"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein
Showing posts with label Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education. Show all posts

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Filipino Does Not Unite But Only Divide Us

Spending my first year at the Ateneo was somewhat horrible when it came to language. I felt forced to read, reflect and write in a foreign language, English. My high school days were part of an experiment of the Marcos regime during which most subjects except English were taught in a bilingual manner. As a result, I did not have that much opportunity to think, converse and write in English. I felt a fresh breath of air during my last two years in college during which had the option of learning philosophy using my mother tongue. Yet, at that time, I did acknowledge that in order to master chemistry, I must become proficient in English. The reason was very simple. All the textbooks in chemistry were in English. Slowly, I started thinking in English while learning chemistry.

At Georgetown or any other university that has a graduate program and accepts foreign students, proficiency in English is required. Graduate students are required to serve as teaching assistants, thus, they must be able to speak English so that undergraduate students would be able to understand. Based on experience, both undergraduate students and professors are quite accommodating when it comes to accents. Grammar rules are likewise relaxed as long as the chemistry is correct. It is truly amazing how much respect and understanding is extended when it comes to language. Language is indeed a part of ourselves. It is the medium through which we express ourselves. It is the bridge crossed by our own emotions and thoughts. Without language, it would be difficult to share our ideas and feelings with others. Language is the blood of our own being.

In the Philippines, the debate on language continues and it is not pretty. David Michael San Juan provides not just one but twelve reasons why it is necessary to save the Philippines' national language on Rappler:


Of course, there are people who do not share the same view and to these opponents, this is what David Michael San Juan has to say:



Unfortunately, it does not really matter how many reasons are provided for imposing the national language on everyone because there is no reason that could erase the following fact. There are so many languages spoken in the Philippines:

Above copied from "Many Voices, One Nation: The Philippine Languages and Dialects in Figures"
Although Tagalog, on which the national language is based, garners the highest percentage of households, one cannot deny that the other languages have a significant share of native speakers. Percentage is not really that important, but right to one's mother tongue is, so it really does not matter whether a language is spoken by the majority or not. In terms of percentages, there is really no native language in the Philippines that is spoken by more than half of the households:

Above copied from "Many Voices, One Nation: The Philippine Languages and Dialects in Figures"
Tagalog does have the highest number, but it falls short of fifty percent. And in terms of linguistic rights, even the smallest dot in the above figure has a say. One could promote a national language. One could make up a language and claim that it is a mixture of all the above languages. But no one should impose such language. It is bad enough that all students in the Philippines are forced to learn this made up national language through K+12. It is an attack on one's identity and culture to impose the same in higher education. The use of English as a medium of instruction in higher education should not be seen as an imposition of a colonial foreign language. This choice is not based on any ideological ground. It is purely academic and only practical. On the other hand, imposing a made up national language is based solely on a false sense of nationalism. It is based on a fantasy of having one language uniting all of Philippines. This is not the true Philippines. The Philippines is a very diverse country in terms of tongues. We must embrace that and not make up something artificial that places us against each other. Our only objective is to help children realize their part in this globe. Our only mission is to teach our children, not to brainwash them with something we have only imagined and created.

Our teachers need support. Our schools need support. Let us focus on what matters to learning. Let us emphasize what works. And we need to make sure that in doing so, we still respect each other's language, because language is part of our soul....





Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Philippines and the English Language

The Philippines is markedly different from the other countries in Asia in terms of language. Its native languages use the Latin alphabet and English is taught in the early years of elementary education. It is also used as a medium of instruction in some schools especially in private elite colleges. Amy Chavez of The Japan Times noted in an article early this year how impressed she was with how fluent Filipinos are in English:

Above copied from Huffington Post
Unfortunately, Chavez, in the above article, is misusing test data. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) specifically mentions in its research reports not to use scores to rank countries:

Above copied from Test and Score Data Summary for TOEFL iBT Tests

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

STATEMENT AGAINST THE INTERFERENCE AND CONTROL OF LANGUAGE USE IN HIGHER EDUCATION


STATEMENT AGAINST THE INTERFERENCE AND CONTROL OF LANGUAGE USE IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Originally posted on 

170+ Talaytayan MLE Inc


(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.



