Believing that the child's language will serve as the fundamental language for literacy and learning, the Department of Education (DepEd) recently announced that seven more local languages will be used in teaching Grade 1 pupils starting this school year.
According to Education Secretary Armin Luistro, in addition to the languages of instruction mentioned in DepEd Order No. 16 series of 2012, "Guidelines on the implementation of the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) under the K to 12 Basic Education Program," the additional languages "shall be used as the languages of instruction for Grade 1 pupils who speak the same languages."
As stated in DepEd Order No. 28 series of 2013, the seven additional languages which will be used in the specified regions and divisions starting SY 2013-2014 are Ybanag for Region II (Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, and Isabela); Ivatan also for Region II (Batanes Group of Islands); Sambal for Region III (Zambales); Akianon for Region IV (Aklan and Capiz); Kinaray-a for Region VI (Capiz and Aklan); Yakan for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan province); and Surigaonon for Caraga (Surigao City and provinces).
The DepEd implemented the MTB-MLE last year with the introduction of 12 major languages Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Iloko, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, and Chabacano.
"The MTB-MLE aims improve the pupil's language and cognitive development as well as his or her socio-cultural awareness," Luistro says.
Currently, the MTB-MLE is being implemented in two modules: first as a learning/subject area and second as medium of instruction.
"The mother tongue as a subject, focuses on the development of reading and speaking from Grades 1 to 3," Luistro says. "As a medium of instruction, the mother tongue is being used in all learning areas from kinder to Grade 3 except in the teaching of Filipino and English subjects."
Filipino is introduced on the first semester of Grade 1 for oral fluency (speaking). "For reading and writing purposes, it will be taught beginning in the second semester of Grade 1," he adds.
The four other macro skills which are listening, speaking, reading and writing in Filipino will continuously be developed from Grades 2 to 6.
"Meanwhile, English as a subject will be introduced in the second semester of Grade 1 while reading and writing in English will start in the first semester of Grade 2," he says.
In implementing the MTB-MLE, DepEd cites local and internationals studies which have shown that using the language that is being used at home (mother tongue) inside the classroom during the learners' early years of schooling produce better and faster learners. They can also easily adapt to learn a second (Filipino) and third language (English).
"We institutionalized the teaching of MTB-MLE as one of the subjects from Grade 1 to Grade 3 and as the medium of instruction from kinder to Grade 3 so that we can develop well-rounded and life-long learners under the K to 12 basic education reform program," Luistro explains.
SAVING LOCAL LANGUAGES
Apart from developing well-rounded and life-long learners with the MTB-MLE, Luistro says the program is also DepEd's contribution to keep the country's local languages alive.
"At first, I thought it [MTB-MLE] was just language but when I visited schools, I realized that it was about young people speaking from the heart, it's about teachers trying to contextualize their lessons and more importantly, it's about a nation in search of its own identity," he explains.
Luistro says that part of the educational reform being pushed by DepEd is to discover the Filipino soul. "Even at this stage, we Filipinos are still trying to discover our soul," he says. "It's important for us to recognize our roots and how we communicate so what better way to do that than through our native languages?"
According to the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Philippines, the Philippines has 181 languages but only 177 are currently being used.
Out of the 181, 153 languages are considered "healthy," 14 are "in trouble," 10 are "dying," and four are already "extinct." With this, Luistro calls on the students to be deeply involved in ensuring that the Philippine languages will continue to thrive and survive.