Citing the Philippine example in MTB-MLE

Since 2013, I've been hearing in international conferences commendations for our MTBMLE initiatives in  the Philippines, spoken by known authors like Jim Cummins, Jessica Ball, Carol Benson and Kimmo Kosonen. Below, an article from Jakarta Post written by a UNESCO officer during the International Mother Language Day, is one example. We were the first country that issued several laws that prescribe the use of all our mother tongues in basic education and provided a corresponding implementation support in the form of teachers training and materials development. Most countries would recognize only selected languages. Others have a law that allows the use of mother tongue (especially for indigenous groups) but with no strong implementation support. Ours does not exclude any and the government, along with local government units and various NGOs, have been allocating resources.  After we issued DepEd Order 74 s.2009 (Institutionalizing MLE) and later RA 10533 (Enhanced Basic Education with strong MTBMLE provision), Timor Leste, Cambodia and Zambia followed suit. We hope that many more would join us in improving learning thru MTBMLE and in recognizing the languages of our ethnolinguistics groups.  Our present MTBMLE implementation is not without any problem. It is actually sailing through rough waters. The commodification of languages (seeing some as more valuable as they provide better jobs), the myth of a "globally competitive Filipino," and the challenge of handling many languages in a classroom are among the major obstacles. Such are real concerns that can be addressed through research and dialogical processes. MTBMLE is a major education reform initiative to improve access and education outcome and recognize diversity in schools. We cannot just give up and revert to our old ways.

Ched Arzadon


Inclusion in and through education: Language counts 

Kyungah Kristy Bang, Bangkok | Opinion | Sat, February 21 2015, 7:37 AM

Why is mother tongue-based multilingual education important?” It’s a question I’ve been asked often over the past five years in my role as the coordinator of the Asia Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG), which advocates on behalf of removing barriers to quality education for ethnolinguistic minorities in this region.

Let me begin with my story.

The first day of school after my family emigrated from South Korea to Canada was the most frustrating and alienating experience I had ever had. I felt like I was lost on another planet where people spoke a different language. I could hear my teachers and classmates but couldn’t communicate with them. Once an active and talkative student, I grew quiet and shy. School was no longer the fun place it had been, and I felt excluded most of the time.

A few months later, I started to make progress. Utilizing my strong reading and maths skills in my mother tongue, Korean, I was able to translate and convert concepts and catch up on learning in English. With support from teachers, classmates and my parents, I slowly started to speak and raise my hand in the classroom and finally felt a sense of belonging in school and in Canadian society.
“Inclusion in and through education: language counts”, the theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day, Feb. 21, resonates with my experience. It also speaks to the challenges faced by some 2.3 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to education in their mother tongue and are excluded as a result. For many of them, the challenges I faced are made more daunting by poverty and other barriers.

Language is a key to inclusion. If children cannot understand, they won’t learn. Unfortunately in monolingual education systems, language poses many barriers keeping students from ethnolinguistic minorities from accessing quality education. Even if such students manage to enroll in school, they are often unable to follow classroom instruction and end up being pushed out of the education system. This in turn results in further marginalization and exclusion from society.

When language barriers are combined with other marginalizing factors such as gender, ethnicity, disability and geographical remoteness, the chances of children entering and completing basic education become very low. According to a recent UNESCO-UIS report, children from marginalized groups in Bolivia, Ecuador, India and Lao PDR, for example, are two to three times more likely to be out of school.
Looking back on my own experience, I realise that the most crucial factor in successfully transitioning from one language — and one education system — to another was the grounding I had in my mother tongue. During my six years of primary education, I developed a strong understanding of concrete and abstract ideas, learning vocabulary and concepts that were transferable to my second language. Without this foundation, it would have been extremely difficult for me to become functionally bilingual and continue my education.
Research has increasingly shown that teaching in a mother tongue early on in school is effective in reducing dropout rates and makes education more engaging for marginalized groups. Children who benefit from mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB MLE) also perform better in their second language. Unfortunately these benefits elude many ethnolinguistic minority children who do not have such opportunities.

When I was studying in my mother tongue, my parents took a more active role in my learning than they were able to after we emigrated. This parental engagement is important for children’s intellectual and social development and is a good indicator of student survival rates. Parents of ethnolinguistic minority students are often unable to provide this support.

MTB-MLE programs also bridge the gap between the culture at home and that at school and mainstream society. They not only improve learning, they also broaden outlooks, increase tolerance and foster a respect for cultural diversity. These programs are one of the most effective ways through which we can promote a culture of peace and build equitable and inclusive societies.

Multilingual education initially costs more than monolingual education; however, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial investment, provided there is adequate funding allocated toward promoting the use of mother tongues, the development of multilingual teaching-materials and teacher training. Monolingual education is not sustainable in multilingual nations, and thus MTB-MLE programs are likely to result in considerable savings over the long term, while also tapping the previously untouched potential of millions of ethnolinguistic minority students.

