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

Open Letter on MLE

Letter from  Josefina L. Matibag (see comment) on June 15, 2010 at 8:16 PM:

I am the point person of MLE Implementation in our Division. After I attended my very first MLE exposure at Cagayan de Oro, I proposed to start implementing the program in our division with my superintendent’s approval in two pilot school implementers. We are about to conduct a workshop on IM’s production. But I do not have any input from our department; I only got readings from the internet. Could you please suggest some sources? What about the assessment material, will all of these be in the vernacular? I will be very grateful for any comment and suggestion from your end.

Dear Ms. Matibag:

First of all, let me congratulate you for being one of those genuinely concerned about the rights of people like me who, on my first day in Grade I years ago made the decision I didn’t want to go back to school because the teacher was talking to me and my classmates in a strange language I just didn’t understand. Believe me, I used practically all the reasons a young kid could muster to remain a truant. Only after an older brother patiently tutored me in basic reading and writing at home following that horrible, almost traumatic first-day-in-school experience did I summon the courage to go back and face the music.

Unless DepEd has something to recycle from its archives on the Regional Lingua Franca (RLF) Pilot Project which was launched under the leadership of the late Education Secretary Andrew B. Gonzales in 1999 (read Nolasco’s THE PROSPECTS OF MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION AND LITERACY IN THE PHILIPPINES)–remember that one where the RLF Pilot Project was launched in five (5) schools which employed Cebuano as MOI, four (4) which used Ilocano and seven (7), Tagalog in grades one and two, after which the children were mainstreamed into the regular bilingual program–if DepEd does not have any archived materials from the experiment, then I’m afraid you may have to start from scratch as well.

If you let me know what particular language (Cebuano, Ilocano, etc.) you’d be implementing MLE courses, I might be in a better position to help you. (For Cebuano, Dr. Jessie Grace Rubrico maintains a website,, which I think could be very useful. You’ll find her contact info, some language lessons and a primer there.). If you’re developing some course materials which are arithmetic related, I refer you to the Khan Academy, particularly that Arithmetic Section for YouTube video links. If you read my post, MLE Courses on YouTube, Salman Khan has a standing invitation for those interested to translate his videos into other languages.

I would also suggest you get in touch with Ched Arzadon (, an MLE advocate who just returned from an international MLE workshop in the UK.

As for the assessment issue, I refer you to an article, NEETS And The Multi-Dimensional Aspect Of Educational Assessment, by former Education Deputy Minister Abraham Felipe which I posted in my blog in September 2009.

As to what language you have to use in preparing your assessment report, I believe that is independent of the MLE program.

Joe Padre

A Pedagogic Grammar for Cebuano-Visayan


Angel O. Pesirla

(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.)

Courtesy of J. G. Rubrico

INTRODUCTION: This academic paper is premised on the need for a Cebuano-Visayan pedagogic grammar based on descriptively adequate and powerful linear description as a required academic component in the General Education Curriculum for B.A. and B.S. programs per CNU B.O.R. approval in 2000 of the CMO # 44, s. 1997 full implementation.

A pedagogic grammar presents the structural description of a language for teaching-learning purposes. This includes basically the making of descriptive statements about the target language to be learned through teaching in such a form that its structures (sound, word, sentence) will be more readily learned (Corder,  1973).

This grammatical description must be observationally adequate (a measure of the degree to which the statements of a description accord with the observed relevant facts), and descriptively adequate (a measure of the degree to which it succeeds in corporating all the facts which the goals of the description consider relevant). Furthermore, it must be more economical or powerful in the degree to which it accounts for the same facts with a smaller number of statements or rules, or alternatively, more facts with the same number of rules (1973).

For the complete article, click on A Pedagogic Grammar for Cebuano-Visayan lecture.

Technology and the changing paradigms in teacher education

If you don’t have RealPlayer or any flash player in your computer, you may have to download it to play the following “Effective technology integration in elementary education” video: