ON THE NEED FOR MOTHER LANGUAGE EDUCATION
IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE NEED FOR ILOKANO
IN THE AMIANAN
November 15, 2008
We belong to a language and culture advocacy group, the Nakem Conferences. The organization is composed of various colleges, universities, cultural organizations, writers, cultural workers, academics, educational administrators, and scholars on Ilokano- Amianan Studies and from the Amianan, or Northern Philippines.
Likewise, Nakem Conferences has been responsible for the holding of three international conferences on language and culture education, with researchers and scholars on the various cultures and languages of the Amianan and abroad in attendance.
We are issuing this statement to make it known that we are concerned about the continuing injustice in the respect, promotion, preservation, and teaching of our first and mother languages, our lingua francae, and other indigenous languages. We are concerned because of the cultural denigration that has been the lot of our students in the continuing ‘Tagalogization’ of basic education classrooms of the country.
Nakem Conferences holds on to the belief in the basic principle of justice and democracy in education. In a multicultural society such as the Philippines, the principle of justice and democracy translates to the access by educands of the knowledge that is pertinent to them through their own mother language.
This principle of educational access through mother language starts off from the idea that formal education in whatever form is always a dynamic movement from the known, which is knowledge mediated by mother language, to the unknown, which is the knowledge mediated by other languages that the educands have yet to learn.
We have looked closely and critically at this issue of knowledge acquisition and education in the Philippines and we have come to the conclusion, based on our experiences as teachers, educators, cultural workers, and researchers, that the present set-up that permits our educands access to knowledge that they have to acquire through Tagalog and English alone and never through their mother tongue and the lingua franca have closed the door to productive knowledge about themselves, their communities, their relationship to other peoples, and the competencies they need to know as they equip themselves with the skills required in their life of civics and citizenship.
We at Nakem Conferences have given our full support for a congressional legislative initiative to address this need, with the Multicultural Education and Literacy Act of 2008 (or House Bill 3179) proposed by Hon. Magtanggol Gunigundo. Our support for that initiative establishes our commitment to multicultural education and to once-and-for-all zero in on the fundamental issues of Philippines education, issues that have not been given importance in the past but which issues are the main reasons why we are lagging behind in the basic skills that our educands must be equipped with.
We continue to support initiatives to advance the cause of multicultural education and to pursue the ends of cultural pluralism as a way of life in our country.
Multicultural education, and thus, multilingual education as well—in and outside our classrooms, in and outside the educational system—are practices that are not only liberatory but also what social justice and cultural democracy demands of us as a pluricultural and plurilingual society.
It is in this light that we are issuing this statement in order to give full support to all initiatives that advance these ends and to declare that the skewed and continuing two language-education in the Philippines—the education of our people in Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino and English—is not sufficient to make good with our commitment to a socially just and fair, and therefore, emancipatory education.
Our partnerships and linkage at Nakem Conferences have proven that to insist on the right of our peoples in the Amianan to be educated in their own languages, to be educated in the mother tongue, and to be educated in the lingua franca is the way to go to fight for our indispensable human rights to our own languages and cultures.
In our case at Nakem Conferences and in the Amianan, we are clear about the importance of Ilokano as the mother tongue of many and as the lingua franca in most of the three regions (Region 1, CAR, and Region 2). We are mindful as well of the existence—and the need to assure that they do not only survive but also thrive—of various languages in the Amianan and their indispensable role in the pursuit of a liberatory education that we have been dreaming for so long for our people long deprived of the abode of their souls, their own mother tongue.
DR. ALEGRIA TAN VISAYA
President, Nakem Conferences International Philippines
c/o Mariano Marcos State University
Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines
DR. AURELIO SOLVER AGCAOILI
President, Nakem Conferences (International)
c/o University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawai’i, U.S.A.