It has been my privilege to be involved in the MLE movement in Southeast Asia, which has been among the most dynamic in the world over the past decade. Cambodia and the Philippines are among the countries in this region that have shown increased government support and commitment to language education policy that ensures the language of instruction reflects the way in which children learn and teachers teach.

Successes such as these are turning what were once alien worlds for children into welcoming ones, benefiting these young learners and their societies as a result.

The writer is the project officer for multilingual education at UNESCO Bangkok and the coordinator of the Asia Multilingual Education Working Group, a consortium of UN agencies, inter-governmental organizations, academics advocating on behalf of ethnolinguistic communities through multilingual education initiatives and related policy advocacy throughout Asia-Pacific.

One of our staunch MLE advocates, Dr. Aurelio Agcaoili (NAKEM International and 170+ Talaytayan MLE) posted an article in a local newspaper during the celebration of International Mother Language Day.

Mother language counts and more

by BusinessMirror - February 22, 2015

WHY the United Nations needed to institute the International Mother Language Day (IMLD) in 1999 is both a reminder to do things right and a signal to account for our gains.

Sixteen years after, we are still celebrating the IMLD.

This reminder is simple enough: Mother language counts. And it counts because there is no way we can ever shortchange our learners by making them aware of the world around them through a language that is not theirs.
This leads us to the celebratory nature of the IMLD.

The assumption is that when everyone’s mother language has been recognized and respected, there shall no longer be the need to single out a day in February—every 21st of this month—and have this day reserved for making all of us aware that language counts in the education of our young.

Here, we insist: It is not just any language.  It is their first, indigenous, native, or mother language. ‘Mother’ here is not mother per se, but a concept to mean source from which all acts of knowing come.

Which means simply that this language, in which our learners are born is that source through which they get to understand the world around them for the first time, and that first time ought to continue uninterrupted for their understanding to make sense.
This means that through that source language, our learners get to understand the other aspects of that world, or perhaps other worlds. Or perhaps other experiences they have not known in the beginning.

The sounds and words and concepts—all these that constitute our learners’ first language—are the requisites through which the first act of learning happens.

When those sounds and words and concepts are dismissed because our learners need to learn another language not their own, the subtle dance of deception comes about even if we call it nationalism or some other brutal logic we resort to to justify our bad educational aims.
The “Education For All” (EFA)concept is unequivocal on the value of mother language.

When mother language is not used, the attainment of the EFA goals becomes a case of an educational abracadabra.
It is a pure ruse in numbers without substance that when we are not looking, it could be passed off as gains by governments that do not know any better. Which leads us to the context of IMLD when a country is multilingual, and thus, multicultural as in the case of the Philippines.
For decades, we had gone the wrong way in instituting bilingual education for the wrong reasons and the wrong methods. Ours was a long history of language miseducation under the guise of nationalism with no memory and with no heart. What the educational apparatus of the state did is to impose a philosophically and cognitively unsound educational practice of making the “educates” learn in a national language based on one of the languages of the country, and another foreign language.  The first is to express patriotism, the second to communicate with the world.

These are two good reasons.

But the means to attaining these were through languages not the child’s, not the learner’s.

Do we need IMLD?

Until we have not done the right thing in teaching all our young through their mother language, we ought to have IMLD each year. And no less.

Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

The author is the program coordinator for Ilokano of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he has pioneered community language programs for heritage learners. He has written four dictionaries on the Ilokano language for various audiences. A founding member of 170+Talaytayan, he serves as its vice president for international relations. He helped found an advocacy group for cultural diversity and linguistic pluralism, Nakem Conferences. He writes in three languages and has received awards for his work in education, communication and creative writing, including a novel in Tagalog that won a Centennial Literary Prize.


International Mother Language Day 2015 Celebrations

UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day (IMLD) and since 2000, it has been observed throughout the world.  21 February is the anniversary of a most memorable day in Bangladesh’s history; it is a national day to commemorate protests and sacrifices to protect Bangla (Bengali) as a national language during the Bengali Language Movement of 1952. Bangladesh used to be Eastern Pakistan. When the Pakistan government declared Urdu as the sole national language in 1948, disregarding Bangla which was the language of the majority, protests were undertaken throughout the Bengali-speaking population.  On 21 February 1952, students at the University of Dhaka (which was like the UP of Eastern Pakistan) organized a protest which resulted with the police opening fire and the consequent deaths of four students. Later, after a series of strife and tension, in 1971, that part of Pakistan obtained its independence and became what we now know as Bangladesh.  In early 1999, two Bangladeshi members of an organization called “Mother Language Lovers of the World” in Canada proposed the UNESCO to declare 21st February as an International Mother Language Day.  This enabled UNESCO to adopt the historic resolution in the long run.

