|Speaking on behalf of displaced learners|
I attended the Inclusion, Mobility and Multilingual Education Conference 2019 organized by UNESCO, British and other INGOs held on September 24-26, 2019 at the Amari Watergate Hotel, Bangkok Thailand. There were about 450 delegates coming from various countries. It was my 3rd time to attend such a conference.
In the past, the main focus was learning from the case studies of various multilingual education programs in various places in Asia and Pacific which were mostly NGO operated learning centers (with few government-sponsored programs) among minority groups. This time, the use of mother tongue and multilingual education in development was highlighted especially in the context of Refugee Education. Based on https://www.unhcr.org/ph/figures-at-a-glance, there are 70.8M displaced people worldwide, half of whom are displaced in their own country. In the Philippines, there are 87,500 displaced Filipinos in Mindanao (mostly in Marawi). There is no report on how education is being delivered in those places.
Above is a picture of a plenary speaker Mr. Saw Kolohtoo, the Deputy Director of the Karen Teacher Working Group. He talked about their work as an education provider in a refugee camp for the Karen people who fled Myanmar. He himself belongs to the Karen group.
All in all, there were more than 25 Filipinos who attended the conference, most of whom presented a paper in various themes or strands. My key interlocutors in my current research project in Buguias, Benguet joined me (at last) for a panel presentation.
It was refreshing to hear feedback from delegates who attended the conference for the first time. It was unnerving to hear so many people commenting that the Philippines was among the the first to mainstream MTB-MLE (in all its 47,000 villages).
In most countries, MLE was introduced only among minority groups. I remember when the MTB-MLE policy (DO 74. S.2009) was being formulated in 2009 and there was this suggestion of implementing the program only among Indigenous People communities. Somebody in our group objected saying that if that happens, our plan will not succeed. And during the conference, I raised the same issue to the school heads who were with me (they belong to the Kankanaey IP group in Northern Philippines) and they replied emphatically that they would not want that MTB-MLE to be applied only to to the Indigenous Peoples like them. They said that the more they would be marked and marginalized. It really made me think about what indigenous identity means--that IP communities may want to be both distinct and mainstreamed.
As I listened to many presentations at the conference and reflect on our own experiences in the Philippines in the past 11 years (since we started the advocacy in 2008), I realized that implementing MTB-MLE properly is such a daunting task. There are so many layers of tensions and complexities (curriculum, language standardization, IP identity, language ideology, funding, policy, technology, etc).
|Dr. Isabel Pefianco-Martin|
The top policy leaders (from various countries) met together and came up with the Bangkok Statement for Language and Inclusion. It highlighted the need to foreground language concerns in education, investment for quality MLE, forging partnerships and language-specific data gathering.
|With School Heads from Buguias District - CAR|
Our presentation (with Buguias school heads – Herminia Osting, Patricia Alatis and Estrella Tabdi) was entitled “Profusion of Mother Tongue Storybooks in a minority language group in Northern Luzon. In our presentation, we described the efforts of the Buguias School District in producing hundreds of big books despite the fact that their language, Kankanaey, is not part of the 19 supported Philippine languages. Our slide presentation is uploaded here - https://tinyurl.com/BuguiasPaper
At the end of our presentation, we affirmed that the Philippines made some good initial gains in MTB-MLE like the:
- Crafting a good initial policy (it’s unfortunate that the long exit in DO 74 s2009 was replaced with a short exit in RA 10533).
- A generic MTB-MLE curriculum and teachers’ guides to be contextualized in each language group
- Initial mass training of teachers
- A good model of L1 literacy
- Revisit and update the MTB-MLE Strategic Plan that was formulated in 2011. DepEd should do some short-term and long-term targeting (especially in teacher training, materials development, advocacy, funding) and provide accountability mechanisms (inclusion in the School Improvement Plan, PBB, performance metrics or school scorecard) that will guide monitoring and evaluation.
