Honoring Madam Norma Duguiang, lead MTBMLE pioneer and advocate from Lubuagan

Norma Duguiang in her classroom

We learned the sad news that Madam Norma Odiem Duguiang joined her Maker last Dec 24, 2014 due to heart attack.. She's the hardy teacher of Lubuagan Central Elementary School who along with other fellow teachers advocated for MTBMLE long before it became a policy. She spoke in the Congress during a deliberation on a language and education policy. She was also one of the resource persons who equipped the first sets of national MTBMLE teacher trainers of the Department of Education. 

In 2009-2010, I would bring my graduate class to her hometown to observe the MLE classes in Lubuagan Central Elementary School and Mabilong Elementary School. 

Madam Norma would open her home to us. It's actually the ancestral house of the Odiems, a traditional three level wooden structure with so many spacious rooms.  She would tell us stories behind the Kalinga artifacts that are displayed all over their place. She would point to the large pots saying that their women would  use them to draw water from the river. The beautiful multicolored beads that adorned their necks were made of expensive ceramic material. They would make replicas out of recycled plastic material.

Our favorite topic, of course, was the issue of language. She would express her sadness about how their young are forgetting some Lilubuagen words.  “I am sad that the young people today do not know original Lilubuagen words like how we call the anahaw leaf which is alaaw. They have also forgotten the names of some indigenous kitchen utensils since they have come to prefer those plastic wares.”   

Norma's house
My EDFD 221 students at Madam Norma's house
Madam Norma would remember the challenge of learning in an unfamiliar language. She  would refer to the time in the 1960s when the vernacular was supposed to be the medium of instruction. Since their teachers were Ilocano, they were forced to learn to read and write in their teachers’ language. That time nobody from Lubuagan was educated enough to be a school teacher. At least Ilocano was then the trade language and so they could get by. 

Lubuagan beads
MTBMLE Class at Lubuagan Central Elem Scl
MTBMLE board work in 2009
The most difficult moment was when the bilingual policy was imposed in 1974. Madam Norma was in the middle of her social studies class when her supervisor came. She was asked to immediately switch from English to Tagalog. A stack of paper was placed on her lap detailing the new policy requirement to use Tagalog in teaching Social Studies. At that time Tagalog was totally alien in most places in the Philippines. Tagalog was not yet widely used in radio or TV. Besides, there was no electricity yet in Lubuagan.  Teaching became burdensome and unnatural because she had to consult a Tagalog-English dictionary so often. 

And so the prospect of using Lilubuagen in school was something that was warmly welcomed. Using the local language has improved the performance of the school. Their ranking moved from the bottom to the top in their in the whole division of Kalinga. In a feature story on TV by Howie Severino, it was found that Lubuagan pupils even outperformed the pupils of Caloocan City, Metro Manila.

Thank you Madam Norma for opening your home to us, for showing us the reasons why our language and culture are worth remembering...

Ched Arzadon

To cite:
Arzadon, C. (2015, January 6). Honoring Madam Norma Duguiang, an MTBMLE pioneer and advocate from Lubuagan. Retrieved from http://mothertongue-based.blogspot.com/2015/01/honoring-madam-norma-duguiang-mtbmle.html


Resolution in Support of the Right to Use Ilokano and Other Languages in General Education Curriculum (GEC) and Teacher Education Pre-Service Curriculum

WHEREAS, we delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language note that the use of languages in the General Education Curriculum (GEC) has become a subject of recent debate.

WHEREAS, the Philippines is a multilingual country for which multilingual policies are just, sensible, and timely;

WHEREAS, the Philippine Constitution upholds academic freedom for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and also the freedom of expression;

WHEREAS, the choice of languages should first and foremost be motivated by educational principles and not political machinations;

WHEREAS, Philippine local languages have been effectively pioneered in a variety of higher education contexts from Luzon to Mindanao, Hawaii, and beyond;

WHEREAS, there is no scientific evidence that other languages besides English and Tagalog are innately inadequate for academic discourse;

WHEREAS, the use of mother tongues can enrich classroom discourse and critical thinking, and recent research demonstrates that development of one’s first language correlates with literacy skills in second languages even into adulthood;

WHEREAS, the use of mother tongue in basic education is now institutionalized as part of the Enhanced Basic Education Curriculum (RA 10533);

WHEREAS, Filipino is the national language, it should not be privileged at the expense of others as all Philippine languages are our heritage and collective patrimony, and can be intellectualized through the initiative of their speakers;

WHEREAS, a Filipino language requirement, whether as a subject or as a medium of instruction, contradicts the purpose of General Education;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language duly assembled:



  • to declare that the GEC be free from medium of instruction requirements that target a specific language 
  • that should a Filipino language-related subject be included in the GEC, it should be applicable and open to various Philippine languages  
  • to revise the Teacher Education Pre-Service Curriculum thoroughly integrating MTBMLE principles and practices across the curriculum and to include local language courses and teaching using the mother tongue.

