Why I teach VERNACULAR to SOPHIE…

(See: PhilEd Data: Strengthening Information for Education, Policy, Planning and Management in the Philippines by Firth McEachern, RTI International)

I love other languages. And I am also very particular with language. Since Sophie’s conception up to the present, I urge and demand that she learns first the vernacular. When I talked to her last time, her thought process is very different. She has superiority. She is not shy. Her speech is clear. Her hiligaynon is deep for a 3-year old. People are fascinated by her articulation of the vernacular. And she can easily adapt to tagalog or English languages.

The reasons WHY I TEACH VERNACULAR TO SOPHIE are provided below in PhilEd Data by Firth McEachern. Read through and share.

Research demonstrates that maintaining first language (L1) abilities and enhancing them through the development of literacy and academic language skills in L1 can lead to better academic outcomes in L1 (Palmer et. al., 2007), faster literacy development (International Reading Association, 2001), and better outcomes in second language learning (Lindholm- Leary & Borsato, 2006).

Moreover, mother tongue-based instruction can improve a child’s self-esteem (Appel, 1988; Cummins, 1989, 1990; Hernàndez-Chavez, 1984), foster cultural identity (McCarty, 2008), reduce drop-out rates (Benson, 2004), and narrow achievement gaps between rich and poor, urban and rural, and male and female learners (Lopez & Küper, 2000; Hovens, 2002; UNESCO 2005b).

Here are some of the mother tongue or vernacular pilot programs since Philippine independence.

  1. The First Iloilo Experiment (1948-1954);
  2. The Cebu Experiment (pre-1960’s),
  3. The Antique Experiment (1952);
  4. The First Rizal Experiment (1953-1959);
  5. another Rizal experiment (1960-1966);
  6. The First Language Component Bridging Program (FLC-BP) Pilot Project in Ifugao (1986-1993);
  7. The Lubuagan Multilingual Education Program (1998-),
  8. The Lingua Franca Project (1999-2001),
  9. The Culture-Responsive Curriculum for Indigenous People–Third Elementary Education Project (2003-2007),
  10. The Double Exposure in Mathematics Initiative of Region IV-B (2004- 2007); and others.

In the Iloilo Experiment, CHILDREN WHO LEARNED IN THEIR MOTHER TONGUE (HILIGAYNON) SURPASSED ENGLISH-TAUGHT PUPILS IN ARITHMETIC, READING, AND SOCIAL STUDIES, AND DEMONSTRATED GREATER EMOTIONAL STABILITY, EXTROVERSION, AND EMOTIONAL MATURITY. Secondly, THE HILIGAYNON-TAUGHT PUPILS HAD NO STATISTICAL DISADVANTAGE IN THEIR ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABILITIES (Aguilar 1949, 1961). In 1956, Jardenil (1962) conducted a follow-up study involving some subjects (both control and experimental) of the original Iloilo Experiment. Fifteen judges listened to anonymous audio recordings of the subjects, speaking and reading in English. The judges’ were unable to distinguish between the students who had been taught in the vernacular from those who had been taught purely in English; the researcher suggests that THE TEACHING OF THE VERNACULAR DID NOT PREVENT GOOD DICTION AND FLUENCY IN ENGLISH.

In the Cebu Experiment, which focused ON SOCIAL STUDIES, it was found that TEACHING THE SUBJECT THROUGH THE VERNACULAR (CEBUANO) WAS ONE-THIRD TO TWO-THIRDS MORE EFFICIENT THAN TEACHING IT THROUGH ENGLISH. In the Antique Experiment, three language-in-education models were employed with different amounts of vernacular use. THE EXPERIMENTAL GROUP IN THE SCHOOL THAT USED VERNACULAR THE MOST (70% OF DAILY INSTRUCTIONAL TIME) SCORED HIGHER THAN THE CONTROL GROUP IN ARITHMETIC, READING, LANGUAGE, AND SOCIAL STUDIES; it was also found that the vernacular served as a “facilitator or catalyser for learning English” (Jardenil, 1962).

The First Rizal Experiment featured two sets of experimental schools and one set of control schools, sharing similar age and mental ability profiles. One set of experimental schools used the vernacular (Tagalog) as medium of instruction (MOI) in grades one and two, thereafter switching to English, while the other set used the vernacular as MOI up to and including grade three, followed by English. The control schools used English as MOI for all grade levels. During the first few years, pupils in the experimental schools outperformed the other group in all four areas measured—language, reading, social studies, and arithmetic—but this lead reduced in the upper elementary grades once the MOI switched to English. This result is expected considering current knowledge about the recommended length of mother tongue instruction: USING THE MOTHER TONGUE AS A MOI YIELDS BENEFITS IN THE FIRST FEW YEARS, BUT GAINS IN STUDENT PERFORMANCE CAN BE UNDERMINED IF THE MOTHER TONGUE IS REMOVED TOO EARLY (Halaoui, 2003; Ramirez, Ramay & Dena, 1991; Sampa, 2003; Thomas and Collier, 1997, 2002). Nevertheless, CHILDREN IN THE VERNACULAR MODELS WERE NOTED TO BE BETTER ADJUSTED SOCIALLY, EXTROVERTED, MORE INTERESTED IN THEIR STUDIES, AND HAD HIGHER SURVIVAL RATES BETWEEN GRADES 1 AND 6.

