"Language Is More than Culture and Culture Is More than Language"
The above is the abstract from a paper by Birgit Brock-Utne from the Institute for Educational Research at the University of Oslo (http://www.netreed.uio.no/conferences/conf2005/Birgits%20paper.pdf). This paper is so relevant to one of the issues Philippine basic education faces. It is an issue that has lingered for several decades. Data do not indicate that the medium of instruction plays a major role in the high dropout rate in Philippine schools. However, there is a clear need to take action to preserve and nurture the nation's diverse set of languages and culture.
This year, the DepEd's K to 12 curriculum embarks on an ambitious project of using the mother tongue as the medium of instruction for K-3:
"Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education. The mother tongue will be the medium of instruction from kindergarten to grade 3. This includes the following: Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Iloko, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, and Chabacano. Medium of instruction will be English and Filipino starting grade 4" (http://www.gov.ph/k-12/)
Twelve languages have been included as medium of instruction for the first four years of formal schooling. The Philippines is indeed blessed with a rich diversity in mother tongues. And equally true, the country is also diverse in its history and culture. Although predominantly Roman Catholic, there are other religions to which Filipinos belong. Yet, amidst all these differences, the Philippines has always been striving to become one nation,
"We should become tri-lingual as a country.
But students have to master another language, most likely their native tongue, whether Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Indian, which are taught in culture classes.
There has been a move in our country recently, backed by Unesco, among others, to use the mother tongue in the early grades. On the whole, I think this has merit, but unless good math textbooks, for example, are available in the mother tongue for preschool and first grade, then this move may be premature...."
At the end of a talk by Dr. Milwida M. Guevara, Synergeia’s President and Chief Executive Officer, years ago in a meeting sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, she noted that text that uses pizza to teach children fractions do not help much since some Filipino children have not seen pizza pies. Perhaps, it would have been more helpful to use "bibingka" (a type of rice cake from the Philippines). This is a very simple example of what Brock-Utne is saying about going beyond the language in using it as a medium of instruction. It is the best model yet it is rarely found around the world. The reason is that it requires a lot of resources to produce learning materials that not only uses the mother tongue of the pupils, but also makes use of experiences or instances that are local or familiar to the students.
I left the Philippines in 1987 but I had visited years ago and spent quite sometime in Paete, Laguna. I was amazed at how popular some of the American shows are in the Philippines. I am sure that this may not be the case for regions that are more remote, especially those which do not have electricity. Nonetheless, I would not be surprised that some Filipino children would know much more about NBA players than I do. But since I have a 5-year old son, I probably could compete with Filipino children on shows that cater to young viewers. I still know much of the trains of Sodor, their names and respective numbers.
|Orasyon by Isaac V. Cagandahan, Paete Woodcarving|
Photo by Manny Baldemor
The elementary schools in Paete provided me a glimpse of how culture interacts with early childhood education. Most of the teachers grew up in the same town so these individuals are very much familiar with what their young pupils had encountered or experienced at their homes. What is required then is to find a local context for math and science lessons. This is really where much effort and innovation are needed. It is not so much about the language. For example, it is a challenge to teach students the four seasons when Paete and all of the Philippines really experience only two, wet and dry. But in an internet-connected world, photos and stories could now be shared. A Paete elementary school teacher wrote:
"My co teacher's lesson in Science is about the 4 seasons and today we are lucky to see those pictures in New Jersey of Paetenians, which our pupils saw today. (Quinale Elementary School)." (http://paete.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=893)
Years ago, I also wrote the following in the same forum for Paetenians:
The true test of the science lessons (http://paete.org/forums/viewforum.php?f=12) lies in our daily lives. Paete is unique in its great presence on the internet. Both forum and the private mailing list witness lively conversations among Paetenians. Our understanding of science will be revealed by the conversations we carry. Science will touch almost every issue we need to face in the future. Our politics will reflect how much we understand science as we try to tackle the various challenges Paete is facing. Our choices will reveal the real scores. It is in the way we face issues that are relevant for the well-being of Paete, will we see our understanding of science.
|Early morning in Paete, Laguna|
|Same as previous photo, but taken at noon|
Discussions regarding air quality in Paete are important. There are economic factors that need to be considered. But more importantly, there are questions regarding health. How we address this challenge involves consideration of facts. The following science lessons provide good starting points for discussing this issue:
As the town of Paete embarks on a Zero Waste management, education is crucial. An understanding of how we create waste, how waste affects the environment are necessary to draw the right action. The following science lesson will be particularly helpful:
Being declared as the "Carving Capital of the Philippines" in addition to the natural beauty of Paete does pave the way for opportunities for a vibrant tourism industry. The following lessons can be helpful in understanding how we may be able to preseve the natural beauty of Paete:
Economics is important. Livelihood projects are necessary as Paete addresses issues of poverty. The mayor has recently outlined various livelihood programs. Under each of these programs, there are science lessons that are now available. These lessons may be helpful in understanding what these programs entail.
