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National Language Month should highlight ‘language of instruction’ woes

Reforms in the basic education sector should address persisting issues hounding the language of instruction, Senator Win Gatchalian said, amid the nationwide celebration of the National Language Month this August.


BARILI, CEBU – Senator Win Gatchalian speaks to local officials during Barili’s founding anniversary, 23 July 2021. Gatchalian stated that reforms in the basic education sector should address persisting issues hounding the language of instruction. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The language of instruction is considered one of the key issues hounding K to 12 schools. Some 94% of 15-year-olds who participated in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) spoke a different language at home most of the time that is different from the language of instruction at school, which is English.

In the same global assessment participated by 79 countries, the Philippines ranked lowest in Reading with only one out of five Filipino students achieving at least the minimum level of proficiency. The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier acknowledged how this may affect student performance in both Science and Mathematics.

Republic Act No. 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, also known as the K to 12 Law, mandates the basic education curriculum’s adherence to the principles and framework of the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE). In implementing the MTB-MLE for Kindergarten and the first three years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials, and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of learners.

From Grades 4 to 6, Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction through a language bridge program until these two languages can become the primary language of instruction at the secondary level.

The implementation of the MTB-MLE also poses a challenge to teachers. A 2019 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) pointed to the lack of textbooks written in the mother tongue, as well as the lack of teacher training on using the mother tongue as a language of instruction.

“Maganda ang layunin ng mother tongue education na turuan ang mga bata sa wikang kanilang naiintindihan, ngunit nakikita natin na may mga hamon sa pagpapatupad nito at naaapektuhan nito ang kalidad ng edukasyon sa ating bansa. Sa pag-reporma natin sa ating sistema ng edukasyon, kailangang resolbahin natin ang mga isyu sa mother tongue education,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

The senator has earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 610 which seeks a Senate inquiry on the implementation of the MTB-MLE.