DepEd to junk 'mother tongue' subject, but not as medium of instruction

DepEd to junk 'mother tongue' subject, but not as medium of instruction
Students in face masks are seen being taken their temperature in this undated file photo before the COVID-19 outbreak in the country
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Public schools may soon do away with the 50 minutes of students' native language as a subject in classes subject to finalization of the plans, the Department of Education told senators Monday. 

Education Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III bared this plan before the Senate Committee on Basic Education's hearing on Monday morning, saying the plans came after the department's review of the K to 10 program in the country's schools.

"We intend to abandon the mother tongue as a subject, which is a separate learning area in the curriculum. And we will simply use the mother tongue, which is already the vernacular of the community, neighbors, and family, as part of the medium of instruction. No longer as a subject to be offered from Grade 1 to Grade 3,” he said.

Densing was careful to point out that mother tongues would still be the medium of instruction; they just won't be taught as a separate subject anymore. 

"This will be reallocated for our national reading program and national math program," he said. "There is no need to teach it to the children because this is already their everyday language in the school and community and family. So the assumption there is they understand it already before it's taught to them."

But even teaching in native languages presents problems of its own. 

Students since have been taught in their mother tongue for all subjects, except Filipino and English, from Kindergarten to Grade 3 since 2013 as part of the Mother Tongue-Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) in K to 12. English is used as the primary medium of instruction after this period.

Leila Areola, Director IV of the Curriculum and Instruction at the DepEd Bureau of Learning Delivery said that only 78,872 of its targeted 305,099 educators have been trained for the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction.

Dr. Marie Therese Angeline Bustos, director of the Assessment Curriculum and Technology Research Center said that the national government should "ensure that as far as possible students are allocated to classes that use their mother tongue as medium of instruction."

Citing DepEd data, Bustos also presented the results of its Early Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program in 2018 in arguing the mother tongue's links to learning in other subjects, which found that: 

  • Almost half of all pupils were rated as being proficient and highly proficient in Filipino while only close to a quarter have reached proficiency and high proficiency in English 
  • About one-third of the non-Tagalog test takers were considered proficient and highly proficient in their respective [tests] and about 16% of the same group were proficient and highly proficient in Numeracy. Also, about 10% of pupils who took the Numeracy subtest in Tagalog are at a proficient and highly proficient level 

The Philippine Institute of Development Studies found in a study that less than 10% of the over 16,000 schools that it included in its study had fully complied with the four main conditions of DepEd in rolling out mother tongue-based multilingual education, namely orthography, grammar, learning resources, and dictionary.

"The primary model of implementation assumes that a child is exposed to only one mother tongue as suggested by the linguistic mapping of the DepEd. The reality is further hampered by procurement and budget issues at the school level," the 2019 study which was read at the Senate hearing says. 

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