The second Rizal experiment consisted of similar groups as the first: a group that used Tagalog in Grades 1-2 followed by English in Grades 3-6, another group that used Tagalog in Grades 1-4 followed by English in Grades 5-6, and an all-English group (English medium in Grades 1-6). Tested in English at the end of Grade 4, the all-English group performed highest in language, reading, social studies, health and science, and arithmetic computation. However, for arithmetic problems, the all-Tagalog group (Tagalog medium in grades 1-4) attained the highest level of achievement. In the Tagalog version of the tests, the three groups showed about the same reading proficiency levels, but the all-Tagalog group attained the highest achievement levels in social studies, health and science, and arithmetic problems. The results indicated that the match (or mismatch) between medium of instruction and medium of assessment has a strong impact on measured levels of achievement. Assessment at the end of Grade 6 revealed a different pattern, however. Despite showing strengths in the early years, the Tagalog groups performed more poorly in most subject areas regardless of the medium of assessment. Aguilar (1961) attributes the lackluster performance of the vernacular groups to the training received by the teachers and the instructional materials. Teacher training was concentrated in English and ignored in the home language. Hence, vernacular teachers spoke in Tagalog but followed methods based on English teaching. Similarly, Tagalog materials were anchored and made equivalent in quantity to the English materials. The Tagalog materials were mere translations of the English ones; linguistic and sociocultural differences were not considered in their development.

The principles espoused by the (FLC-BP) Pilot Project in Ifugao were: to teach and learn through the child’s first language during Grades One and Two; to use the child’s cultural model of the world to help process information; and to introduce new concepts and skills that build on existing knowledge structures (Hohulin, 1993). Both explicit and implicit bridging was practiced by teachers to help pupils transition from the Tuwali mother tongue to English and Filipino. Pretests and postests revealed greater improvements in English, Filipino, Grammar, and Maths among the children in pilot schools compared with the traditional (bilingual English and Filipino) schools in the division (Baguingan, 2000).

The Lubuagan program—involving several schools in Kalinga Province—aims to break down educational barriers through sequential steps of building on the native language (Lilubuagen) and culture of the learners (Walter & Dekker, 2011). Oral development of L1 continues as literacy in the L1 is introduced. Secondly, Filipino and English are taught through the mother tongue, rather than through immersion. After achieving oral proficiency in Filipino and English, literacy in these second languages is introduced. Content subjects, meanwhile, are taught in L1, integrating culturally-appropriate concepts. Data as early as 2001 showed that the experimental Lilubuagen-taught Grade 1 pupils outperformed control pupils in reading comprehension tests in all three languages—Lilubuagen, Filipino, and English (Dumatog & Dekker, 2003). The authors also note enhanced involvement among parents, greater pupil participation in class, and improved attendance. In 2008, tests were administered in Reading, Math, English, Social Studies, and Filipino for experimental and control pupils in Grades 1, 2, and 3. The experimental group scored 21 to 22 percentage points higher than the control group, averaged across all subjects and participating schools. Among all the pupils, 80% of the top 40 students were in experimental classrooms, while 90% of the lowest performing students came from traditional English-Filipino classrooms (Walter & Dekker, 2008).

In School Year 1999-2000, the then Department of Education, Culture, and Sports launched the Lingua Franca Project. Thirty-two schools (16 experimental and 16 control) were selected from 15 regions to participate. The experimental schools used one of three lingua francae— Tagalog, Ilokano, or Cebuano—as medium of instruction in Grades 1 and 2. The control schools continued the status quo of using Tagalog-based Filipino and English as medium of instruction. Gonzalez (2001) described the results of the project as “encouraging”. When compared to control classes, achievement in all subjects was slightly better and observations suggested an increased enthusiasm and vitality among pupils. Deeper conceptualization was said to begin within the first few weeks of school rather than the traditional focus on rote learning and memorization (Young, 2002).

The Culture-Responsive Curriculum for Indigenous People–Third Elementary Education Project (CCIP-TEEP) was a project from 2003 to 2007 in the southern island of Mindanao. Its main objective was to develop and implement an indigenous curriculum for a Manobo community—coupled with the use of the Minanubu indigenous language and the incorporation of indigenous knowledge and practices in the curriculum. Two multigrade schools used Minanubu as a medium of instruction in Grades 1 and 2. The CCIP-TEEP teachers inculcated spiritual and civic values in the children, witnessing a positive effect on their perception towards their culture, traditions, and values. Pupils showed consistent and significant increases in the Mean Percentage Scores in Division and National Achievement Tests. Drop-out and repetition rates also decreased (Quijano, 2010).

Despite the largely positive results of the aforementioned programs, projects, and experiments, English and Filipino maintained a near-monopoly on classroom instruction nationwide, except for the period of 1957 to 1973 in which vernaculars were patchily implemented as medium of instruction in Grades 1 and 2. Bautista, Bernardo, and Ocampo (2008) describe how the education system eluded reform for decades:

For over 80 years, the recommendation to use the native (Monroe Survey, 1925), local (EDCOM, 1993 [sic]), mother (PCER, 2000) or the child’s (BESRA, 2006) language in schools (in the early years) as the medium of learning has been consistently disregarded. From the 1920s to the present, the political pressures exerted by different sectors and advocates in the name of national unification, global participation, regional identity, cultural integrity, or economic progress and overseas employment caused the policy decision-making on the language issue to swing from one extreme to another (Bernardo, 2004; Bernardo and Gaerlan, 2008). After such swings, the pendulum stopped dead center in 1973, resulting in the poorly formulated and unrevised Bilingual Education Policy (BEP).

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