in India and the Philippines are eerily similar. In the Philippines, millions of non-Tagalog students had to start school with Filipino and English as media of instruction (MOI) — two languages they are not familiar with. In India, teacher Chaudhary Tekha asks her student Rangeela Bhili why the latter did not learn anything at school in spite of having studied through Class VII with  Gujarati — a language they were not familiar with — as the medium of instruction. “Because our teacher, whenever he came, always taught in Gujarati,” she says softly in Dungra Bhili, her own mother tongue. You see, the non-Filipino speaking students in the Philippines suffered the same fate as the non-Gujarati speaking Indians — largely the consequence of government’s hegemonic linguistic policies enshrined into both countries’ educational set-up. Fortunately for some Indian students, some timely intervention had come about making it possible, under one model, for a student to be taught in his or her mother tongue between Classes I and V. This intervention, which involves creating and printing textbooks and training teachers, has cost the government an additional money. But the cost needs to be measured against the colossal waste of money over the past 60 years during which the dependency on only one medium of instruction — which was not the mother tongue of the students — spawned generations of bar­ely-literate children. — Joe Padre]

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Why Mother-Tongue Instruction Improves Achievement

[The following is an excerpt from Helen Abadzi’s book, Efficient Learning for the Poor: Insights from the Frontiers of Neuroscience, which I recommend for those involved in MLE.]

Learning Essentials

For many children, education in another language is more difficult than expected.  The deficits in native language development common among the poor may inhibit the rapid acquisition of a second language. Mother tongue instruction is a prerequisite if Education for All is to be achieved, particularly when the official language has complex spelling rules. The official language should be taught to children as early as possible. However, it should become the platform for learning new information only after children know it sufficiently well to process complex sentences and vocabulary. A gradually decreasing percentage of mother-tongue instruction seems to be an effective way to introduce an official language.

Visitors to French-medium primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa are surprised to find out that children may understand little of what they are told and merely repeat verbatim what they hear. Sixth graders in rural areas may read haltingly or in monotone and be unable to answer comprehension questions on simple passages.  Why are schooling outcomes so poor?

Many countries have multiple languages and a need to teach in a common language. In countries like Romania or Indonesia, children speaking minority languages must learn the official language of instruction. In many others–including most countries in Africa and the South Pacific–the lingua franca is foreign to everyone (for example, English, French, or Portuguese). The countries with multiple languages have various language-instruction policies. In some countries, students may study in their mother tongues in lower primary grades and then switch to the lingua franca. In others, logistical and political complexities result in the use of the lingua franca for all grades. The latter approach is preferred in much of Africa and impacts some of the world’s poorest countries. Continue reading

The Language of Learning: Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education in the Philippines

By Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta
Reprinted from The Forum – March-April 2010 – (Vol 11 Issue 2)

“Studies show that a language’s
efficiency is related to its direct

usage. For example, Cebuanos

prefer to use English instead

of Filipino, which negatively

affects proficiency in Filipino.”

–Dr. Yolanda S. Quijano
Director of the DepEd Bureau of Elementary Education

Over twelve years ago, Lubuagan was just another cultural community nestled in the northern end of the Cordilleras in Kalinga Province. Then, in 1998, the Lubuagan First Language Component (FLC) multilingual education (MLE) pilot project was initiated through a partnership of educators from the Lubuagan community, the local government, the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc. (SIL) International Philippines. The FLC program promoted the use of the children’s first language in their basic education experience, complementing the ongoing education in Filipino and English, the two major languages of education as mandated by the country’s Bilingual Education Policy (BEP). Children in the first to third grades of Lubuagan public schools were taught the subject matter in their first language, Lilubuagan, and were then taught to handle the same subject matter using the two major languages. Continue reading

Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education – The Lubuagan Experience


Norma Duguiang and Diane Dekker

(Presented at the 1st MLE Conference, “Reclaiming the Right to Learn in One’s Own Language,” Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City, Feb 18-20, 2010.)

ABSTRACT:  In this paper, we describe the events that led to the initial implementation of the Lubuagan MTBMLE Program, the program plan and the achievement of students in the experimental and control classes as evaluation of the effectiveness of the program.


Lubuagan is located in the north end of the cordilleran mountains in Kalinga. We speak our own language in all domains of our lives except in school classrooms and church services. Many of us Lubuagan people are fluent in English and Filipino and Ilocano as well but we choose to use our own language in our homes and community. Our children grow up speaking Lilubuagan in our community and learn Filipino and English in school and Ilocano in wider society.

For the complete article, click on MTBMLE, Lubuagan Experience.