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Friday, August 23, 2019

Whose mother tongue will you use?

TEACHERS from different parts of the country started to question the relevance of Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) policy as it involves implementation of local mother tongues as the language of instruction in Kindergarten to year three (K-3), with the official languages (Filipino and English) being introduced as the language of instruction after grade three.

It was questionable because the policy intends to use the community’s mother tongue as a language of instruction (LOI), while in the real implementation, schools all over the country introduced an additional subject called ‘Mother Tongue’ from Kindergarten to year three (K-3). Because of this, confusions started to arise.

In some parts of the country, the native languages used like that of the Meranaws are oral languages. Meaning, there is no authentic orthographical representation of some sounds present in the language. In fact, it is currently studied even if it is considered as one of the major minority languages in the country.

Hence, how can a teacher teach a language that has no established grammatical rule and much more an authentic orthography? What happens to those languages that are not equally given importance in the linguistic researches? Is the country doing this process to strengthen literacy and minimize the number of illiterates in the country, or the other way around?

These questions are just a few of the many similarly important questions arising in the many academic debates in the country. Elementary teachers of today do not even know how to teach the language as a subject. A mother tongue can be used as an auxiliary language in understanding historical, mathematical and scientific concepts but can be difficult if taught as a separate language course.

On the matters of valuing the importance of culture and functional learning, the execution of the policy became more complicated. Textbooks in the primary years designed for every region were haphazardly done. For example, the books distributed to Lanao learners like Math and MAPEH books were assumed to be using authentic Meranaw, but when reviewed by Meranaw language experts, there were inconsistencies in orthographies, grammatical use and transliterations.

In fact, if we want to preserve the Meranaw culture we would have seen some authentic songs in the music and arts books. Instead, English songs such as ‘Jack and Jill’ and ‘Old McDonald’ were just transliterated to Meranaw language. Whose culture are we preserving then? Are we preserving the Meranaw culture or the American culture just written in Meranaw?

Therefore, if the country’s policy makers are serious enough in implementing this policy, they should have studied well the intricate and complex structures of the country’s multi-tongued people with more than a hundred recognized indigenous languages before implementation. There are even communities or barangays where locals including young children have at least three languages acquired at an early age because of the multi-ethnic affiliations of the people within a community.

Teachers who are born decades ago, who learned and taught with Filipino and English as LOIs, will be the ones teaching the Meranaw language today. Most of them do not even know basic spellings and orthographies of some words in Meranaw. How can you be an instrument of literacy when you don’t have the knowledge needed? How much of our education budget is allocated in training the teachers on the field? How sure is the government of its efforts given to the people who really need access?

This plight and claim are not only by the Meranaws. Even scholars from Luzon and Visayas claimed the same issues. These issues call for further attention even if the policy is now in its infancy stage. Let’s start now or never.

[Email: sorlatipyusoph@gmail.com]
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