- The MTB-MLE Plan should include expanding beyond the 19 languages. It should identify targets and provide greater support for the implementation of MTB-MLE as part of the IP Education program among minority languages
- DepEd should realize that they do not have a strong and effective pedagogical model for the transition period (grades 4-6) which includes strengthening L1 literacy and bridging from L1 to L2. All teachers I talked to said there is so much talk about bridging but it is not being demonstrated or monitored. DepEd should build on the L1 of the learners and ensure that learners develop biliteracy in their L1 and L2. Dr. Heugh said that learners need to have a hold of at least 5,000 words in their L2 so they can learn in that language.
- DepEd should convene a think tank, a multidisciplinary group, that will formulate a strong bridging model based on Malone’s framework (TPR, sandwich method, scaffolding, etc), Teaching English in Multilingual Contexts (certificate program taught by Dr. Isabel Martin in ADMU), Ofelia Garcia’s Translanguaging Model (including Dr. Son’s contextualized model in Bangkok), the Dual Language Program introduced in the US and Canada, and the Plurilingual Multicultural Education model of Europe. DepEd should realize that the old TESOL/ESL models taught in our Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) do not align with MTB-MLE because such traditional models see the L1 as an obstacle, not a resource (thus they prohibit the use of L1 in the ESL classroom). MTB-MLE, Translanguaging and all the new models are not yet mainstreamed in our TEIs or higher education and so DepEd should do its own research and modeling. Aside from getting in touch with experts on MLE, Bilingual Education, and Translingualism, the DepEd pedagogy experts should study the growing body of literature.
- Address the needs of classrooms in urban areas where many mother tongues are used.
- Train the new set of MTB-MLE teachers who were not included in the mass training in 2012. The MTB-MLE experts and writers/contextualizers that emerged in the past years should be developed and not be assigned to places where their knowledge would not be used (Madam Herminia Osting, the master trainer and storybook writer in Buguias was assigned to high school).
- Provide spaces for collaboration (at various levels) with MLE scholars and advocates from the academe, development sector and the LGU (I am happy that the head of the Education Committee of the Lanao del Sur LGU came and presented a paper in the conference).
|Bangkok Statement on Language and Education|
I hope, too, that since people in top leadership in DepEd come and go, there would emerge a strong support group from the academe, the civil society, and the local governments who would provide sustained input.
Based on my own experiences for the past 10 years in MLE, I found that language is such a contentious and divisive issue. When pressed, I would say I am a teacher first, an Ilocano second. We should think about the learner first. And so alliances (solely based on language rights) to support MTB-MLE tend to be short-lived and are prone to self-destruct. I thought that if there should be sustained and strategic support from MLE stakeholders, there should greater participation from other sectors (some language advocates in the alliance should try to temper their discourse and learn to collaborate more, especially with those who have wronged them or do not meet their standards). MLE should be presented not only as a matter of language rights but the right to quality and inclusive education.
Since my area is Teacher Education, I would want that those who study and teach about Inclusion, Literacy, Bilingual Education, Indigenous Education, Linguistic Citizenship, ICT, Education in Emergencies, and the like would be involved. Careful study, planning and monitoring are needed because there is no one-size-fits-all model. MLE has to be contextualized and localized and that requires a learning process.
There are so many MTB-MLE advocates from various countries who are looking at the Philippine MLE experience for inspiration and lessons (since we have made the bold decision to be among the first country to mainstream MTB-MLE). These advocates are hoping that their own government would listen and be open to the possibility of providing instruction and materials in the learner's languages. Our positive experience in the Philippines would help them strengthen their advocacy and MLE Projects. And so my dear fellow Filipinos, our MTB-MLE successes would not just benefit our 27M of Filipino learners but would also help other children and learners of the world (especially those who belong to non-dominant groups). #IMMLE19 #learnersfirst#languagesmatter #MultilingualPhilippines #MTBMLE
Maria Mercedes "Ched" Arzadon email@example.com http://educ.upd.edu.ph/educational-foundations/