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K to12: Lessons to be taught in mother tongue to help students learn better and stay in school

Besides increasing the number of years in school, the K to12 program of the Department of Education (DepEd) has introduced another change in the country’s schooling system – using the mother tongue as medium of instruction. The “Mother Tongue-based Multi-lingual education” (MTB-MLE) shall be applied from kindergarten to Grade 3 in both public and private schools. It shall be part of the new curriculum for incoming Grade 1 pupils. The 12 languages as mediums of instruction are: Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Iloko, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, and Chabacano. DepEd Undersecretary Yolanda Quijano explains that the MTB-MLE will help students understand their lessons better, at the same time infuse a sense of nationalism that she adds is still lacking among the youth. “Eto talaga ay para naman ma-aware ang bata kung saan siya galing, ang roots niya, ang culture niya, ang sarili niyang kwento at songs, ang pagka-Pilipino niya,” Quijano says. Studies show that students learn better when taught in their native language than in a foreign tongue. Diane Dekker and Walter Stephen of the Summer Institute Linguistic International in 2007 studied 240 elementary students in Lubuagan, Kalinga to gauge whether they learn better when taught in their native language or in English. They found out that majority of the top 40 students performed better after being taught in their first language – 32 of the top students in Grade 1, 30 in Grade 2, and 32 in Grade 3. Meanwhile, the bulk of the bottom 40 students performed relatively poorly when taught in a foreign language – 36 students in Grade 1, 40 in Grade 2, and 31 in Grade 3. Multi-language education, however, does not mean English and Filipino will no longer be required. Quijano says Filipino subjects will still be taught in the first semester, while English will be taught in the second semester. Both language subjects shall focus on oral fluency, she adds. The students shall also be taught the other components of language – such as listening, oral development, speaking, reading and writing – from Grades 2 to 4. Addressing the dropout rate More than improving the comprehension skills of students, the mother language education also aims to address another long-standing problem in the country’s educational system – the increasing dropout rate among the youth. According to a 2000 United Nations report, the dropout rate in the Philippines at the public school elementary level has remained high in a span of five decades since the 1960s – 28 to 34 percent of that student population fail to reach Grade 6 level. Based on the 2008 data from the Commission on Higher Education, out of every 100 Grade 1 students, 66 finish Grade 6, 58 reach first year high school, and only 43 finish high school. Of these high school graduates, only 23 enroll in college, while 14 manage to even finish their degrees. Quijano explains that the lack of students’ preparedness when they enter Grade 1 affects their learning, thus forcing them to drop out of their classes. “Ang isa kasing reason kung bakit nagda-drop out ang mga bata as early as grade 1, wala kasi tayong preparedness for formal schooling,” Quijano says. She adds that multi-language education – boosted by the universal kindergarten also under the K to12 program – shall prepare these students to learn better in school so they wouldn’t have to drop out of their classes. “Para pagpasok ng mga bata sa grade 1, hindi naman sila mabigla na ito pala ang gagawin kung papasok na sila. Kasi 'yun ang isang cause ng tinatawag nating dropout,” Quijano says. - OMG/KG, GMA News