ADOPTED at the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language held at Hotel Supreme, Baguio City from 23-25 October 2014.

Resolution Supporting a Robust and Vibrant Implementation of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) from Kindergarten to Grade Three Including the Transition Phase from Grade Four To Six as Provided by RA 10533 “The Enhanced Basic Education Act Of 2013″

WHEREAS, we delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language have reaffirmed our rights, duties, and privilege to protect and enrich our language, a source of identity for millions of Ilokano people and an inextricable part of the fabric of Filipino society;

WHEREAS, we recognize and appreciate the bold initiatives of the Department of Education to make Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education a key component of the new basic education curriculum institutionalized through Republic Act (RA) 10533;

WHEREAS, RA 10533 states that the new basic curriculum shall be relevant, contextualized, localized and culturally sensitive, especially in the production and development of teaching materials;

WHEREAS, the policy provides that for the kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the languages of the region and the native language of the learners;

WHEREAS, the Department of Education (DepEd) is directed to formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language duly assembled:


SPECIFICALLY, we pose the following components to enhance the potential of the MTBMLE program:

  • MTBMLE teachers’ training and instructional materials provided at the kindergarten level and not just at grade one
  • Mechanisms to maximize the localization of instructional materials, reflecting the lives and language variety of the community.
  • Appropriate MTBMLE approaches for private schools to likewise include languages of the region in harmony with the MTBMLE program of public schools.
  • Researched-based interventions for the delivery of instruction in multilingual classrooms so that pupils whose L1 is not the official medium of instruction will be able to succeed
  • An effective transition plan with substantive representation of the first language and gradual introduction of other languages as mediums of instruction. For example,

a. Maintaining the MTBMLE as a learning area up to at least grade six
b. L1 as medium of instruction in at least four learning areas in grade 4
c. L1 as medium of instruction in at least three learning areas in grade 5
d. L1 as medium of instruction in at least two learning areas in grade 6
e. L1 as an auxiliary medium of instruction in the remaining grade levels

  • The teaching of Filipino as a national language in the context of linguistic democracy recognizing the multilingual nature of the Philippines and the various debates and perspectives surrounding the national language.
  • Opportunities for children to use their languages in a wide assortment of activities to compliment their formal instruction, foster a creative language and literacy environment, and raise the public image of DepEd’s MTBMLE program, particularly among parents. It is hence timely for the guidelines of various events to be carefully reviewed and adjusted to make room for the mother tongue, such as in the following activities:  

a. National Schools Press Conference
b. Campus journalism
c. National Heritage Month
d. International Mother Language Day
e. Cinepambata Video Festival
f. Sagisag Kultura Competition
g. National Reading Month
h. National Festival of Talents

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Nakem International and Nakem Philippines, the organizers of this Congress duly assembled, are willing to assist the Department of Education in offering a pool of language experts, educators, writers and editors realizing any of the aforementioned proposals;

ADOPTED at the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language held at Hotel Supreme, Baguio City from 23-25 October 2014.


Our Proposed General Education Language Course --Philippine Languages, Cultures and Society

Instead of adding one course in Filipino for the new General Education Program (effect of the K-12 where many GE courses are transferred to K-12), we suggest a language course that would enable students to appreciate the language diversity in the Philippines

Syllabus Draft - Philippine Languages, Cultures, and Society

3-Unit GE Course


  • Explain the many functions of languages and how they are affected by various socio-cultural factors
  • Define major concepts/terms related to language and multilingualism 
  • Write a research paper to assess the present state of Philippine languages beginning from their own local/regional context to the national level 
  • Critique the various contending positions on the national language and other related issues on  Philippine languages
  • Discuss the merits of an amalgamated/constructed language based on existing models 
  • Propose a strategy to promote social cohesion, language intellectualization/internationalization and pluralingualism for their particular regional/local context

1. Functions of languages 
a. encoding culture
b. identity/heritage
c. social cohesion
d. domains of language use
e. access knowledge/mediate learning
f. socio-cultural factors that affect language use/development (migration, globalization, technology, trade, etc)
g. present debates on languages in the Philippines

