Cordillera advocates urge abolition of Mother Tongue policy

The jolly season in the city officially began at 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 1 by the lighting of the Christmas tree at the top of Session Road. **Photo by Ryan Dale B. Mangusan

TABUK CITY, Kalinga – A finding of the state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that private elementary schools find delivering content in English more effective than in Mother Tongue as their pupils outdo public school pupils in contests conducted in English is one of the new evidences levelled by the Cordillera Advocates for Real Education (CARE) against the Mother Tongue policy.
In a position paper submitted to the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture to support the bill of Baguio City Congressman Marquez Go seeking the abolition of the Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE), the staunch foe of MTB-MLE cited a recent study of the PIDS which showed that private schools stick to old bilingual policy one result of which they consistently win in contests given in English as their students understand the questions much better.
“It is in the clash of their best products that the superior system is determined and clearly, in imparting English, the Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) eclipses the MTB-MLE. The question believers in MTB-MLE should answer is if the private schools would be able to maintain their edge in English proficiency over public schools if the government makes the implementation of the Mother Tongue policy mandatory,” the education advocacy group said in their position paper.
The study titled “Starting Where the Children Are’: A Process Evaluation of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education Implementation” and released in 2019 said that the MTB-MLE “has not been able to take hold in private schools.”
The CARE also alleged that the policy has failed on its foremost promise which is to quicken the learning of reading in the first, second and third languages as they charged that the reading crisis only worsened since the introduction of the policy in school year 2012-2013.
“If the DepEd disagrees with our conclusion that the number of non-readers in elementary and high school escalated after the introduction of the K to 12 Curriculum and the MTB-MLE, we ask them to produce proofs that there was a time in our history before SY 2012-2013 that there were more illiterates in public schools than now,” the group challenged after they presented a number of proofs that the reading crisis worsened during the time of the MTB-MLE.
The CARE said that this is an irony because under DepEd Order No. 74, series of 2009, institutionalizing the MTB-MLE, the first two of the three alleged advantages of the new language policy refers to the earlier and easier learning of reading skills in the three languages.
One of the proofs the group presented is the news report from another daily which alleged that according to pre-tests of the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) in Bicol in school year 2018-2019, there were 71,470 non-readers in 13 divisions 56,197 of whom were in elementary and 14,289 in secondary.
The CARE told the committee that if given the audience, they could prove the following: “The reading crisis is the effect of DepEd’s decisions to move the reading cut off from Grade 1 to Grade 3 and later on to stop enforcing any cut off altogether; DepEd has been covering up the dire effects of these decisions for years; and until now, DepEd does not want to correct the blunder.”
“No matter what education reforms will be instituted if they do not include one which makes our children successfully read in Grade 1 again, we will be hitting everything except the target,” the group also said in their position paper explaining that private schools stick to the Grade 1 reading cut off and as a results, do not have non-readers in Grade 2.
The group also alleged that the unprecedentedly low English scores in the Grade 6 National Achievement Test (NAT) in 2018 when the products of the MTB-MLE took the exams for the first time also disproved the claim of exponents including the DepEd that the language policy leads to easier learning of new languages.
They said that the 5.71 mean percentage score (MPS) or 14.14 percent loss in English is the highest ever in the history of the examinations even as they cited the fact that the Cordillera lost 9.91 or 20.4 percent of its English MPS which is more than thrice its highest previous loss of 2.99.
“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 group wrote in their position paper.
The group said that the following changes in the K to 12 curriculum from the BEC doomed English proficiency: reduction of the time allotment per week from 450 minutes to 233 minutes; delay in the introduction of English as medium of instruction from Grade 1 to Grade 4; and delay in the start of teaching reading in English from Grade 1 to second semester of Grade 2.
The CARE concluded that the performance of the first MTB-MLE elementary graduates in the NAT and the finding of the PIDS that public schools can no longer compete in contests conducted in English because private school representatives understand the questions better both prove that “the MTB-MLE hinders the learning of English.”
Among other evidence against the MTB-MLE presented by the CARE in their position paper were the following:
* The Mother Tongue policy creates problems in multi-lingual settings starting from the selection of which Mother Tongue to use because to a large number of the student and teacher populations, the language chosen is a “another tongue” they must learn from scratch.
* The policy disregards our more than a century of experience of learning to read and started to comprehend, think and speak in English in Grade 1 and have distinguished ourselves as among the best non-native users of English in the world without Mother Tongue.
The group cited the remarks of Secretary Leonor Briones in the ANC program “Headstart” on December 10, 2019 where she praised the Region 7 and the CAR for ranking high among local regions in the 2018 PISA saying the better performance in Reading Literacy was because children in the two regions learn to speak English at a very young age.
They said that the statement of Briones confirmed that Filipino children can learn English in Grade 1 and even earlier and that such is an advantage because had “the other regions are or were also starting their children in English at a young age, they too would have done better in the PISA.”
“We clarify that the Region 7 and CAR students the Secretary praised for performing well in the Reading Literacy category of the 2018 PISA were elementary school products of BEP and the students of the two regions who took the NAT in 2018 belong to the first batch of MTB-MLE graduates,” the position paper said.
The CARE most members of whom are residents of this city also submitted the position paper to the Senate Basic Education Committee and a similar statement to the Cordillera Regional Development Council pleading for support of the bill of Go and likewise for a probe of the observation of some teachers that the MTB-MLE has set back the quality of education by two grade levels.** By Estanislao Albano, Jr.


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