Monday, January 31, 2011

Rationale of Mother Tongue-Based Multi-lingual Education

By:  Gilbert M. Forbes
DepEd Quezon

Mother tongue instruction generally refers to the use of the learners’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Additionally, it can refer to the mother tongue as a subject of instruction. It is considered to be an important  component of quality education, particularly in the early years. The expert view is that mother tongue instruction should cover both the teaching  of and the teaching through this language.

The term ‘mother tongue’, though widely used, may refer to several different situations. Definitions often include the following elements: the language(s) that one has learnt first; the language(s) one identifies with or is identified as a native speaker of by others; the language(s) one knows best and the language(s) one uses most. ‘Mother tongue’ may also be referred to as ‘primary’ or ‘first language’. The term ‘mother tongue’ is commonly used in policy statements and in the general discourse on educational issues. It is retained in this document for that reason, although it is to be noted that the use of the term ‘mother tongue’ often fails to discriminate between all the variants of a language used by a native speaker, ranging from hinterland varieties to urban-based standard languages used as school mother tongue.A child’s earliest first-hand experiences in native speech do not necessarily correspond to the formal school version of the so-called mother tongue.

It is an obvious yet not generally recognized truism that learning in a language which is not one’s own provides a double set of challenges, not only is there the challenge of learning a new language but also that of learning new knowledge contained in that language. These challenges may be further exacerbated in the case of certain groups are already in situations of educational risk or stress such as illiterates, minorities and refugees. Gender considerations cross cut these situations of educational risk, for girls and women may be in a particularly disadvantaged position. In most traditional societies, it is the girls and women who tend to be monolingual, being less exposed either through schooling, salaried labour, or migration to the national language, than their sons, brothers or husbands.

Studies have shown that, in many cases, instruction in the mother tongue is beneficial to language competencies in the first language, achievement in other subject areas, and second language learning.

Why Mother-Tongue Based Multi-lingual Education (MTBMLE) in the Philippines?

The lessons and findings of various local initiatives and international studies in basic education have validated the superiority of the use of the learners mother tongue or first language in improving learning outcomes and promoting Education for All (AFA).

DepEd Order No. 74, s. 2009 further explained that the preponderance of local and international research consistent with the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) recommendations affirms the benefits and relevance of MLE.  Notable empirical studies like the Lingua Project and Lubuagan First Language Component show that: 
  • First, learners learn to read more quickly when in their first language
  • Second, pupils who have learned to read and write in their first language, learn to speak, read and write in a second language and third language more quickly than those who are taught in the second or third language;
  • Third, in terms of cognitive development and its effect in other academic areas, pupils taught to write in their first language acquire such competencies more quickly.  
Relatedly, the study of DepEd Region IV-B (MIMAROPA) entitled; "Double Exposure in Mathematics:  A Glimpse of Mother- Tongue First" has provided the local validation of the fundamental observation that top performing countries in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies(TIMSS), are those that teach and test students in Science and Math in their own language.

You may also like this highly related article.  Click to read Towards the Universal Primary Education, Why languages is important?

Materials courtesy of Multilingual Education Philippines

(Mr. Forbes had his Bachelors Degree and MA in Educational Management (CAR) from the Philippine Normal University.  A campus paper adviser and trainer for 13 years.  Currently, he is a school principal in one of the central schools in the Division of Quezon.)

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