The Current State of Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education in the Philippines

Equity in education demands no less than the complete abolition of linguistic hegemony. Unfortunately, with the bulk of scholarly and scientific work published in the recent decades, English has become an effective international medium. In the Philippines, the DepEd K-12 curriculum has embraced a mother tongue based education to help children feel at home in their schools and, at the same time, preserve and nurture the various languages of the country. The program has been in place for about seven years now so it is timely to assess its current standing. The Philippine Institute for Development Study (PIDS) reports that nearly all public schools (99.5%) claim to be implementing a mother tongue program in kindergarten through third grade. Of course, with more details, the program looks less rosier. More than half still do not have the books written for this program.

PIDS uses a list of four activities as a minimum requirement to consider a school as fully implementing a mother-tongue based education. These four are: (a) writing big books on language, literature and culture; (b) documenting the orthography of the language; (c) documenting the grammar of language; and (d) writing a dictionary of the language. Less than 10 percent of the schools have done all four:

Above copied from
‘Starting Where the Children Are’: A Process Evaluation of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education Implementation. Jennifer D. Monje, Aniceto C. Orbeta Jr., Kris A. Francisco-Abrigo, and Erlinda M. Capones

Although the authors of this study applied good sampling procedures, about 30% of the schools included in this report consider Tagalog as the medium of instruction. Tagalog is probably the language that has the most books and dictionaries. Tagalog also has a well established orthography and grammar, therefore, excluding Tagalog from this study will probably paint a much gloomier picture.

Mother tongue based - multilingual education requires a lot. Yet, the Philippines stubbornly continues to aspire for a trilingual education: mother tongue, Filipino, and English. Sadly, there is so much more than language in schools, there is also science and math. At this rate, shooting for quixotic goals in education will only leave our children fully unprepared for the years to come.


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