Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education : The Strategy?

"A flawed execution of a good idea could convince people it is a bad idea – and that could kill this push for reform." - Bill Gates

"If the SWS poll showing 65% of Filipinos support K+12 could be believed, then a flawed execution of a bad idea could actually convince people that it is such a great idea!" -Sheila Lacanaria


Even if it does not work, it is still a good idea...

DepEd's K to12 is an example of a gargantuan reform that is founded on a set of promises made by President Aquino. Yet, it even includes additional elements that are not in the original campaign platform and some even runs contrary. No formal subject of science in the early years runs contrary to the promotion of science education. Dilution of high school curriculum to include instruction that is better learned at home or other venues likewise contributes to congestion of the curriculum and a decreased emphasis on science. The spiral approach, not included in the promises, by itself is already gigantic. Both size and scope of DepEd's K to 12 come from various interests that have been blended and combined into one enormous package. By doing so, DepEd's K to 12 has something to offer to everyone who has a say or influence on how Philippine basic education should be reformed. It does not matter whether some elements may be disagreeable, as long as there is one element to which an influential group strongly subscribes. Each element has its own set of followers with zeal, who would be willing to turn a blind eye to the other elements. There are people who think that 12 years of basic education is a must. DepEd's K to 12 caters to this set since these people do not care if the other elements of the new curriculum are wrong as long as it involves two additional years. There are educators who are completely convinced that a spiral incursion through disciplines is the way to go. As long as this element is present in the new curriculum, everything is acceptable. DepEd's K to 12 thus caters to various sectors by providing each one with a piece of the pie. And since everything goes, why not add a new grading system. This may attract additional support and steer the discussion away from the real problems such as shortages in resources as well as poor salaries and working conditions of teachers. These interests become united into one since conviction behind one element is so strong that compromises are easy enough to swallow. "At least, we are getting what we want, never mind the entire picture," describes the underlying justification. Some who have advocated intensely for mother tongue education are no exception.

Preserving and nurturing one's culture is very important. For this reason, basic education must include sharing and learning one's heritage. This is one of the many interests DepEd's K to 12 utilizes to garner support for the entire program. "Never mind the details, it is there."

Joe Padre, who has been maintaining an impressive blog on multilingual Philippines, shares the following email message from Lino Gerona:
Downloaded from MLErs: We took our eyes off the ball…

Lino Gerona:

"I am at DepEd’s RELC in Marikina as a reviewer of instructional materials in Sinugbuanong Binisaya. Been here since July 8. Will be home July 13 as I will be in Cagayan de Oro July 13-16. Dr. Jes Tirol is here to review the mathematics materials. 
Here are translation, review and encoding teams for twelve languages: Ilocano, Pangasinan, Kapampanagan, Tagalog, Bicol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Sinugbuanon, Meranao, Maguindanao, Bahasa Sug, Chavacano de Zamboanga...."
Joe Padre offers the following insightful comments:
"This last-minute effort to catch up with learning materials for (multilingual education) MLE at this late stage since DepEd Order No. 74 was promulgated in July 2009, just tells me that we, MLE advocates, took our eyes off the ball; we failed miserably to follow up closely on the hills of Deped Order No. 74. Our thinking that Deped Order No. 74 was a huge victory lulled us into forgetting that there was a lot of follow-up activity to be done immediately after the Order institutionalizing the use of MTB-MLE nationwide was signed. For one, we failed miserably to recognize and involve experienced writers in the target languages, hence DepEd, as per the aforementioned email, has to scramble with “translation, review and encoding teams” to generate the learning materials so required and stipulated in DepEd Order 74."

Using the mother tongue as medium of instruction is different from preserving and nurturing one's culture or heritage. It is distinct from promoting and protecting native languages. The former requires what is discussed above, preparation of teaching and learning materials in the various languages while the latter requires recruitment of scholars to begin and continue writing within local context of each community, to expand the literature in these cultures, and to formalize and preserve the language. The former uses the mother tongue while the latter promotes the mother tongue. The former requires data and evidence because it hinges on the claim that instruction using the mother tongue as medium is more effective. The latter does not because it is founded on the basic notion that each culture and each language in this world is part of the globe's entire human heritage. The latter can aid the former since scholars in the native tongue are also required in developing learning materials in the mother tongue, but the former, the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction, will not necessarily protect, expand and nurture the mother tongue and culture.  

The mother tongue as medium of instruction is pushed as a proven and effective element in early years education. This is true especially if a foreign medium is used to suppress and oppress. Whether it is indeed pedagogically sound is, however, debatable. Yet, we see columns like the one recently written in the Inquirer, that claim otherwise:


Butch Hernandez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
"...DepEd has taken a step, actually two, to aggressively initiate genuine and lasting changes to basic education. First, it promulgated Department Order 74 in 2009 calling for the implementation of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) across the public school system. This year, DepEd has set in motion a series of measures that repurposes learning around a 12-year curriculum, more popularly known as K to 12. 
Both MTBMLE and K to 12 are not new, both as concepts and as education practice. There are volumes of evidence from schools and education institutions all over the world that prove beyond all doubt that using the child’s mother tongue as a medium of instruction in the early years greatly helps that child succeed in school. And most countries now have basic education cycles that are founded on a 12-year curriculum...."
Singapore, one of the top performing countries in international exams, does not use MTBMLE. Instead, Singapore uses English as the medium of instruction. If indeed there is no doubt that using the child's mother tongue as medium of instruction is better then the states of Arizona and California, which without any doubt, has more resources than the Philippines, should not have the problems they face at the moment. The Supreme Court of the United States would have easily decided in favor of multilingual instruction if Hernandez' claim above is true. But DepEd's K to 12 is really a smorgasbord, so we should switch to a different angle. It will prepare the youth and provide skills making them more employable. Now, that is a strategy. Mix and blend various interests and then switch arguments.

But the worse part of the strategy is drawing a reform that really has no chance of success. In this manner, the implementation could be blamed and not the idea. The strategy thus ends with:

"DepEd's K to 12 critics simply did not give the new curriculum a chance."