In the Resolution 12 of UNESCO's 30th General Conference 1999, it states…recognizing the need to improve understanding and communication among peoples….Also recognizing the great importance of safeguarding the linguistic and cultural heritage of humanity and extending the influence of each of the cultures and languages of which that heritage is composed...Considering the current threat to linguistic diversity posed by the globalization of communication and the tendency to use a single language, at the risk of marginalizing the other major languages of the world, or even of causing the lesser-used languages, including regional languages, to disappear…

The Resolution recommends that Member States:
(a)  create the conditions for a social, intellectual and media environment of an international character which is conducive to linguistic pluralism;

(b)  promote, through multilingual education, democratic access to knowledge for all citizens, whatever their mother tongue, and build linguistic pluralism

DepEd Memo on IMLD celebrationhttp://www.deped.gov.ph/.../files/memo/2011/DM_s2011_019.pdf

We are holding a modest celebration of IMLD at the College of Education, UP, Diliman.

  • Australia - The Research Centre for Languages and Cultures and the University of South Australia and the South Australian Government’s Multicultural Education Committee are jointly hosting an event in observance of  IMLD 2015. The public lecture will be about the nature of the problems in contemporary language politics and in attempting to formulate new directions for a politics of language in a notion of Linguistic Citizenship that addresses issues of social, economic and political injustice for marginalized populations of minority or non-dominant language speakers. Please find all information, including how to register in the attached flyer.
  • Pakistan – Institute for Education and Development is planning to have a seminar in Peshawar Pakistan on Feb 21 regarding the languages spoken in this part of Pakistan.
  • U.S.A –Language and Peacebuilding symposium in Washington, DC. How do issues of language, language complexity, and communication play out in peace-building efforts and ongoing security? How can language issues be identified and addressed effectively in policy planning and execution? Drawing on relevant scholarship and experience, these questions will be addressed through a combination of keynote address and a lively panel discussion. For further information and registration please check: http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/event/2015/02/language-policy-and-peacebuilding/ 
  • Kenya - The MLE Network of Kenya is holding an event at the University of Nairobi which will include a panel discussion with Kenyan academics and language experts.
  • Congo - SIL and Shalom University of Bunia will be holding two half-day conferences on February 20th and 21st. Activities will include presentations from eleven researchers involved with the region’s languages as well as speeches from academics and the public officials about the value of the mother tongue. The event will be featured on local radio stations. 
  • Canada – Punjabi Language Teachers Association of Canada will organize an event to share information about the continuous efforts to have Punjabi language education British Columbia’s public schools, colleges and universities. Please see attached file for further information.
  • Nepal - Nepal Academy and UNESCO Office in Kathmandu will organize 2 days (20-21 February) event to celebrate upcoming IMLD. The celebration will be joined by Ministry of Education, Tribhuvan University and civil society organizations in Nepal. The event will include presentations on language situation in Nepal, MTB MLE policy and practices, role of UNESCO in promoting MLE, creative writings in mother tongues and other MLE- related initiatives
  • Turkey – There will be an “International Conference on Multilingual Education and Development, Focus on Turkey” on 19 February 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. Please check the conference website: http://amuseturk2015.org/ for more information.
  • New Zealand – Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand (TESOLANZ) is running IMLD Campaign “Say Hi on Mother Tongue Day!” Greet your whānau, friends, colleagues and neighbours in their mother tongue to celebrate International Mother Language Day. Phone, send an email, text, or call over the back fence to say ‘Hi’ in their mother tongue. Please see attached poster for your information.
  • Uganda -  As part of its local language education promotion in remote communities, Ugandan NGO Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE) will mark International Mother Language Day in each of the 6 post-conflict districts in Northern Uganda where it works.  Activities will include dissemination of a newly developed Kakwa language orthography in Koboko District, community-level reading and storytelling competitions in the other districts and producing a supplement in the Luo language newspaper highlighting this year’s Theme.

IMLD 2015 Infographic

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2015

Inclusive Education through and with Language -- Language Matters

2015 marks the 15th anniversary of International Mother Language Day – this is also a turning point year for the international community, as the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, when countries will define a new global sustainable development agenda.

The focus for the post-2015 agenda must fall on the priority of advancing quality education for all -- widening access, ensuring equality and inclusiveness, and promoting education for global citizenship and sustainable development. Education in the mother language is an essential part of achieving these goals -- to facilitate learning and to bolster skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Taking this forward requires a sharper focus on teaching training, revisions of academic programmes and the creation of suitable learning environments.

UNESCO takes forward these goals across the world. In Latin America, with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNESCO is promoting inclusive education through bilingual intercultural approaches, in order to include both native and non-native cultures. For the same reasons, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok, Thailand, is working to deepen understandings of multilingual education based on the mother tongue, across the region and further afield. Mother tongue education is force for quality learning – it is also essential to bolster multilingualism and respect for linguistic and cultural diversity in societies that are transforming quickly.

Since 2000, there has been tremendous progress to reach the goals of Education for All. Today, we must look ahead – to complete unfinished business and to tackle new challenges. International Mother Language Day is a moment for all of us to raise the flag for the importance of mother tongue to all educational efforts, to enhance the quality of learning and to reach the unreached. Every girl and boy, every woman and man must have the tools to participate fully in the lives of their societies – this is a basic human right and it is a force for the sustainability of all development.