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Commentary

‘Castrated’ MTB-MLE

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The term “castration” refers to the removal, by surgical or other means, of the reproductive organ of an animal. The intention is to prevent the animal from spreading an “undesired” genetic trait in succeeding populations.

This is precisely what the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 10533 (otherwise known as the K-to-12 Law) appear to be doing to the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) provisions of the original law.

The IRR provide, albeit illegally, foreign and local lobbyists of the discredited bilingual-education policy with enough escape clauses for them to continue defying the law.

This introductory clause in Rule II, 10.4 circumscribes all the other language provisions: “The curriculum shall develop proficiency in Filipino and English, provided that the learners’ first and dominant language shall serve as the fundamental language of education.”

This provision, absent in the original law, confirms suspicions that the government’s language-in-education policy is MTB-MLE in name but L2 bilingual education in practice.

A genuine MTB-MLE policy, applied to Philippine conditions, develops L1 proficiency among learners, bridges to the two L2s (Filipino and English), and promotes the L1 and L2s throughout basic and higher education. The formulation in the IRR views the L1 merely as a bridge toward learning the two L2s, with L2 learning as the ultimate goal.

The next sentence in Rule II, 104 states: “For Kindergarten and the first three years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials, and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners.”

This rule repeats an actual provision in RA 10533. Taken out of context, this rule may be twisted to mean that only a few regional languages will be used as LOI (language of instruction) to the exclusion of other Philippine languages. Moreover, these favored regional languages can be used up to Grade 3 only.

Fortunately, our MTB-MLE friends in Congress—mindful of the sinister motivation that some interest groups may have had—successfully included the following provision into the original law:

“The DepEd shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.”

The added stipulation clarifies many ambiguities in the language provisions under RA 10533.  First, that the L1 is the “regional or native language of the learners” can be surmised from the phrase “a mother language transition program.”  Second, L2 transition begins only in Grade 4. And third, L2 transition shall be gradual and not abrupt, which means that the L1 continues to be the LOI beyond Grade 3, up to Grade 6 and possibly even at the secondary level.

In the IRR, this L1 transition provision was watered down to: “The DepEd shall formulate a mother language transition program from the mother/first language to the subsequent languages of the curriculum that is appropriate to the language capacity and needs of learners from Grade 4 to Grade 6.  Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.”

Under RA 10533, the gradual shift to the L2s as LOI and the proviso on the L2s becoming the primary LOI at the secondary level were clearly connected to, and conditioned on, each other. But because these two ideas were divided into separate clauses in the IRR, the original semantics appears to have changed radically. A school can now introduce an L2 as LOI even before Grade 4, provided the same is “appropriate to the language and needs of the learners.”

The castration procedure on MTB-MLE was completed by tampering with other sections of the original law pertaining to the bottom-up approach in the design of the basic education curriculum and materials production.

Section 5 of RA 10533 provides that the Department of Education curriculum shall adhere “to the principles and framework of MTB-MLE,” that schools can localize, indigenize, and enhance the curriculum “based on their respective educational and social contexts,” and that the development and approval of locally produced teaching materials shall “devolve to the regional and division education units.”

In the IRR, escape clauses like “when appropriate” and “in accordance with national policies and standards” were inserted to remove the obligatory nature of these MTB-MLE provisions and further mangle them.

Other questions on the language provisions left unanswered by the IRR include: (1) What are the requisites before the L2s can become the primary LOI in high school? (2) What does “primary LOI” mean? (3) Does “primary LOI” imply that there is an auxiliary LOI? (4) Is the L1 the auxiliary LOI? (5) Will a 60-40 instructional time for English and an L1 (like Ilocano) in high school be substantial compliance with the “primary LOI” provision of the law?

The MTB-MLE provisions in RA 10533 were intended by our legislators to reform basic education in this country. But if these provisions continue to be opposed, distorted and diluted by the very authorities tasked to implement them, then a change in leadership may be in order.

Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, PhD (rnolasco_upmin@yahoo.com), is an associate professor at the UP Department of Linguistics.


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