Sign the petition here

Monday, June 30, 2014

Keeping Children in School

When a child leaves school, basic education comes to a halt. There are alternative means of education, but for most out-of-school youth, leaving school is equivalent to no education. Reducing the number of school leavers is therefore an important objective for any basic education system. Improving attendance in schools is the first step in reaching out to school children. After all, basic education inside a classroom does not occur without the children being there.

Mother tongue based - multilingual education is one way of making a school more welcoming to young children. Using the language children have known before they enter school adds a sense of familiarity. This is no different from starting a conversation by finding an initial spark, an entry point of interest between pupils and teacher. It makes the school feel like a second home. Keeping children in school must be placed right there on top in thinking of ways to alleviate the problems of basic education not just in the Philippines but all over the world.

Language, however, is not the only thing that can bind a school to one's home. Educators in Milwaukee schools now consider art, music and gym as important ingredients in basic education:

To read the above story, visit NPR

Friday, June 20, 2014

Aiming for Both Equity and Excellence Need Not Be a Compromise

There is ample evidence that it is possible to achieve equity without compromising excellence. In fact, addressing issues on equity can greatly aid in lifting the quality of any educational system. Teachers need to be provided support so that they can perform their tasks well. This support includes adequate training, professional development, and living wages. Poor children need special attention. Without addressing important factors outside school, learning is difficult to achieve inside the classroom. One must keep in mind that these measures are necessary for one reason, quality education. Raising teachers' salaries and providing poor children additional resources should be viewed as measures taken for one specific goal, improving education.

Uplifting basic education supports the demands of Philippine public school teachers for better working conditions, higher salaries, autonomy, and professional development. These specific demands are clearly in line with the goal of providing both equity and excellence to Philippine basic education. The Philippine education system is facing so many issues and challenges. It is true that the current predicament of the teaching force needs to be addressed. However, it is equally true that there is incompetence. It is likewise true that a large number of schools are substandard. The situation in higher education is no different. There are diploma mills. There are courses in colleges that serve no purpose but remediation. Focusing alone on equity without an effort to lift education compromises excellence.

This debate on whether a Filipino language instruction course should remain as a requirement in higher education unfortunately typifies an argument that does not help advance the necessary education reforms in the country.

Members and leaders of Alliance of Concerned Teachers trooped to Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Head Office, wearing masks of Jose Rizal and a woven tray of fresh fish to symbolize their aghast over their decision to make Filipino optional in college education. (ACT Phils)

Being raised with Tagalog as a mother tongue, I likewise treasure the language. I am certain that this is equally true for Cebuanos who view Cebuano as their own. This applies to Ilocanos and Bicolanos. In fact, all Filipinos cherish their native tongues. They do not need to be told. It is already incorrect to attribute the saying, "Those who do not love their native language are worse than putrid fish", to Jose Rizal since this is a hoax. Rizal did not author this poem. Teachers should not be miseducating the nation. A bigger error, however, is to attribute "native tongue" to a language that is in fact not the native tongue of other Filipinos. Any claim to the contrary is completely deceitful. And it does not matter if Filipino is advertised as different from Tagalog and as a combination of the various languages in the country. This is one blatant lie. If Filipino is indeed derived from the various languages then it is not clearly a native tongue.

One important point that is easily missed is the careless equating of language to culture. The two are not identical. Culture does manifest in one's native language and one's native language is shaped by one's culture. Our beliefs, our way of life, our values, our intellectual achievements, our arts and music constitute our culture. Culture is what we are. It is not surprising that nationalistic sentiments abound when issues of language are raised. Sadly, in education, differences are highlighted. The disciplines of the natural sciences have indeed been developed in Western cultures. Sometimes, the sciences are even associated with Christian religions. One should not discount however the fact that chemistry, for example, has Islamic origins. These disciplines are really universal, not just Western.

Education reformers even in the United States are trying to learn from other countries especially those who do extremely well in international standardized exams. We may be of different cultures but we learn from each other. It is really ridiculous to suggest that adapting systems from the West is wrong. Emulating a successful education system is in fact correct. As members of one human race, there are standards that apply to everyone.