2. Our multilingual context
a. language diversity/multilingualism and pluralingualism
b. language shift/language death/creolization
c. mapping our language diversity, #speakers, vitality

3. Language planning
a. Major legal provisions on languages (Constitutions, K-12, IPRA, etc)
b. The Filipino project from 1937 to 1986 constitution (mainstream and alternative versions)
c. UNESCO framework

4. Constructed/amalgamated languages
a. The first model - Volapuk
b. The successful models  - Esperanto/Esperantidos and Interlingua
c. Other models

5. Present state of the national language project
a. Still Tagalog based
b. Alternative Filipino versions (amalgamation of languages in the Visayas/Mindanao)
c. Issues and concerns (language politics, democratizing access to resources)

6. Present state of the development Philippine languages
a. intellectualization
b. internationalization
c. Roles of various government agencies, NGOs, LGUs in the development of Philippine languages

7. Moving forward
a. Social cohesion
i. Completing the Filipino project
ii. Recognizing  lingua francas (or regional languages) as possible as official languages (India, South Africa)
b. Developing diversity/pluralingualism in the community
c. Language intellectualization and internationalization

Class participation
Group field report - assessment of Philippine languages from one’s local context to national/international
Proposal and advocacy material to promote social cohesion, intellectualization and pluralingualism


  • Ball, J. (2011). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://multilingualphilippines.com/wp- content/uploads/2012/07/ecce.pdf
  • Barron, S. (2012). Why language matters for the Millennium Development Goals. Bangkok: UNESCO.
  • D. Singleton, J. Fishman, L.Aronin and M.O'Laoire. (eds) Current multilingualism: A new linguistic dispensation,339-372. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Francisco, Juan (1998). Bhenneka Tunggal Eka: The Development of a National Language in the Philippines. Asian Studies Journal. http://asj.upd.edu.ph/mediabox/archive/ASJ-34-1998/francisco.pdf 
  • Gonzales, Andrew (2003). Language planning in multilingual countries: The case of the Philippines. http://www-01.sil.org/asia/ldc/plenary_papers/andrew_gonzales.pdf
  • Heugh, K. 2013. The South African Experience in Language Policy and Planning. In P.W. Akumbu and B. A. Chiatoh (eds). Language Policy in Africa: Perspectives for Cameroon, 108-128. Kansas City: Miraclaire Academic Publishers.
  • Hornberger, N & Putz, M (Eds) (2006). Language Loyalty, Language Planning and Language Revitalization: Recent Writings and Reflections from Joshua Fishman. Multilingual Matters
  • Inglis, Christine. Planning for Cultural Diversity. UNESCO, 2008
  • Kathleen Heugh and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (eds.) (2012) , Multilingual education and sustainable diversity work: From periphery to center. New York: Routledge
  • Keller, Stefano and Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove (213). Linguistic Human Rights,  the UN’s Human Rights system, and the Universal Esperanto Association’s work on Language Rights. In Koutny, Ilona & Nowak, Piotr (eds).[Language, Communication, Information]. Linguistic Institute of the University Adam Mickiewicz, Poznan, Poland, 150-172. http://jki.amu.edu.pl/files/JKI%20-%20tom%208%20-%202013.pdf
  • Mohanty, A.K. (forthcoming). The Other Side of Multilingualism. Clevedon, U.K.: Multilingual Matters.
  • Mohanty, A.K., Panda, M., Phillipson, R. & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (Eds.) (2009). Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the Local. New Delhi: Orient Longman.
  • Nolasco, R., Datar, F. & Azurin, A. (eds) (2010) Starting where the Children are: A Collection of Essays on Mother Tongue- Based Multilingual Education and Language Issues in the Philippines. 170+Talaytayan MLE Inc
  • Olthuis, Marja-Liisa,  Kivelä, Suvi, and Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove (2013). Revitalising Indigenous languages. How to recreate a lost generation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Series Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights
  • Pinnock, H., Mackenzie, P., Pearce, E., & Young, C. (2011). Closer to home: How to help schools in low-and middle-income countries respond to children’s language needs. CfBT Education Trust. Retrieved from http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/docs/Closer-to-Home.pdf
  • Selected articles from: http://mothertongue-based.blogspot.com/ 
  • Skutnabb-Kangas T. and Heugh K. (eds) 2012. Multilingual education and sustainable development work. From periphery to center. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Smolicz, J., & Nical, I. (1997). Exporting the European idea of a national language: Some educational implications of the use of English and indigenous languages in the Philippines. International Review of Education, 43(5-6), 507–526. doi:10.1023/A:1003098223423   


It’s time to stop denying our diversity


Written by Dr. Elizabeth Caliwanagan (UP-Baguio)

AUGUST is Buwan ng Wika (Language Month). For some, this is a happy celebration; for others, it is observed just for compliance, while others avoid it out of frustration.

