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This June, Grades 1-3 will be taught in mother tongue

January 24, 2012 12:50pm

Under the Department of Education's (DepEd) new K-12 curriculum which will be launched in June, students from Grade 1 to Grade 3 will be taught in their mother tongue or the first language they learned since they were born.

Education officials are convinced this new policy will facilitate learning, since young children who are only fluent in their mother tongues will be less hesitant to speak up in class. There are over 70 languages, or mother tongues, in the Philippines. Those regional languages that Filipinos commonly refer to as dialects, such as Ilocano or Bisaya, are actually languages with their own syntax and vocabularies.
"Dati, hindi naman bawal  pero hindi ipinapatupad dahil walang policy, walang modules. Kalimitan yung biro ng ibang mga paaralan, sinasabi raw ng ibang mga guro na bawal mag-Tagalog, kailangan English lang. May mga ganun, ang nangyayari tumatahimik ang mga bata," said DepEd Asistant Secretary Tonesito Umali on GMA News TV's "News to Go" on Monday.

Umali said the decision to shift to using the mother tongue as the medium of instruction is based on studies showing this helps children learn not only their lessons, but second or third languages as well.
"Iyan ay may mga matibay na pagaaral na may pinagbasehan, na kapag sa unang mga taon na nagaaral ang bata at tinuturo yung mga konsepto sa kanilang lenggwahe o dialektong kinagisnan, yan ang pinakamahusay na pamamaraan para matutunan ng bata ang nais nating ituro, una, at pangalawa para matuto rin siya ng ikalawa o ikatlong lenggwahe," said Umali.

Quoting DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro, Umali said the students are expected to be happier and more active in class.
"Ineexpect natin na mas masaya, mas maganda ang partisipasyon na inaasahan natin sa kindergarten at Grade 1 dahil puwede na silang magsallita sa kanilang mother tongue. Hanggang Grade 3 lang naman yan," Umali said.

With the K-12 curriculum, students will go through kindergarten, six years of elementary, four years of junior high school (Grade 7-10) and two years of senior high school (Grade 11-12).
Umali says one of the goals of the new curriculum is to align the country's basic education system with the rest of the world.
"Isa sa mga layunin ng pagpapatupad ng K-12, nais natin ipantay ang curriculum na ipinapatupad natin dito sa ating bansa sa buong mundo," said Umali.
The current curriculum follows a Bilingual Education Policy (BEP), consistent with the language provision in the 1987 Constitution which declares Filipino as the national language.

In 1974, the DepEd (previously called Department of Education, Culture and Sports) mandated the use of Filipino and English as media of instruction in specific subjects.
Language studies
In Lubuagan, Kalinga, studies conducted by Diane and Greg Dekker and Dr. Stephen Walter under SIL International and the DepEd show that children educated using their mother tongue perform better than those educated in Filipino-first and English-first.

The Lubuagan district has implemented the First Language Component program for approximately ten years, during which children are instructed in their first langage for the first three years of school. They were found to be well prepared for learning in English and Filipino.
On the combined measure of all subjects, the Grade 3 children's comparative performance was found to be higher in those who were instructed in their first language. 

The study concludes that "children are not compromised in their educational development by beginning in first language contrary to widely expressed concerns that this is apt to be the case."

"Second, the subject for which the greatest benefits are derived by the first language program is the one most cognitively demanding—math.  Given the strong national concern about lagging performance in this area, the evidence from this experimental program should be encouraging," it adds. 
Language of technology
Meanwhile, others have argued that English should be reinforced in schools, as it is the "language of technology." The years devoted to teaching in the mother tongue are years taken away from concentrating on teaching in the lengua franca of the world, or so the thinking goes.

Under House Bill 5169, the proposed Act Strengthening and Enhancing the Use of English as the Medium of Instruction, English shall be promoted as the language of interaction in schools, and will be the teaching language in all academic subjects from Grades 4 to 6, and in all levels of high school.

The nation's schools currently implement a bilingual policy of using both English and Filipino as the medium of instruction, even in regions where the Tagalog-based Filipino language is not the mother tongue. The bill if made law would favor English over any other language in Philippine schools.
"As a language is best learned through constant exposure and use, we have to prescribe again by law, and not simply by administrative fiat, the reinstatement of English as medium of instruction, except of course in Filipino taught as a subject," said Cebu Representative Eduardo Gullas, one of the lead proponents of the bill.
Mother tongue as medium of instruction
There are those who firmly believe the mother tongue should be used as the medium of instruction, based on language-in-education research worldwide.

Associate professor in linguistics Dr. Ricardo Nolasco explains that such research has consistently shown that students learn best when they are taught in the learner's first language. The reason for this is simple, as Nolasco explains in his commentary published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
"Cognitive development and language development are inextricably tied. We cannot think in a language that we don’t know. In developing deeper thinking skills, we must use a language that allows us to examine ideas and articulate our own thought processes," wrote Nolasco.
Nolasco believes the K-12 curriculum falls short of global standards when it comes to medium of instruction.
"The best results are achieved when the L1 (first language) is used for at least six to eight years as learning medium and the L2 (second language) is taught strongly to non-native learners before this becomes a MOI.  On the other hand, the worst results have been recorded whenever children begin education in an L2, or when they are exited early after two to three years of L1 education," wrote Nolasco.

In another commentary, Nolasco refers to a study by linguistics expert Stephen Walter, who found that in an L2 instructional model, reading skills are acquired in five to six years. With an L1 model, reading skills are learned in at most three years.
Saying it is unfortunate that this research goes unheeded in the K-12 program design, Nolasco notes that the first language as the medium of instruction only up to Grade 3 is the worst condition for learners.
Nolasco explained that the debate on language policy has been going on for years. "In the 1950s, Jose Aguilar came up with findings in Iloilo that supported the mother tongue as the medium of instruction, but the Americans were afraid. They neutralized these findings. We have to learn from our past experiences and do our homework," said Nolasco.

According to Nolasco, the DepEd wants to train teachers this summer in time for a nationwide implementation in June. Nolasco believes this is hoping for too much, and it would be better to introduce it gradually. "There are 1000 schools pioneering all over the country. This can be expanded," he said.

He noted that it was good that it will be implemented now so that the DepEd can accumulate experience.
Filipino is multilingual
In "The Filipino is Multilingual," Mila Aguilar writes about the Sta. Barbara Language Experiment, which was conducted in the 1940s by her father Jose V. Aguilar. She points out that English is not necessarily the language of connection, since a full three-quarters of the world don’t speak it anyway. 
"One does not have to connect using English; one connects by communicating with the eyes using one’s Filipino smile. The language, whatever language that is, comes after," she wrote. - VVP/HS, GMA News

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