Mother language: Savior or whipping boy? Congress should refer language issue to EdCom
On Feb. 21, the world celebrates the 24th edition of International Mother Language Day with the theme “multilingual education—a necessity to transform education.” This event forms part of the Global Action Plan of the UN International Decade on Indigenous Languages from 2022 to 2032.
In the Philippines, we are holding the 2023 Conference-Workshop on Indigenous Languages and the Sustainable Development Goals at the Iloilo campus of the University of the Philippines-Visayas on Feb. 21-23. Speaking at this event will be UN special rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes and Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Gina O. Gonong. Unesco officials from Jakarta and Bangkok will also be present.
The legislation in 2013 of mother tongue (L1) use in schools is a watershed event for Philippine education. It demonstrates our resolve to deliver a learner-centered, inclusive, and rights-based education for our culturally diverse population. Since then, we have seen unprecedented growth in literary and educational materials in our spoken and sign languages.
The Basic Education Report to the nation of Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte bodes well for Philippine education. She has provided the public with a candid assessment of what ails our education system, identified the needed reforms to move forward, and promised full sharing of education data so that analysts can help policymakers arrive at evidence-based decisions.
Reaffirming that children learn best in a familiar language, VP Duterte seems to succeed in assuaging fears that L1-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) is on the way out. She also highlighted the need for teacher quality, and pledged to make the new Teacher Education Council fully functional. A fully functional TEC is expected to set the minimum requirements for pre-service education that will adequately prepare future teachers for L1-based instruction and the K-to-12 curriculum.
In contrast, the House of Representatives appears hell-bent on making L1 use in schools as its whipping boy. Despite fierce opposition from educators and researchers, it has called for a suspension of MTBMLE through House Bill No. 6717 ostensibly because of the “unpreparedness” of many schools. To override the suspension, schools must secure a certification of “readiness” from DepEd.
Eerily, the bill is silent on what medium will replace the suspended L1, raising grave concerns about the return to English/Filipino which, research has shown, disadvantages a huge number of nonspeakers of these languages.
In this connection, we are asking the Senate and the House to refer the language issue to the Education Commission II for more thorough deliberation. Doing otherwise is premature and will preempt the more conclusive findings and recommendations of EdCom II.
Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco,
170+ Talaytayan MLE Inc.,
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