Citing the lack of studies on the use of mother tongue-based education in a multilingual setting prior to the policy’s implementation, Senator Win Gatchalian described the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) in the Philippines as an experiment.
“After conducting four hearings, my short summary of this exercise is that the Philippines has become an experiment in terms of implementing mother tongue in a multilingual setting,” said Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
Gatchalian quizzed the Department of Education (DepEd), whether a study on mother tongue-based education was conducted before it was institutionalized through the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (Republic Act No. 10533) or the K to 12 Law. The department confirmed that the studies done were mostly in homogeneous or monolinguistic settings.
“When I asked about the implementation strategy on a multilingual setting, we do not have that also. So, we became the de facto experiment for mother tongue in a multilingual setting. And that experiment is now creating a lot of confusion and negative feedback from our teachers,” Gatchalian added.
During the hearings on the implementation of MTB-MLE, the lawmaker pointed out that schools end up using regional languages that children are unfamiliar with, a scenario that is not consistent with the intention of the law to teach learners in their first language. Gatchalian repeatedly pointed out that while the MTB-MLE covers 19 languages, the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2020 Census of Population and Housing lists as many as 245 languages being used nationwide.
State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) also pointed out that based on its survey of 16,827 schools, less than 10% have complied with the minima for the program’s effective implementation: writing big books on language, literature and culture, documentation of the orthography of the language, documentation of grammar, and documentation of a dictionary of the language.
Gatchalian also asked the DepEd to come up with a strategic plan on its implementation of MTB-MLE.
“We know that implementation is not a simple department order. We need to come up with a strategic plan to make it strategic in terms of implementation. We need to know if this can be implemented or not,” Gatchalian concluded.