UP professor: Mother tongue program more conducive to learning, should not be scrapped
MANILA, Philippines— University of the Philippines – College of Education professor Maria Mercedes Arzadon on Saturday said she is against the possible removal of the mother tongue or native language subject in the country’s elementary schools, asserting that first language education is more effective in enhancing the learning capabilities of students and promoting pride and national identity.
Arzadon, in an ABS-CBN – Teleradyo interview, said that based on studies dated as early as 1948, mother tongue learners are more involved and participative in quality interactions when they are able to fully understand what is being taught.
“Nakita sa maraming pag-aaral na mas epektibo, naiintindihan ng bata yung kanyang binabasa… Siya ay involved, mas quality yung interaction, nakakapag-tanong siya sa teacher,” she said.
(Many studies have shown that students more effectively understand reading materials [in their mother tongue]… They are more involved, interactions are better, and they are able to ask questions.)
“‘Yung mga batang natututo sa kanilang mother tongue or sa kanilang first language (L1) ay madali silang nakakaintindi ng math, science, at pati sa Ingles. Nalalampasan nila yung mga batang nagsimula sa pure or English only,” Arzadon added.
(First language learners quickly understand math, science, and even English. They exceed those children who start with English only.)
Early English and employers’ concerns
The Department of Education (DepEd) proposed the removal of the separate mother tongue subject in the primary level in a draft of its revised basic education curriculum.
DepEd instead recommended the early teaching of English.
This is among other curriculum changes being initiated by DepEd to address employers’ reluctance to hire fresh graduates and to adjust to a global demand for English-speaking Filipino workers.
Elevating the Filipino workforce
Arzadon stressed, however, that forcing surface-level English upon Filipino workers at the cost of developing comprehension skills will only chain them to low-level service positions.
“We have to see, ano bang klase ng workers? ‘Yun lang bang magsasalita ng simpleng greetings? Or we would like to send workers na mas mataas naman na level? Na hindi lang tayo mga service workers na di kailangan na mag-reason out o magengage sa mas malalim sa conversation?” she posed.
(We have to see, what kind of workers [are these]? Should they only give simple greetings? Or would we like to send higher-level workers? Workers who won’t only stay service workers that aren’t asked to reason out or engage in deeper conversations?)
“Kailangan talagang linangin natin yung mga bata beyond lang yung mga surface-level na knowledge,” Arzadon went on.
(We need to motivate our children to go beyond surface-level knowledge.)
Emphasizing that education begins at home, the UP professor also pointed out that promoting the use of one’s first language at home bolsters pride in oneself and identity.
“[Kung] sa bahay pa lang, tinuturo na hindi mahalaga ang iyong kultura, na hindi mahalaga ‘yung cultural or linguistic heritage, yung mother tongue mo— anong klase kang worker later on? Madali ka na lang maniniwala, kahit abusuhin ka, kasi wala ka nang pride sa sarili mo, sa identity,” Arzadon explained.
(If it is already being taught in the home that your culture, linguistic heritage, and mother tongue are not important— what kind of worker will you become later on? You would become gullible, even prone to abuse, because you would have no pride in yourself or your identity.)
“‘Yung inaaddress natin sa mother tongue, hindi lang yung matutong magbasa at magsulat, kundi ‘yung kanyang prinsipyo sa buhay, yung kanyang paningin sa sarili. Ang pagtingin sa’ting mga sarili bilang Pilipino,” said the education expert.
(What the mother tongue subject addresses is not just reading and writing skills, but life principles and self-image. Our image of ourselves as Filipinos.)
‘Valorizing’ indigenous languages
Arzadon also highlighted that the mother tongue program allowed the country’s indigenous communities a more inclusive and encouraging education, dignifying their identity by using their native languages in formal spaces.
“Masaya lalo na yung mga indigenous peoples’ (IP) communities kasi dati, pinagtatawanan lang… Nabu-bully sila. But now, their languages ay ginagamit sa school. Nava-valorize ang kanilang languages,” stated Arzadon.
(IP communities are happy with the program because their language would be ridiculed before… They would be bullied. But now, their languages are being used in schools. Their languages are valorized.)
Arzadon also pointed out that because many lawmakers send their own children to private schools in Metro Manila, education policies tend to be Manila-centric and non-representative of student experiences in the provinces.
“Nagugulat kami— anong klaseng desisyon ang gagawin niyo sa hundred million plus Filipinos? Based on a whim? O sa mga anak niyo na dahil nasa Manila sila? ’Yung mga anak nila ay nasa city, they can provide all the resources. They really don’t mind losing their language. Pero hindi naman lahat ng Pilipino ganyan,” she explained.
(We were shocked— what kind of decisions are you making for over a hundred million Filipinos? Based on a whim? Or on your children, because they are in Manila? Their kids are in the city, they can provide all the resources. They really don’t mind losing their language. But that is not the experience of all Filipinos.)
Arming the citizenry
The comprehension and perception skills cultivated by mother tongue education are also crucial to raising a critical citizenry, according to Arzadon.
She maintains that for the youth to make critical decisions and participate in civic society, they must be able to examine their experiences at a deeper level through a language that is familiar to them.
“Kailangang maging malalim ang kanilang mga karanasan, pagkaintindi, at napapaliwanag nila sa mga nangyayari sa paligid nila,” asserted Arzadon.
(Their experiences and understanding of them need to deepen, and they should be able to explain what happens around them.)
“Kasi yung mga bata, magiging citizen yan. Dapat magkaroon siya ng critical thinking sa kanyang pagpili ng kanyang leader… so importante talaga na maging quality ang kanyang education,” she added.
(These children will become citizens. They need to have critical thinking when it comes to choosing their leaders. It’s truly important that they receive good quality education.)
Evidence-based language policies
Arzadon called on legislators to prioritize evidence-based research in their educational policymaking.
“Dapat evidence-based ang basehan natin, ng mga nasa Kongreso at ng ating namumuno— kung ano ‘yung lumalabas sa pag-aaral, kasi yun naman ang goal natin bilang mga educators. Mag-research, tumingin sa kasaysayan natin, kasaysayan ng ibang bansa,”
(Our polices should be evidence-based, those that result from studies, because that is our goal as educators. To research, to look at our country’s history, and other countries’ histories.)
“Wala silang makuhang ebidensya na mas natututo ang bata pag-sinumulan kaagad sa kanyang second language o English. Kahit nga sa Pilipinas, sa history niya… nakikita na ang baba ng kalidad ng edukasyon dahil nga hindi nakaka-participate dahil sa [mga] English-only policy,” she pointed out.
(They will not find evidence that children who start with their second language or English are better learners. Even in the history of the Philippines… low quality education was seen because learners could not participate due to English-only policies.)