An official of the Department of Education said the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction in schools is not a reason for Filipino students to be less proficient in the English language.
“Hindi natin sinasabi na ang mother tongue ang dahilan kung bakit bumababa ang English proficiency ng mag-aaral sapagkat ayon sa pag-aaral, ang paggamit ng first language ang makakatulong sa magaaral upang madaling makaintindi ng binabasa. Ang pag linang din nito ang nagbibigay daan upang mas madaling matuto sa second language at iba pang wika ang mga bata,” said DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali.
Results of a recent study conducted by Hopkins International Partners, the institution authorized to conduct the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) in the Philippines, showed that the English proficiency of college students in the Philippines is lower than the target proficiency of high school students in Thailand.
USec Umali added that students need to develop a strong foundation in their mother language before effectively learning additional languages.
The Mother Tongue-Based Multi-lingual Education is a feature of the Enhanced Basic Education Program which mandates the use of the language that students are familiar with as a medium of instruction to allow them to grasp basic concepts easily.
The DepEd uses 19 languages in Mother Tongue-Based basic education: Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Iloko, Bikol, Ybanag, Sinugbuanong Binisaya, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bahasa Sug,
Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Chavacano, Ivatan, Sambal, Akianon, Kinaray-a, Yakan, and Sinurigaonon. It is implemented in two modules — as a learning/subject area and as medium of instruction.
While DepEd does not run a survey to check on students’ English proficiency, USec Umali said they use the National Achievement Test results to identify any need for improvement in the study of English language.
Even though he did not enumerate all possible factors affecting the English proficiency of Filipino students, USec Umali explained that DepEd has specific programs that aim to identify which aspects of the English study students find difficult.
“The Department also has programs aiming to identify the weaknesses of students so we can solve the problem. For example, there are trainings and workshops that are lined up to pinpoint the aspects of the English curriculum students find difficult and why. Most of the time, it is reading comprehension,” he said.
Umali added: “In the said programs, together with the experts, students will be encouraged to read more, and they will be given exercises to improve on, and on writing as well.”
He said these programs also aim at improving the teaching competency of some educators who find certain areas of the English curriculum difficult to teach.
Following the curriculum standards set by DepEd, most public schools in Manila use Filipino as medium of instruction to students from Kinder to Grade 3.
Most private schools, on the other hand, use English as medium of instruction to their Kinder and grade school pupils — a practice that is still compliant with DepEd’s curriculum criteria.
He said the wide use of English, and excellent command of spoken English continues to be the country’s biggest advantage, as it is one of the factors for employers and investors who choose to employ Filipinos and invest in the Philippines. (PNA)