Arguments against the removal of a course on Filipino language instruction from colleges are framed on a nationalistic sense that is sadly misplaced. On top of this, insisting on requiring instruction of the native tongue in a university goes against quality education. One must keep in mind that there is a difference between "instruction of the native tongue" and "instruction in the native tongue". The former teaches the grammar and vocabulary of the language. The latter uses the language as a medium of academic discourse. What is about to be removed from college is the former because of one good reason: It does not deserve to be in higher education. Even in the absence of a new basic K+12 education curriculum, remedial and non college-level courses should not be taught for credit inside universities. College credit hours should never be used to remedy deficiencies in basic education. College is not for everyone and not everyone goes to college, thus, deficiencies must be addressed within basic education.

The guidelines for General Education from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) prescribe core courses in eight different areas: (1) Understanding the Self, (2) Readings in Philippine History, (3) The Contemporary World, (4) Mathematics in the Modern World, (5) Purposive Communication, (6) Art Appreciation, (7) Science, Technology and Society, and (8) Ethics. If faculty from universities cannot design or imagine any one of these courses given in the native language then there is really no way the native language can be elevated into an academic level. The study of one's self, globalization, history, arts, mathematics, and communication can be provided in the native language as long as materials and an instructor competent in the language are available. Faculty have about three to four years to prepare. More than twenty years ago, I took 16 credits of Philosophy with Filipino as medium of instruction. It is clearly not impossible if there are competent faculty in universities.

If teachers are clamoring for retaining language instruction in the university, I hope these teachers are aware that they are admitting that they could not teach their students in elementary and high school to read and write in the native tongue. Teachers damage their own credibility. This blog lends support to upgrading teacher salaries, but not on this one. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is correct in its reform of general education in colleges. Faculty who do not serve the purpose of higher education should not be in colleges or universities. CHED gives the opportunity to these instructors to retool and innovate. CHED is now providing the right environment for deeper and more critical subjects in college. Going against this means going against excellence, and when the quality of education is compromised, so does equity.







Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fighting for Filipino in College

I was a first year student at the Ateneo de Manila, enrolled in a class on Western Medieval History, and Jose S. Arcilla, S.J. was the instructor. Right at the beginning, the Jesuit warned us against using Filipino in the class. Arcilla in fact exclaimed, "I am proud to be a Bicolano." There were indeed dim moments when I was studying at the Ateneo and Arcilla's class was definitely one of the worse. Arcilla spent almost half of each lecture reciting corrections to the textbook that he authored. He spent the other half proselytising. History was part of the general education required of all students. After all, who would want a chemist who did not have the opportunity to hear and learn about Visigoths from someone who was so proud to be a Bicolano?

The next three years at the Ateneo were much more positive. During my time, a chemistry major would be required to take courses in History, Psychology, Sociology/Anthropology, Economics, Philippine Constitution, Filipino, English, Spanish, Theology and Philosophy. In each of the three summer sessions, I had to enroll in three courses in order to graduate in four years. It was certainly over 70 credit hours of General Education. I did appreciate the fact that in Philosophy and Filipino, unlike in Medieval History, I was allowed to use Filipino. While studying Philippine literature, I had the rare luck of having a substitute teacher for some time who permitted me to use Filipino. The other teacher would not have allowed me to submit essays written in Filipino. These were essays that commented on writings of Bonifacio and Jacinto and I thought it was only appropriate that I wrote them in the same language. Taking 16 credits of Philosophy in Filipino was also a great experience as I saw in my own eyes how the ideas of Kant, Buber, Thomas of Aquinas could be discussed in my mother tongue.

Reading, writing and listening to the mother tongue in higher education definitely provides an avenue for someone to participate actively in elevating one's language to the level of academic discourse. And in those philosophy classes, both students and instructors need to be able to think critically and express ideas in the mother tongue. It is likewise important to note that the mother tongue is a significant aspect of higher education not just as a language but as an integral part of one's identity. Higher education after all is a quest to know oneself better.

