(This is a statement emailed to me by Dr. Abueva today, Nov. 26, 2008. It came even as I was sending him also various statements from advocacy groups from the Ilocos, Amianan, and Ilokano-Amianan diasporic communities.)
USE THE MOTHER TONGUE IN BASIC EDUCATION
A Proposal to the Presidential Task Force in Education
November 27, 2008
By Dr. Jose V. Abueva
PTFE Member, President of Kalayaan College
and Co-Founder of Kadugong Bisaya
Most nations use their own major language as the language of education, business and governance. This makes it easy for all citizens to learn and communicate with one another nationwide in a common language. This common language enables them to build and sustain a cohesive nation and to participate in governance if they really want to and are empowered to do so.
As a multilingual and multicultural nation, Filipinos have adopted Tagalog (called Pilipino, then Filipino under the 1987 Constitution), as the national language and an official language, and English as the second official language. Both Filipino and English are used as languages of instruction from the earliest years of schooling but these can become obstacles to learning if the children are unfamiliar with either, and the teachers are not proficient in them. Thus some teachers use the mother tongue or regional language unofficially.
The Constitution regards non-Tagalog or non-Filipino languages as “auxiliary” languages,” whatever this means. This actually marginalizes them by making them inferior to Filipino and to English as official languages widely used in teaching, business and governance. Some non-Tagalogs fear that if this policy and practice persists their mother tongue will eventually become extinct.
To ensure effective learning among our students that will also strengthen nation-building and democracy, the Presidential Task Force in Education recommends the use of the mother tongue or regional language as the basic language of instruction in the first six years of schooling. This is the aim of the Gunigundo Bill, R.A. 3719, also known as the Multilingual Education and Literacy Act. The mother tongue facilitates the students’ learning of all subjects, especially science and mathematics, the national language, and English as a global lingua franca. Professional linguists attest to this.
A paramount concern of the Presidential Task Force in Education is to make education, particularly higher education and technical-vocational education and training, relevant and responsive to the actual needs and demands of “the market,” i.e., business and industry, the professions and the labor force.
The proposed use of “the mother tongue” or regional language as the language of learning in basic education is to focus on learning for effective education, nationhood, and citizen participation in democratic governance and national development. It is desirable that Filipinos are enabled to speak, read and write in their mother tongue and thereby help sustain the nation’s linguistic and cultural diversity and identity as a democratic nation.