Current issues in the implementation of the Mother Tongue Based- Multilingual Education in the Philippines
Paul Julian Santiago
I. Overview: From Bilingual Education Policy to MLE
The Philippines saw a big change this year when the Republic Act 10533, also known as the “Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III last May 15. One of the salient features of this law is the use of the mother tongue (MT) as the language of literacy and as the primary medium of instruction (MOI). UNESCO (2007) defines MT as the language that a person: (a) has learned first; (b) identifies with or is identified as a native speaker of by others; (c) knows best; and (d) uses most. This includes Filipino sign languages used by individuals with pertinent disabilities. Also known as Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education (MLE), this program is more than just using MT as the language of instruction when explaining the curriculum but also developing research- and evidence-based policies, sufficient teaching and learning materials, and intensive teachers’ training.
The shift from bilingual education policy to MLE is promising and has a big potential in solving the country’s many problems in education system. It specifically addresses the high functional illiteracy of Filipinos. The Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS) in 2003 and 2008 show very distressing results, and because the bilingual education policy (BEP) was still being implemented when the surveys were conducted, we can assume that the language used as MOI is one of the significant factors. Based on the results of the FLEMMS, the number of functionally illiterates (cannot compute and/or comprehend) stays almost the same at 9.1 million in 2008, from 9.2 million Filipinos in 2003.
The functional illiteracy problem of the country is one of the main concerns of the Department of Education (DepEd). They issued two department orders that have provisions that aim to provide solutions. Although the new policy and its provisions are what advocates have been fighting for, the rush in implementing the MLE program is too risky and may result into another failure.
II. New Policy: MLE program of DepEd and its weaknesses
The use of MT as primary MOI in the primary level of education has been proven effective by several research already done worldwide. In the Philippines, experimental studies such as the Lubuagan First Language Component (Walter et.al. 2010), the Lingua Franca Project, and Double Exposure in Mathematics: A Glimpse of Mother Tongue First (Lim and Giron, 2009) were used as the bases for the MLE program of DepEd. It is gratifying to note that in 2009, the department released DepEd order 74 which institutionalized MLE as a fundamental educational policy and program. An MLE framework was also prepared, emphasizing that MLE is not merely changing the MOI. Fundamental requirements such as development of working orthography and inexpensive culturally-appropriate instructional materials, use of MT as the primary language for testing, and teachers’ training were also part of the guideline. The department supplemented DepEd Order 74 with DepEd Order 16 in 2012, mandating the implementation of MLE starting school year 2012-2013 and providing guidelines on the implementation of the program.
The problem is that there are some major weaknesses and contradictions in the said policy. First, the plan is to implement a short-exit program (kindergarten to grade 3), despite the evidence from international studies and recommendations by MLE advocates in support to the long-exit model (minimum of six years). Studies reveal that interruption in L1 education adversely affects the cognitive and academic development of the child and that the premature use of L2 as MOI can lead to low achievement in literacy, mathematics, and science (Nolasco,...
References: Go, Antonio. 2013. Again, error-ridden textbooks. Philippine Daily Inquirer. June 24, 2013
Granali, Rima Jessamine
Lim, Magdalena and Paraluman Giron. 2009. Double exposure in mathematics: a glimpse of mother tongue first. Paper presented at the MLE forum, Naga City, Philippines on July 2009.
Nolasco, Ricardo Ma. Duran. 2012a. Make haste, lay waste. Philippine Daily Inquirer. March 17, 2012.
Nolasco, Ricardo Ma. Duran. 2012b. MTBMLE: far beyond the Aquino administration. Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 18, 2012.
Nolasco, Ricardo Ma. Duran. 2012c. K to 12: More than just decongesting the curriculum. Philippine Daily Inquirer. June 8, 2012.
Nolasco, Ricardo Ma. Duran. 2013. Learning by nurturing. Philippine Daily Inquirer. January 25, 2013
Tantingco, Robby. 2012. MTB-MLE a Trojan horse?. Sun.Star Pampanga. June 25, 2012
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