Before explaining why, let us review a little history. In 1968 Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Proclamation 187 establishing the Linggo ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Week) during which government agencies and schools were told to use Pilipino in all their official communications and transactions. President Fidel Ramos altered the timeframe of this celebration in 1997, declaring the whole month of August as Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

For 46 years, the national government has set aside a time of the year in which Filipinos are supposed to use, prioritize, and idolize the national language. The frustrating aspect, however, is how it never seems to change. It would be wonderful if someone thought to make Buwan ng Wika more inclusive. In other countries, celebrations designed to promote language usually target regional, minority, and indigenous languages, because these are the languages that are in most need of attention. With 90 percent of the world’s 6,000 languages endangered, it is urgent that we give time to think about their place in our societies, their legacy, and their future.

The national language is not endangered. The advocacy for its use nationwide has been achieved. It is rapidly being integrated into new domains of technology like Facebook and is spreading around the world as the lingua franca of Filipinos. It is like a virus that permeated the communication system via mass media and social media.

In fact, Tagalog (or, more formally, Pilipino) is spoken by more people today than in any time in human history. In fact, even foreigners learn and speak it. By contrast, there are many Philippine languages that are endangered, and a few Ayta/Agta languages have already gone extinct. Even large languages, like Capampangan and Pangasinan are fast declining, as has been reported by this newspaper in past issues.
Without many realizing, we are gradually losing our linguistic and cultural diversity. This should be a cause for concern for everyone. In a recent conference held in China, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Dr. Irina Bokova explained why we should protect our many languages:

“I see multilingualism as essential to crafting more inclusive human development, reflecting the needs of every society. There can be no ‘one size fits all’ model. The new development agenda to follow 2015 should be universal in order to be sustainable, engaging all countries equally and reflecting their diversity.

This is an issue of human rights. It is an issue for poverty eradication and sustainable development. Ultimately, it is an issue for lasting peace, for respect and tolerance. Each of the world’s 6,000 or so languages contains its own wealth of knowledge.”

The typical refrain of Buwan ng Wika, however, is ‘one size fits all.’ What the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) tells us is that the national language fits us all. No matter if we are Bicolanos, Bisayans, Kapampangans, or Muslims, we should all just love and use the national language. There was only a brief period of three years (2006-2008) in which the KWF became more attentive to other Philippine languages, evident in Language Month themes like “Ang Buwan ng Wika ay Buwan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas” (2006), “Maraming Wika Matatag na Bansa” (2007), “Wika mo, Wika ko, Wika ng Mundo, Mahalaga” (2008). Since then, the KWF has reverted back to a platform of uniformity. The Philippine Constitution espouses “unity in diversity”, but then why are our children forced to sing and chant about the importance of the national language for a whole month, without a single day of August in honor of their mother tongues? The KWF might argue that they do things for other languages, like the recent publication of Cordillera folk stories, but it is not enough. The big majority of their resources is spent on Pilipino.

Buwan ng Wika is frustrating to many Filipinos not because they are against the national language. They are frustrated because, after half a decade, the approach has not changed. The national language is spoken by almost all Filipinos. The national language has become more powerful than anyone expected. Is it still necessary to push it so hard, while other languages are silenced? Filipinos don’t buy the argument anymore that we have to abandon our languages to be unified. We can get along fine with our diversity. There is nothing to fear. Let’s do the right thing and make Buwan ng Wika a celebration of all our languages.
 An expounded version of this piece shall be presented in a forum held at UP Baguio on August 27 and UP Diliman on August 28, 2014


Updated Position Statement: Languages in the General Education Curriculum (GEC)

We are in favor of a language policy that:
I. is inclusive and non-prescriptive;
II. gives HEIs the freedom to select the language or languages of instruction to be used in the GEC, as appropriate to the specific context.
We do not support a language policy that:
I. limits the teaching of GEC subjects to just English and Filipino;
II. stipulates any minimum number of subjects that must be taught in a particular language.

