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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Planner’s Guide For The Introduction of African Languages and Cultures in the Education System


For it to be useful to as many countries as possible, the guide is based on a general conceptual design. However, since the concern is to show that the introduction of African languages and cultures in education is feasible in Africa today, the guide draws inspiration from concrete cases of the African reality and, more specifically, from success stories in the area under consideration. To that end, the guide is based on a set of assumptions.

  • A “fictitious” country: This guide does not explicitly mention any country. However, it refers to the experiment of a multilingual basic education continuum in a country of Francophone West Africa. This continuum comprises three elements: A nursery (3 years), en elementary school (5 years), post?primary education (4 years).
  • The use of African languages as media of instruction?learning is a decision obtained in the framework law on education and its implementing orders now need to be issued.
  • The use of African languages as a media of instruction – learning is a constituent of a more extensive programme, that of the global reform of the education system without which the use of national languages would not have a solid basis.
  • The model of bilingualism adopted in this guide is additive bilingualism. Contrary to the widespread practice consisting in using African languages during the first two or three years of schooling and abandoning them immediately after to switch to a foreign language, this guide suggests the coexistence of the national African language and French throughout primary school and during the early part of the post?primary cycle, in proportions that are well defined in the contribution of each medium to learning.
  • The experiment envisaged here covers a 10 year period: a primary education cycle of 6 years and 4 years of post-primary education which generally corresponds to the junior secondary level.
  • Another 10 year period is spent expanding the innovation with a view to its progressive generalization.

For the complete document, click on “Planner’s Guide For The Introduction of African Languages and Cultures in the Education System”.

Mother Language Instruction: Up To Grade 3 Is Good But Up To Grade 6 Is Best

By Jes B. Tirol

Dr. Jes B. Tirol

Reprinted from The Bohol Chronicle, Dec. 4, 2011 


Department of Education (DepEd) Order No. 74 mandates that the medium of instruction from Preschool to Grade 3 should be the mother language of the child. English and Filipino will be studied as a subject in class. At Grade 4, the medium of instruction will be mixed depending upon the subject fitted for the mother language, English, or Filipino.

After Grade 4, the main medium of instruction will be English or Filipino but the mother language, in our case, Binisayâ will still be used and studied as a support or auxiliary medium of instruction.


Numerous experiments and researches in the Philippines and throughout the world reveal overwhelmingly that mastering first the mother language or L1 is very advantageous for learning a second language (L2) or a third language (L3).

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Philippines: Multilingual Education (MLE) Mapping Data

Developed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Bangkok Office, the Multilingual Education (MLE) Mapping Data includes classroom language practises in pre-primary (PP) and primary/elementary (PR) levels in the following countries: AfghanistanBangladeshBhutanBrunei DarussalamCambodiaChinaFijiIndiaIndonesiaKiribatiLao PDRMalaysiaNepalPakistanPhilippinesSolomon IslandsThailandTimor-LesteVanuatu, and Vietnam.

The last item, Materials in classroom, for each organization/institution is an estimate of the number of titles developed and/or number of issues in print in the mother tongue (MT) for the classroom. We would recommend that the materials now in use be made public so that they are properly scrutinized with the end-in-view of improving them where they need improvement. This blog would welcome all implementers to publish their classroom materials right here. If there are some things common for certain languages, there just seems to be no point “reinventing” the teaching and learning materials being developed by each implementer (organization/institution). Let’s put together all the Ilocanos. Let’s put together all the Cebuanos, etc. See where each language group has some common characteristics among its implementers and then unify them wherever possible — instead of “rebooting” the experience whenever one group decides to come along. In other words, where it is possible to share valuable collective experience, by all means, let’s share.

Following is the reformatted version (to suit space requirements in this blog) of the UNESCO MLE Mapping Data for the Philippines:

Name of Organization/Institution:   LAKAS – Lakas ng Alyansa ng Katutubong Ayta sa Zambales (Alliance of Indigenous Ayta in Zambales)
Level of  Schooling:  Primary/elementary
Formal or Non-formal:  Non-formal education
Public or Private:  Private (community organization)
Which Languages:  Botolan Sambal (sbl)
Number of Children reached by level of schooling:  30 (SY 2010-2011)
Location:  Botolan, Zambales
Use of language in classroom:  Language of instruction is the mother tongue only.
Materials in classroom:  Sample farming tools, visual aids

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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

Spanish profs train Pinoy teachers on language teaching

A. Luistro

Tara Quizmundo ( of the Inquirer brought the following DepEd press release to our attention in an October 25, 2010 email to

To be fair, the arrangement was negotiated in the last year of the previous administration as an aftermath when one previous administration high official took a trip (more appropriately called a junket) to Spain and, mindful of his manners but not his country’s pocketbook issues, consented to the teaching of Spanish to our high school students without much public debate.  I have this sneaky suspicion that this high official of the previous administration did not have any inkling why Spanish was banished from the college curriculum a few decades ago.  I was a little more hopeful that the present administration would be a bit more circumspect before actually committing to the Spanish language teaching program.  But, as in the “enhanced K+12 basic education” deal, we’re taking this thing hook-line-and sinker without benefit of an impact study.  Whoa, I thought one of the arguments for the K+12 proposal was that there’s just not much time for our students to absorb what is being taught to them.  Now, assuming the proposed K+12 fizzles out, aren’t we about to increase the academic load for our high school students by requiring them to take the additional Spanish course — and thereby giving them even less time to absorb what it is they’re required to absorb now?

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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