With the dramatic changes in Philippine basic education and the fact that these revisions actually target higher education, it is not surprising to see that the new K+12 curriculum carries significant consequences on the college curriculum. Faculty at colleges, for instance, are now voicing their opinion against the exclusion of Filipino in General Education:

News article from GMA News Online
The memorandum from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in question is No. 20 series of 2013, which defines the General Education curriculum for 2018 (not 2016, as erroneously reported in the above article). By 2018, students entering college would have gone through the 2 additional years of high school. The academic track of these additional years is included in the memo and is shown below:



Reforms are urgently needed in Philippine colleges. It is unfortunate that it takes an overhaul of basic education to remove subjects deemed undeserving of a place in higher education. Courses in the General Education curriculum of a college are supposed to provide opportunities for scholarly work, not just covering the basics and fundamentals of a discipline. Chemistry majors need to master the fundamentals of general chemistry to prepare them for the advanced courses in the field. The purpose of General Education courses is different. For this reason, a General Chemistry class is expected to be distinct from a science course intended as a General Education course for nonscience majors. Developing General Education courses is challenging for it is to provide a student an overview yet a profound experience of the discipline. CHED therefore correctly defines what General Education should be:



Soon after I finished college, Spanish was no longer a required subject in college. That happened quite late for me. Obviously, when a course in college is dropped, it can have an impact on its instructors. However, the continuing employment of instructors is never a justification for requiring a course in college. The fact that Spanish instructors stand to lose their jobs is irrelevant to the question of whether Spanish must remain as a required General Education subject in higher education. Of course, Spanish can always remain as an optional General Education course.

The same therefore applies to Filipino courses in colleges. Lifting the Filipino language into the academic realm does require its presence in higher education. In fact, this is true for all the languages currently spoken in the Philippines. This, however, does not mean that all languages spoken in the Philippines should be required subjects in colleges. This is not only impossible, but also a huge waste of resources and time. No one would ever finish college.

The job of higher education at least for now is to ensure that such opportunities exist. The truth is that nurturing a language is not something that can come from a decree. Intellectuals choose their medium. They make their choice based on several reasons. Universities must keep this choice free. Scholarly work is required at higher education. Instructors who do not advance their field do not belong to higher education. Keeping them does only great injustice and harm to the language.





Monday, April 21, 2014

Reading in the Mother Tongue

Imagine a school that does not use the language used at home as medium of instruction in the early years of schooling. In such an environment, one may guess that what happens at home matters a lot. In fact, it does. There is now a study published that captures and answers the question of how literacy at home affects early childhood learning. The study looks at more than a hundred children from English-speaking families studying at six public schools that employ a French immersion program. The French immersion program uses French exclusively as medium of instruction for kindergarten and Grade 1. Reading instruction in English is then introduced as a daily 60 minute subject in Grade 2. In this scenario, any English the children know by the end of Grade 1 comes mainly from their homes. The study finds that there is indeed a strong correlation between literacy activities at home, both formal and informal, and a child's reading ability and vocabulary. Formal activities include teaching the alphabet, and providing reading and printing instructions. Informal activities are measured by the number of books available to the children as well as by how often books are read to children.

Reading and Early Childhood Learning
The study, published in the journal Child Development, has the following summary:

Sénéchal, M. and LeFevre, J.-A. (2014), Continuity and Change in the Home Literacy Environment as Predictors of Growth in Vocabulary and Reading. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12222
The findings may sound obvious, but it should be made clear that in this instance, because of the inherent design of the study, the impact of literacy activities at home on a child's learning have been cleverly extracted. These are therefore evidence-based conclusions:
"In sum, we found evidence of long-term associations between parent home literacy practices and child reading and vocabulary. First, parent reports of teaching and parent expectations about reading in kindergarten were a robust predictor of growth in child early literacy from kindergarten to the beginning of Grade 1. Second, parent reports of teaching and listening to their child read was also a solid predictor of growth in word reading from the beginning until the end of Grade 1. Third, most parents who increased the reported amount of teaching from Grade 1 to Grade 2 had children whose reading was below average in Grade 1, whereas most parents who decreased their teaching had children whose reading was above average. Finally, parent reports of shared reading in kindergarten predicted growth in child vocabulary from kindergarten to Grade 1. Taken together, the present findings provided strong support for the key prediction of the Home Literacy Model, namely, that formal and informal literacy practices have different links to the development of children's oral and written language skills. The findings extend the model by showing that most parents adjust their formal literacy practices according to the reading performance of their child."
The authors do note that about half of the parents of the children included in this study are well educated (college level). Still, the study shows that parents can help teach children beyond kindergarten.

