Experience of private schools proves folly of DepEd’s Mother Tongue policy | Inquirer Opinion

Experience of private schools proves folly of DepEd’s Mother Tongue policy

/ 05:00 AM November 05, 2021

Based on pronouncements of the Department of Education (DepEd) on the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) or mother tongue policy, the agency is hell-bent on maintaining the policy despite the fact that in the first nine years of implementation, it has achieved the exact opposite of its promised benefits stated in DepEd Order No. 74, series of 2009, which are as follows: quicker learning of reading; quicker learning of reading and usage of new languages; better overall academic performance; and improved performance in international assessments.

On Feb. 28, 2020, a DepEd press release quoted Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instructions Diosdado San Antonio as saying that the “DepEd is keen to continue implementing the MTB-MLE despite the early challenges of its implementation.”

And on Aug. 26, 2021, a DepEd press release called for research proposals on the theme “Supporting and Assessing Learning Continuity and Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education Materials and Development.”

The DepEd and other advocates of the MTB-MLE try to sweep under the rug the complete fiasco in the first nine years by referring to it as mere “early challenges,” but in reality, it is proof that the policy is counterproductive. For one, how could the failure of the MTB-MLE to deliver on its promise to reverse our dismal showing in internal assessments be mere “early challenges” when our debacle in the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) happened in the seventh year, and the difference between the performances of our students under the old language policy and those who underwent the MTB-MLE was so abysmal? The 2019 batch scored 61 points or 17.03 percent lower in Mathematics, and 83 points or 25 percent less in Science, than our 2003 representatives. They landed last in both subjects, while the 2003 group managed to be third to the last in both subjects.


The DepEd and their allies cannot also deny that the MTB-MLE has widened the gap in the English proficiency levels of private school pupils versus public schools pupils. According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) study “‘Starting Where the Children Are’: A Process Evaluation of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education Implementation,” public school pupils can no longer compete in regional contests conducted in English because their private school counterparts could understand the questions better. The study said that the MTB-MLE “has not been able to take hold in private schools.” They still use English as medium of instruction from Grade 1 and allot an average of 100 minutes per day to the English subject as against the MTB-MLE’s 43.33 minutes per day.

Since private schools follow the old beginning reading timetable, their pupils learn to read in English in Grade 1. On the other hand, under the MTB-MLE, reading in English is only introduced in the second semester of Grade 2 (Phil-IRI 2018 Manual). The MTB-MLE is shot through with absurdities, but this takes the cake: It promises to quicken the learning of reading in new languages but only begins to teach reading in English months after pupils under previous language policies have already been reading in the language.

The DepEd has already observed the devastating effect of delayed acquisition of English reading skills but pretends the MTB-MLE has nothing to do with the phenomenon. DepEd Memorandum No. 173, series of 2019, which launched the “Bawat Bata Bumabasa” literacy campaign as DepEd’s response to the reading crisis, states: “Low achievement levels in English, Math, and Science appear to be caused by gaps in learners’ reading comprehension. This means there are many low performing learners who could not comprehend Math and Science word problems that are written in English.”

Needless to say, the situation is occurring because public school children learn to read in English in Grade 3 instead of in Grade 1.


While half-baked education programs and policies are not supposed to be implemented, the DepEd, true to form, has been conducting an extended experiment on whether MTB-MLE is superior to previous language policies in the last nine years, with the control group—the private schools—leaving the experimental group—the public schools—in the dust.

Estanislao C. Albano, Jr., [email protected]

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TAGS: DepEd, mother tongue policy, mtb-mle, reading comprehension

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