Martial law and the miseducation of our youth

When declared martial law, Ferdinand Marcos ushered in the bilingual setup of using two second languages (mostly English) in education. Marcos saw the education system as his primary vehicle to perpetuate the warped values of his so-called New Society, with disastrous historical consequences. Rather than promote genuine literacy, the bilingual policy only contributed to the miseducation of generations of Filipinos. The damage done to our national psyche is immeasurable. As it is, we are still a nation in search of our soul.

It took us 40 years before realizing the folly of this policy. We have replaced it with a new one called mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE).


Despite the change, functional illiteracy and low quality instruction continue to victimize us like the plague. The Philippines is missing targets for net enrollment ratio in primary education by 17.2 years, for primary grade completion rate by 10.2 years and for the literacy rate of 15-24-year-olds by 9.1 years.

I celebrated International Literacy Day 2012 with education stakeholders in Mindanao on two occasions, one at the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan, Cotabato, on Sept. 6-8 and the other at Ateneo de Davao University on September 15.


In Kabacan, where Ilocano, Binisaya, Ilonggo and Maguindanaon communities dominate, I delivered three talks. The biggest audience—close to 2,000—came on Sept. 8, International Literacy Day, which was also the 51st anniversary of USM’s College of Education, where I was guest of honor.

On that occasion, I encouraged the tertiary education institutions to help overcome the serious shortage of teachers for MTBMLE by designing at least four types of teacher training programs:

The incorporation of MTBMLE into existing professional teaching programs, where education majors learn how to apply second language acquisition theories.

One-year “fast track” certificate programs for graduates with nonteaching baccalaureate degrees that would equip them with the required pedagogical skills and knowledge for the MTBMLE classroom.

Three- to four-week intensive workshops for experienced certified teachers to become effective in an MTBMLE environment.

Training programs for teaching assistants who are fluent in the local language (L1) but do not have the educational background to qualify for the regular teaching profession.

These parateachers have proven to be effective in situations where the regular teacher is fluent in the official language but does not know the L1 of the learners.


On September 6 and 7, there was an assembly for students and a one-day seminar for teachers. Numerous queries on the whys and wherefores of L1-based instruction and doubts on the program’s effectiveness and sustainability were aired. I sought to dispel these doubts by citing the local and international evidence. I assured the teachers that there are available resources that they can access online, and referred them to education institutions that they can rely on for training. But I could not hide my disappointment over the Department of Education’s “early” exit policy as well as the haphazard implementation of this policy.

Other speakers at the one-day seminar for teachers were: Bonna Duron of Save the Children who talked about their pilot programs in South Cotabato that included B’laan and Maguindanaon communities; Mhawi Rosero of University of the Philippines’ Layap who spoke on language documentation and research; Cito Casquite who gave a lecture on the characteristics of stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 stories for learners as they progress from beginning literacy to fluency; and Noemi Dumalaog who gave a teaching demonstration using Ilonggo on the story about the big-mouthed frog.

I met with USM officials led by Jesus Antonio Dirije, president; Tony Tacardon, academic affairs vice president; and Leorence Tandog, dean of the College of Education. They liked the idea of USM hosting a 3-day national MTBMLE seminar-workshop in February 2013 in time for International Mother Language Day.

The Davao forum was a collaborative project of USM, Ateneo de Davao University, Translators Association of the Philippines and SIL Philippines. Pam Castrillo and Cecile Van Zante led the activities.

The following issues were discussed at the Davao forum:

Pilot programs in Cotabato City and South Cotabato by SIL and Save the Children show children in MTBMLE schools outperforming those in bilingual settings, becoming confident speakers in school, and beginning to write in their native language outside of the school setting.

Parents now participate more in the education of their children because they can understand the language used in school.

The question of Filipino identity is dependent on how Filipinos value their own ethnic identities.

The tertiary education institutions have their work cut out for them because on their shoulders rest the primary responsibility of training our existing and future teachers under the new mother-tongue-based paradigm.

Finally, I wish to invite the public to another forum-workshop titled “Math-talino sa Unang Wika: Teaching the Early Grades Math Curriculum in the First Language.” This will be held on Oct. 6, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Palma Hall 400, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Dr. Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco ([email protected]) is an associate professor in linguistics at UP Diliman.

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TAGS: Commentary, education, martial law, opinion, Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, youth
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