1. TINAPANG TILAPIA
We have an on going tilapia hatchery in our river near the mouth of the lake. We have completed the seminar on tinapang tilapia. Our plan is to supply raw tilapia to the people and the Municipio will buy the tinapa from them. We will handle the packaging and marketing to major supermarkets in Metro Manila. Raw (live) tilapia would cost Php 50 / kg of 6 pcs per kilo. We can sell the tinapa (6 pcs/kg) for Php 90-100.
2. CHARCOAL BRIQUETTE
Charcoal briquette production from bio waste is also one livelihood project that we are pursuing right now. At the moment, we have one set of machine ( locally manufactured at Php 90,000 / set) producing 60 kg of charcoal briquette per day. Raw materials are free, and almost unlimited i.e. water lily, coconut husk, palay husk; busil ng mais; banana leaves, etc. We are selling the briquetted charcoal at Php 20 per kg.
3. GOAT RAISING
Upgraded "Bower breed" of goats will be raised at sitio Papatahan. We are planning to develop a 10 hectare area for this purpose. We will start with 20 does worth Php 10,000 each and one ram worth Php 25,000. Rate of kidding is 1-2 kids twice a year. We can sell the goats at Php 4,000 per head at 4 months old. Milk can be marketed at Php 30 per litter.
4. COFFEE PLANTATION
Because of coffee shortage in the country (according to NESTLE Phil), this is becoming a popular agri venture in Paete. About thirteen (13) hectares in sitio Macumbo and Sta. Ana are already planted with coffee. The first harvest is expected middle of next year.
5. REHABILITATION OF LANZONES
This is a flagship project of our Municipal Dept. of Agriculture. We have idenfified 15 lanzones plantation with an average area of 1,000 sq. meters each to be rehabilitated. Prunning, scraping of barks, proper irrigation, and fertilizer application are some of the procedures for the rehabilitation program. After a year, we expect significant improvement in production. The second phase is expansion. Grafted lanzones will be distributed to upland farmers which are expected to bear fruits within 7 years as compared to 25 years starting from seeds.
6. BAMBOO SETUM AND BATIKULING CLONING
A 4 hectare demonstration farm in sitio Macumbo is earmarked for this project. It will be a tripartite agreement between the Municipality of Paete, the private lot owner and the Eco-system Research and Development Bureau of DENR. The MOA is expected to be signed within this year. About 50 different species of bamboo (including ornamental) will be propagated in the demo farm. The bamboo will be an alternative material for wood for our handicraft industry. Batikuling, the major wood species used by our wood carvers together with other species such as "gemilina" will be cloned and planted in the 4 hectare demo farm. While waiting for these woods to mature, as a continuous source of raw material for our wood carving industry, inter cropping of high value crops such as herbal/ medicinal plants, corn, garlic, peanut etc will be part of the livelihood project of the farmers. The seminars for Bamboo setum propagation and Batikuling cloning have been conducted by ERDB last month.
The true test of how much science we are understanding will lie in the decisions that we make in the future. It will be evident in the conversations that we share. It will show, without any doubt, in how we live our lives.
Science education in the mother tongue should go much deeper than just using the local language. And in the same token, nurturing the mother tongue and culture is so much more than using it as a medium of instruction in early childhood education. The preservation of one's culture rests on higher education. Studies on the mother tongue (literature, traditions, culture, arts) need to be promoted in colleges and universities. There should be courses in universities that focus on the literature and culture of the various regions of the country. Higher education is the proper place to cultivate the various languages of the nation. And it is only from this environment, would the country gain enough manpower to advance a genuine mother tongue based education. It is only through scholarly work that these languages will prosper and reach the academic level. This is where the first step needs to be taken. Much of the drive towards mother tongue instruction comes from the fear that the use of a foreign language demotes the native language and culture. What will promote local language and culture is not instruction in the early years but the existence of scholars and researchers in the field. Only with expertise in the mother tongue and culture, would the Philippines have the required teachers to implement mother tongue based - multilingual education.
Teaching the students from the perspective of where they are requires considerable effort from educators. Lessons in schools need to be tailored according to the experiences at home and in the community. Paete, for example, with its tradition in the arts, can innovatively construct lessons in math and science that are related to its rich tradition in wood carving, paper mache, clog-making, paintings, music and drama. In Annandale, Virginia, there is an elementary school that currently focuses on integrating the arts into all the subjects:
"Woodburn teachers strive to integrate the fine and communicative arts into all instruction throughout the school day. We believe that arts integration enhances learning for all students, particularly visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learners, and those whose home language is not English. Using the arts to learn more traditional academic subjects provide natural connections for differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all students. Music, drama, visual arts and poetry, for example, are major tools that appeal to the visual tactile, auditory and kinesthetic learners' needs.
|Figure taken from http://www.fcps.edu/WoodburnES/woodburn_arts_integration.html|
Note: To learn more about art integration please visit:
Update: UNESCO's Regional Bureau for Education in Africa has recently released a planner's guide for introducing native culture and language into education:
|Figure downloaded from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002162/216270e.pdf|
"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
The pilot program, covering about 100 schools and 600 teachers and five languages, costs about US$ 11 million.