Living and learning the local language is a call

In support to the Department of Education’s MTB-MLE, President Benigno S. Aquino III said, “We should become tri-lingual as a country. Learn English well and connect to the world. Learn Filipino well and connect to our country. Retain your dialect and connect to your heritage.”

The K to 12 Basic Education System has brought about changes in the Philippine education. One of the salient features of the K to 12 curriculum is the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE). It has been implemented for four years since 2012. How has it been doing? How have pupils, teachers, and parents adapted to this new policy?

MTB-MLE is the use of the learners’ first language, local language, dialect or vernacular language as a medium of instruction and as a subject area. DepEd Order No. 16, s. 2012 required all public schools, specifically in Kindergarten, Grades 1, 2, and 3, to implement the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education as part of the K to 12 Basic Education Program. It was set to also support the goal “every child a reader and a writer by grade one.” Its main target is “proficiency through language.”

This move of the Aquino administration is supported by various researches and surveys both here and abroad. In a foreign study, it was established that countries like China and Japan use their native language in schools thereby making them a well-developed nation. They don’t mind if they falter in the use of the English language.

In a series of Philippine-funded projects like the Lingua Franca Project and Lubuagan Project, which was implemented in 1999, they reported that 921 schools including those for children of indigenous people have been modeling MTB-MLE with support from local programs like Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM), Third Elementary Education Program (TEEP), Translators Association of the Philippines (TAP), and Summer Institute of the Philippines (SIL).

This policy by the department springs from the notion that language is directly related to learning. One does not learn in a language that he does not understand. Hence, pupils from Kindergarten to Grade Three are taught using the major mother tongue of their region like Iloko, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Tausug. These are the same languages that the learner has acquired and has been using in their homes. Further, the local culture and tradition will be preserved and enhanced. MTB-MLE brings the child closer to his culture.

Despite these good intentions, issues have been thrown against MTB-MLE. First, the additional mother tongue as a subject area lessens the time allotted for the children to learn and master English or Filipino. Well that may be true but still the learning of second language like English and Filipino are still taught gradually until Grade Three which means that they are not abolished as subject areas.

Second, it causes poor performance in English because they weren’t given more time as compared to the previous pupils who were products of the former education system without MTB-MLE. As a matter of fact, the use of MTB-MLE develops the child’s comprehension which is very vital in reading more than mere word recognition.

Third, there are not enough instructional materials to teach the local language. To solve this, teachers have been taught and trained to construct textbooks and story books during national and regional seminar-workshops. In this way, teachers can actually create their own big books and later share these to fellow teachers.

Fourth, children are becoming miniature adults. They now open up and express their opinion in conversations participated in by their parents, teachers or some adults in their community or in school. It’s quite funny and ironic how they use some vernacular expressions and gestures formerly used only by older people in the society. Some believe that this appears rude for a child to join in an adult dialogue. Perhaps, let’s just put it this way that they are now better able to express their own views, a sign that they are growing, learning, and becoming more responsible.

Fifth, what really happens in an MTB-MLE class is that pupils are learning a whole new language with words and terminologies they never heard of. Some terms produce confusion to the parents, pupils, and even to the teachers probably because these local lexicons are too old or too deep.

Sixth, pupils coming from the private schools have a hard time speaking and learning the mother tongue thereby failing in this subject. These pupils are used to speaking English at home. They couldn’t even hurdle the Filipino subject. So, the MTB-MLE is but an added burden.

Finally, parents clamor that MTB-MLE is like learning at home, so why send the child to school to learn a language that he already knows.

Like any new system, MTB-MLE has loopholes and challenges serving as room for improvement. I am of the opinion that this is going somewhere, to something better. The proponents of the MTB-MLE and the K to 12 in general planned for this with only the good intentions in mind. In any endeavor, the beginning is always the hardest part. We’ve only just begun. Let’s support the MTB-MLE program. Let’s live and learn the local language.

      School Principal I
      Can-ayan Integrated School