Learning by nurturing

Last month, I was invited to talk to kindergarten and elementary teachers in three places in the Cordilleras about the whys and wherefores of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE). I first went to Baguio, then to Buguias and Kibungan in Benguet. On every occasion, the discussions turned to complaints regarding lack of materials in the first language (L1) and lack of training in using these materials to teach the new K-to-12 curriculum.

Such is not the case however with Bangao Moreno Elementary School principal Herminia Osting, who attended a 2-week training workshop organized by St. Louis University and Summer Institute of Linguistics in Baguio in May 2012. Since the workshop, Osting and her teachers have had much success in developing their own reading primer and math workbook in Kankanaey and more than a hundred big books, small books, listening stories and charts.


The Kankanaey reading primer contains the letters of the working alphabet that represent the sounds of the language. I noticed, however, that their primer did not have the symbol for the glottal stop, so I asked them to include that. I also suggested that they make an expanded Kankanaey alphabet so that they can spell the names of persons and places that have historically been spelled using Spanish and English conventions.

Many of their materials are classified into either early or late Stage 1 and Stage 2. Stage 1 stories focus on familiar people, places and activities and are for new readers. They are usually from four to 10 pages long and are written in the reader’s mother tongue (L1). Stage 2 stories meanwhile begin to explore people’s experience outside the local area and are intended for readers who are gaining fluency in their L1. Early Stage 2 reading books are 10-20 pages long with 3-4 sentences per page, while later Stage 2 books are a few pages longer.


“Kasaldet ay Taki” (The Proud Cockroach), a favorite of young learners is an example of a Stage 1 story. It is about a cockroach that made fun of the spider and the ant because of how they got their food. The cockroach was critical of the ant because all it could do was carry morsels, and of the spider who simply waited for his prey to get entangled in its web. One day, the cockroach slipped into a watery surface, fell on its back and could not get up.

“Din Danan da Anina” (The Trail that Anina  Took), on the other hand, is an example of an early Stage 2 story. It supplements the Kankanaey primer in building words  with “a,” “i,” “n,” “k,” “d,” “u” and “o.” This text is being used for shared and individual reading on mastered sounds. The story goes this way: Anina spends her vacation in her cousin’s house in Baguio City. After a week, it is the turn of Anina’s cousin to go to Kada and they have to hike through a trail going to Kitungan. As she and her cousin are on their way, a long snake appeared. Anina shouts to her cousin to look out and steer clear of the snake. Anina’s cousin thanks her for this and they arrive safely at her home.

Some of the charts they produced were the color charts and the weather charts which gave the terms in three languages: Kankanaey, Filipino and English. Some of the color terms in Kankanaey were:  mandada for red, mansila for yellow, mankilat for white and man-abuganggang for orange. Sunny is manseysey-ang in Kankanaey, cloudy is manliblibuo, windy is mandagdagem and stormy is manpewpewek.

The Buguias experience demonstrates that DepEd teachers can produce the materials they need given the correct guidance in MTBMLE theory and methodology. This is the main reason education stakeholders are focusing on materials development activities at the division level, like the Panangisuro event at the Quezon Elementary School in Baguio City on Feb. 8-11, and  Pagtudlo at the Grand Ficus Plaza in Kidapawan City on Feb. 22-24, 2013.

The objectives of these events are: (a) to clarify the philosophy, concepts and methodologies in MTBMLE instruction; (b) to produce sample instructional materials in three learning areas, namely the language arts, mathematics and social studies; (c) to share best teaching strategies and practices in L1-L2 education; and (d) to create tools for early grade assessment in reading and mathematics. The lectures and focus workshops are open to elementary teachers and administrators, as well as tertiary educators who want to design teacher training programs according to the principles of first-language based instruction. After developing the materials, we can now concentrate on teacher training sometime in summer.

Through these activities, we hope to trigger a groundswell to propel MTBMLE firmly into the mainstream, not just for localizing learning materials but more so for indigenizing curriculum content and instructional methods. This way, we nurture learning—and the learner—at every stage of the learning continuum. It deviates distinctly from the conventional centralized trickle-down approach that has characterized education reform for so long.

Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, PhD ([email protected]), is an associate professor in linguistics at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.


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TAGS: Commentary, education, elementary, Kindergarten, learning, opinion, Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco
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