Philippines: Mother tongue as medium of instruction

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jun 21 17:04:57 UTC 2008


Mother tongue as medium of instruction

The Department of Education on Wednesday announced that the training
of 2,168 high school teachers on the use of lesson guides in teaching
English had been completed. This is part of the massive effort to
improve Philippine government schools' use of English as the medium of
instruction. Secretary Jesli Lapus explained that these Master
Teachers and Senior Teachers went through the program which is just
one of DepEd's many projects to improving the teaching of English in
our public schools.

We welcome the addition of 2,168 expert teachers of English in our
public schools. Experts in teaching English, who must be fluent users
of grammatically correct and idiomatic English, in writing and in
speech, are vital to the success of the effort to restore general
mastery of English in this country. But there is something else to be
decided: should English be used as the primary medium of instruction
in teaching English to Filipinos or should the primary medium be the
mother tongue of the pupil with English as the second language? And
shouldn't English be taught—as a second language—as early as the
nursery and kindergarten years in the public schools?

Executive Order 210

These must be asked because Presidential Executive Order 210 (issued
in 2003) has made English the primary medium of instruction.

Worried about the decline of English, Math and Science proficiency
among Filipinos, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued EO 210 to
strengthen the use of the English language as a medium of instruction
in the Philippine educational system. It acknowledges that under the
1987 Constitution, for purposes of communication and instruction, the
official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and English.

Since it is state policy "to promote education as a means to achieve
and maintain an accelerating rate of economic development and social
progress," the Executive Order makes note that there is a "need to
develop the aptitude, competence and proficiency of our students in
the English language to maintain and improve their competitive edge in
emerging and fast-growing local and international industries,
particularly in the area of Information and Communications Technology

EO 210 also notes that "strengthening the use of the English language
as a medium of instruction also depends on the improvement of the
entire educational system, particularly in the training of educators
and the provision of learning materials and resources." And it cites
the full support of the DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education
[CHED] and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
[TESDA] for the policies being established by EO 210.

These policies are to teach English as a second language, starting in
the First Grade.

As provided for in the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum, English shall
be used as the medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and
Science from at least the Third Grade level.

"The English language shall be used as the primary medium of
instruction in all public and private institutions of learning in the
secondary level, including those established as laboratory and/or
experimental schools, and non-formal and vocational or technical
educational institutions. As the primary medium of instruction, the
percentage of time allotment for learning areas conducted in the
English language is expected to be not less than seventy percent (70
percent) of the total time allotment for all learning areas in the
secondary level."

EO 210 also establishes the policy of extensive teacher training.

Enrichment of Filipino

About the use of Filipino, EO 210 provides that "Pursuant to the
Constitutionally-mandated policy of the Government to ensure and
promote the evolution, development and further enrichment of Filipino
as the national language of the Philippines, the Filipino
language/shall continue to be the medium of instruction in the
learning areas of Filipino and Araling Panlipunan."

Secretary Lapus and education authorities must seriously consider the
formidable body of expert opinion—supported by findings from
well-conceived and rigorously-monitored experiments of many
countries—that it is beyond doubt that using the mother tongue of
pupils achieves far greater results than using another tongue.

The use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction is of such
import that it is among the key reforms in the Omnibus Education
Reform Act introduced by Sen. Mar Roxas.

What Deped has been doing so far, following President Arroyo's
instructions, has yielded beneficial results, with schools handled by
re-trained teachers markedly faring better in English, Math and
Science in the 2007 national exams than they did in 2006.

The Kalinga experience

They will surely register higher results if the students' mother
tongues were used as the primary medium in teaching them English,
Science, Math and any other subject. Proof of this is found in the now
famous experience of Lubuagan District, in Kalinga province, where
pupils improved by as much as 300 percent. Similar experiences were
monitored in India. And throughout Western Europe, Dutchmen, Germans,
Portuguese, Scandinavians are nowadays speaking their fluent and
correct form of idiomatic American or British English. They are taught
English in their native languages together with English—by master

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