The above position is founded on, but not limited to, the following reasons:

a. Medium of instruction should be a contextualized choice depending on the needs and interests of a particular learning community.
b. Numerous factors should be considered in selecting an appropriate medium of instruction for an HEI, department, or even a particular subject, such as research thrusts, economic forces, the competencies of the instructor(s) and students, learning materials, and public approval.
c. In addition to English and Filipino, several Philippine languages have been effectively used as mediums of instruction by HEIs, such as Negros Oriental State University (Journalism), University of Northern Philippines (Communication), Ateneo de Naga (Philosophy), Catanduanes State University (Engineering), Bohol University (Engineering), UP Tacloban (Literature), and more. Being institutions of higher learning where the operative mode is exploration and discovery, they should not be restricted to just teaching in Filipino and English but instead be given the freedom to innovate in teaching in other languages and contribute in the intellectualization of languages in their region.
d. General Education is supposed to be general. Requiring subjects of only one particular language or the use of one particular language in a number of subjects does not qualify as general education. If the GEC is to have a language requirement, it should be a flexible one whereby the student has a choice as to what language he/she would like to take to fulfil the language requirement.

a. The Philippines is a multilingual country. Privileging English and the national language in the 20th century has  i) reinforced  class divisions based on language, whereby fluent speakers of these languages enjoy advantages, privileges, and prestige not afforded to other Filipinos; ii) undermined access and innovation; iii) hampered awareness, tolerance, sensitivity, and appreciation of the true diversity of the country; iv) threatened the vitality and existence of dozens of Philippine languages and associated cultures; Schools should not reproduce such inequitable conditions in our society but instead become an agent for social change. Moreover, any language to be taught or used should be presented in the context of a multilingual society.
b. Diversity is not a threat to national unity. It is the disrespect and ignorance of diversity—manifested in exclusionary policies and attitudes—that is far more dangerous. The Philippines has been identified among the countries with the highest risk of educational, economic, and social problems due to its restrictive language-in-education policies.

a. Efforts have been made to intellectualize various Philippine languages by groups like Akademiyang Binisaya, NAKEM, GUMIL, Sumakwelan Writers’ Association, Katig Waray Writers, and Ulupan na Pansiansay Salitan Pangasinan, and many more. We have also existing university-based research hubs like the Center for Capampangan Studies (Holy Angel University), University Center of Bicol Studies (Ateneo de Naga University), the Ilokano Language and Literature program of the University of Hawaii. Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education teachers have started teaching and thus intellectualizing the mother tongues of their pupils. The potential of Philippine languages to facilitate intellectual discourse should not be dismissed. Regional and local languages may be particularly suitable for GEC core subjects like Understanding the Self, Readings in Philippine History, Purposive Communication, and various General Education Electives.
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution declares that Filipino shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. In the more than 20 years since, very few features from other Philippine languages other than Tagalog have been incorporated into the Filipino used in school and media.  Excluding native Philippine languages (besides Tagalog in the form of Filipino) from various domains, particular higher education, will continue to hamper the enrichment of Filipino. Pushing the national language without any practical mechanisms to make it more representative, will likewise undermine its public acceptance.  

a. The right to learn and use one’s mother tongue, and the right to a pluralistic, equitable education system are promoted in international legal instruments such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and
Linguistic Minorities, and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. These rights are not limited to basic education.
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution recognizes Filipino as the national language.  The Constitution, however, does not declare it as the sole medium of official communication and instruction—English is an official language and the regional languages are recognized as auxiliary official languages and media of instruction. Any policy therefore on language use should always reflect such combination – Filipino, English and regional languages.
c. The Constitution espouses “unity in diversity”, freedom of speech and expression, and academic freedom for all institutions of higher learning. The Philippines is a democratic country and freedom of speech and expression should include what language a person or persons would like to use, while academic freedom should include what languages a teacher would like to use and teach.
d. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371) recognizes the rights of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples to determine their education systems by providing education in their own language and in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

In light of the above, we earnestly request that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) uphold the existing Commission Memorandum Order 20 s. 2013 regarding the new General Education Curriculum, with only a minor revision necessary: to allow the use of other Philippine languages besides English and Filipino as mediums of instruction.

CHED and other concerned government agencies are also requested to announce concrete plans on the retooling and deployment of affected GE instructors (not just Filipino but also Math, Humanities, English and PE) when CMO 20 2013 comes into effect.

Finally, as advocacy group for MTBMLE, we ask CHED to expedite the revision of Teacher Education Curriculum so that it will respond to the language and pedagogical requirements of MTBMLE.

