MTB-MLE a Trojan horse?-A A +A
Monday, June 25, 2012
DEPARTMENT of Education (DepEd) Order No. 16 s. 2012, which launches the MTB-MLE (Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education) Program this school year for kindergarten, Grades 1, 2 and 3, is so sparsely worded that schools are interpreting and implementing it in so many different ways.
For example, it does not define “mother tongue,” and so some schools take it to mean the dominant language of the province, while others define it as the dominant language at home.
And so, Kapampangan parents who talk to their children in Filipino insist that Filipino is their children’s mother tongue, and therefore should be the medium of instruction when they go to school.
These parents are afraid that if schools use Kapampangan in kindergarten and Grades 1, 2 and 3, as DepEd requires them to do, their children will not be able to understand the lessons and worse, will unlearn Filipino and therefore squander an asset that’s supposed to help them succeed in life.
To them, Kapampangan is not an asset, their children have no use for it, and it will in fact become a burden and liability if the school will insist on using it as the medium of instruction.
Some schools in Pampanga, citing the ambiguity of the DepEd Order and their difficulty in implementing it in heterogeneous (mixed) classes, can only embrace the parents’ argument.
And so, the government’s MTB-MLE Program, which is supposed to be the greatest thing that ever happened to the promotion of indigenous languages in this country, is turning out to be another vehicle for the promotion of Filipino!
First of all, if the DepEd Order is ambiguously written, its intention is crystal clear: schools must use the regional language, not the national language. The Order even names the eight major regional languages that schools must use, and Kapampangan is on the list.
DepEd is insisting on the use of Kapampangan not as a cultural advocacy, but as an academic strategy. It has been proven, by both local and international research that using the child’s native language instead of an imposed new language will boost the learning process and improve his academic performance by leaps and bounds.
Question: What is the child’s mother tongue, the language he was born with (Kapampangan) or the language he grew up with (Filipino)?
The sentimental answer would be the language he was born with. I say sentimental because in reality, no one is born with a language. All languages are acquired.
If the parents are both Kapampangan but choose to teach their child Filipino and not Kapampangan, I’d like to believe that their intention is not to shun Kapampangan but to merely equip their child with another useful language. The parents know that their child will learn Kapampangan on their own anyway, since it is the dominant language among their relatives, their playmates and their neighbors.
And so, although the child learns Filipino from his parents, the child actually learns Kapampangan, too, from his environment, whether the parents like it or not.
I just hope these parents will not resent their child learning Kapampangan. Children are capable of learning multiple languages simultaneously. If the parents teach their child Filipino at home, and his teachers teach him Kapampangan in school, well, that’s really good for the child because he is already learning two languages at such an early age.
We should assure these parents that by learning Kapampangan, their child is not going to unlearn Filipino. Maybe it’s unknown to them, but their child does understand Kapampangan even if he speaks straight Filipino. For all they know, he speaks Filipino at home to please his parents, but outside with his playmates he speaks Kapampangan too! And so these parents should not worry that their child will not understand lessons taught in Kapampangan.
Schools should therefore not easily bow to pressure from this kind of parents. They should follow the DepEd Order as it was originally intended, and not water it down with their own self-serving interpretations.
I know how difficult it is for teachers who themselves are more fluent in Filipino than in Kapampangan, but really, all it takes is a few weeks of adjustment. It doesn’t have to be the kind of Kapampangan their old folks used — straight, literary, archaic, and hifalutin.
They should use the Kapampangan that their pupils understand. If it contains Filipino or even English words, so what? Languages are really supposed to absorb words from other languages. Kapampangan is still evolving. We who want it pure and traditional will just have to surrender to the fact that we won’t be around long enough to protect it from change. Whether we like it or not, these children who mutilate it will be the ones to use it in the next generation.
Kapampangan belongs to them, not to us. They can do whatever they want to do with it, to suit their purposes and their times. We can only show them the map, but they and they alone will decide if they want to follow that map.
MTB-MLE will hopefully extend the life of our language as we know it. But MTB-MLE will be the arena where we see how our language will look in the future.
And so there: the future of Kapampangan is not in the hands of poets and writers and cultural advocates; it’s in the classroom where our children will learn the Kapampangan as their teachers will deliver it.
If they mangle it, it means it will be a mangled Kapampangan language that will survive in the future.
If they murder it, well then, there won’t be a Kapampangan language in the future, will there?
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 26, 2012.