International studies expose Mother Tongue policy as myth
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
The results of the 2019 South East Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019 and likewise that of the National Achievement Test (NAT) in 2018 have exposed the Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) as a myth and its exponents regardless of credentials as educational charlatans.
Local and foreign studies allegedly confirm that learning of reading in the first, second and third languages is much easier. However, the SEA-PLM showed that only 10 percent of our Grade 5 pupils attained minimum reading proficiency and more strikingly, 27 percent of our Grade 5 pupils were shown to be unable to read.
In the previous language policies, children learn to read in English in Grade 1. Under the MTB-MLE which is loudly proclaimed as superior to the Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) in teaching reaching, more than one fourth of the population could not still read two years after undergoing the program. We hasten to explain that in the early 2000s, the DepEd transferred the reading cut off from Grade 1 to Grade 3 but despite relaxation of the standard, the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP) national profile in school years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, the post-test non-reader incidence were 1.74 percent and 2.56 percent, respectively. Now compare that with the 27 percent non-reader incidence in Grade 5 uncovered by the SEA-PLM.
The exponents of the MTB-MLE in and outside of the DepEd claim that per study here and abroad, students who studied Math and Science in their first language score better in the subjects. Our score in Grade 4 in the TIMSS 2003 were 358 and 332, respectively. In 2019, our Math score sunk from 358 to 297 or by 61 (17.03 percent) and in Science from 332 to 249 or by 83 (25 percent). Based on this disparity in performance in the TIMSS, the BEP is superior to the MTB-MLE when it comes to imparting knowledge in Math and Science.
The English results in the Grade 6 NAT when the first MTB-MLE products took the exams AT shattered the claim that the policy facilitates the learning of new languages. The overall national English mean percentage score (MPS) incurred a 5.71 or 14.14 percent loss which is unprecedented the previous record being the 5.26 setback experienced in 2006. (We excluded the 32.00 loss in the English MPS in 2016 from this reckoning because it was not a normal fluctuation having been caused by an out of the ordinary circumstance which affected all the subjects and all the regions translating to 27.65 drop in the overall national Grade 6 MPS from the previous year’s 69.10.) It is very telling that in 2017 when elementary products of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) took the test for the last time, the English MPS gained 0.57.
The wide difference between the performance of the Grade 4 pupils in 2003 and in 2019 in the TIMSS is but natural considering the steep decline in the reading proficiency during the intervening time as shown by the earlier ECARP data we have cited. No less than the Organization for Economic Cooperative and Development, the organizations behind the PISA, confirmed the high correlation between reading literacy and success in other subjects. It said: “Reading is a prerequisite for successful performance in any school subject. By incorporating the three literacy domains of Mathematics, Reading and Science, PISA 2000 provides information on the relationships between the domains. The correlation between the Reading and Mathematics scores in PISA is 0.81, and the correlation between Reading and Science scores is 0.86. (“Reading for change: Performance and engagement across countries,” OECD.) This finding was manifested in the performance of local regions in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) where the Reading Literacy and overall rankings were almost identical
Needless to say, the common denominator in the triple whammy of the NAT, SEA-PLM and the TIMSS is the pathetically poor reading skills of our pupils which is an irony of ironies because easier and quicker learning of reading consists two-thirds of the alleged benefits of the MTB-MLE as listed in DepEd Order No. 74, series of 2009. So now the question is with policy dismally failing to deliver on its claimed forte which happens to be a key element in successful learning, we ask of what good then is the MTB-MLE at all?**