170+ Talaytayan MLE and other concerned Filipinos
Sign our online petition: http://bit.ly/no-interference-HEI

Download the PDF version



(Click this link to sign the petition)

Several related groups have been pressuring the Commission on Higher Education to amend the newly crafted CMO 20 series 2013 and make Filipino a requirement in higher education. And to think that some members of the said groups were privileged to participate in the series of consultations and crafting of the said policy, which they now oppose. In May 2014, the Committee on Language and Translation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) issued a resolution demanding that 9 units of Filipino language be a mandatory part of the General Education Curriculum in colleges and universities. Does anyone else find it ironic that the government body entrusted to preserve cultural diversity, which includes linguistic diversity, sponsored a resolution that seeks the blanket inclusion of 9 mandatory units of only Filipino and makes no mention of any other language?

Unfortunately, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) seems to be bowing to the pressure of these one-sided groups, which are composed mostly of national language writers and instructors. The chair of CHED, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, issued a press statement on June 23, 2014, saying that they are considering (maybe as a concession) making it mandatory that three of the General Education subjects be taught using Filipino. They say, yes there is academic freedom but only as far as deciding which 3 GE subjects are to be taught in Filipino. The reservation of a certain number of national language slots in the GEC without extending the same kind of privilege to other languages—Philippine or otherwise—is a highly problematic move. CHED would essentially be forcing colleges and universities—which should be bastions of free thinking, plurality, and equality to subscribe to a hegemonic one-nation-one language ideology. Any language policy should reflect the multilingual context of our learners. Furthermore, since languages mediate learning, the choice of language to be used in a particular area of study should be based on the objective to improve learning outcomes and to equip the students to the world of work and service in their own community and beyond.

Pro-national language adherents may invoke the Constitution to support its demand. Yes, the Constitution states that “the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.” Regardless of the questionable wisdom of having a constitutional provision that—a) reads like an implementing rule, forever committing the government to promote something without recourse; and b) pushes a concept of national homogeneity so at odds with our multicultural/multilingual nature—the Constitution is nevertheless not an unequivocal legal basis for the mandatory use of Filipino in higher education. Why? “Taking steps to initiate and sustain” is not the same as “mandating” and it should be viewed in the context of linguistic democracy and academic freedom.

Furthermore, there is a critical difference between the indefinite article “a” and the definite article “the.” The wording of the Constitution—“a medium of official communication” and the absence of an article altogether in reference to language of instruction—means (mercifully) that the promotion of the Filipino national language is inclusive. Using Filipino at the exclusion of English, other Philippine languages, or even other foreign languages is not actually demanded by the Constitution, and any dictat to that effect is unduly restrictive.

Aside from the language provisions, the Constitution also protects several other fundamental principles:

Section 4, Article III (the Bill of Rights) states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press…” As an instrument of speech and expression, language is protected under this clause. People, and by extension their institutions, should have the freedom to choose what languages they wish to learn and use. Jose Rizal himself deftly wielded Spanish to rouse patriotic spirit and indeed learned more than 10 other languages throughout his life—a potent refutation of the trope that patriotism is to speak or favour only one language. Patriotism pre-existed the national language.

For decades, we have allowed our language of learning policies to misrepresent the multicultural/multilingual nature of the Philippines. We celebrate the fact that finally in 2012, we passed a law (RA 10533) that recognizes the diversity of our languages as a great resource to improve learning. Now for the first time, any young pupil who speaks mostly Tausug or Waray or any of the local languages will find the school a friendly place for learning. Grade school teachers are discovering how to explain academic concepts using the pupil’s mother tongue and local culture. This commendable initiative to explore the resources offered by our multicultural and multilingual contexts must be a fundamental component of our educational system.

In a Philippine Star column last November 28, 2013, Former DepEd Undersecretary Isagani Cruz made reference to another key Constitutional provision. Section 5 of Article XIV states:

1. the State shall take into account regional and sectoral needs and conditions and shall encourage local planning in the development of educational policies and programs.
2. Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.

We are openly declaring that we are promoting the equitable treatment of all our languages, especially in promoting learning and respecting ethnic identities. However we find it immoral that we impose such bias on our higher institutions of learning.

CHED should be reminded that RA 7722 (Higher Education Act of 1994) Section 13 stipulates that it is to “guarantee” academic freedom of universities and colleges and its power is clearly limited only in setting the following: (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.

The imposition of language of instruction is not part of CHED’s power. We ask that the technical panel for General Education and the CHED commissioners to continue upholding academic freedom and not enter into any concession with any interest group. Moreover, we would be greatly relieved if CHED issued a formal statement endorsing the use of any local or international language in higher education.