The above study takes place in a community where English is the dominant language but French is used as the medium of instruction. By not providing English in the early years, children are able to learn a second language in school. Home literacy can play a vital role in early childhood education. The home is really the first place where a child learns. If we truly treasure our mother tongue, we should spend our efforts passing our language to our young at home.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Languages in the Philippines: A Challenge for Basic Education

By 1987, all schools in Singapore are using English as a medium of instruction. Singapore's education policy however requires schools to offer a choice of Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil as the second language. This second language may also be used as the medium of instruction for social studies. The English language was seen as the unifying factor since no ethnic group in Singapore can claim ownership of English. Singapore also saw that English was becoming the language of choice in science and technology. Since 1990, the number of households speaking English in Singapore has risen:

Above capture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Singapore
The Philippines, on the other hand, has been changing its language policy for decades. Presently, there is even an online petition asking for the removal of the current chairperson of the Commission on the Filipino Language:

The situation in the Philippines is similar to that of Singapore. The new DepEd K+12 curriculum is embracing the Mother Tongue - Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE). Students in the primary years are taught all subjects (except Filipino and English) in their mother tongue. This is dramatically different from that of Singapore. The requirements, first of all, on teachers are more diverse. Teachers need to be able to teach math and science in the mother tongue of their pupils. Of course, not having science as a formal subject in the early years, teachers then do not have to worry about teaching science in the native tongue during the first few years of elementary school.

Singapore's approach is a lot more practical. Since the mother tongue is only taught as a language and culture subject, one need not worry about what mother tongue should be used in any given school. The choices are there and schools simply need to have a teacher or a group of teachers (depending on the demand) who can speak fluently and teach the mother tongue. Math and science teachers simply have to know how to teach their subjects in English. The school does not make a choice on what language should be used as the medium of instruction. This has practical aspects especially in a place where there is significant heterogeneity in languages. Take, for example, the following region in the Philippines:  (The following tables and figures shown here are copied from Jose Ramon G. Albert's (National Statistical Coordination Board, Philippines) article, "Many Voices, One Nation: The Philippine Languages and Dialects in Figures"


In the Cordillera administrative region (CAR), there are clearly five major languages, and these five account for less than 80% of the households. A school in this region needs textbooks in at least five different languages. A school in this region requires teachers who can instruct in these languages. CAR is not an exception, unfortunately. The following are other regions in the country demonstrating that even at the regional level, there is no homogeneity:

With this in mind, MTB-MLE is indeed a challenge. Currently, there are 19 languages considered by DepEd in its MTB-MLE implementation. These are enumerated by Albert in his article: Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Ilokano, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Chabacano, Ybanag, Ivatan, Sambal, Aklanon, Kinaray-a, Yakan, and Surigaonon. The spellings of the names of these languages differ, but one should be able to see that 16 of these languages are among the top 20 languages spoken in the country in 2000:


Ivatan, Sambal and Yakan are not among the top twenty, but these are included in the list of DepEd. This means Kankanai, Masbateño and Capizeño, although among the top 20 spoken languages, are not among those languages included in MTB-MLE of the DepEd K+12 program. Masbateño is a language spoken by a significant fraction of households in region 5:

Mother tongue education is important. With Singapore, for example, household use of the other Chinese languages is dropping dramatically. The use of Mandarin is on the rise at the expense of other Chinese languages. The Philippines since it is much larger than Singapore has much more languages. 150 languages have been identified in a 2000 study. Some of these languages are fast declining, as shown in the following table:


These languages are about to disappear. This is one reason why teaching the mother tongue as a subject in schools is important. It is to preserve a cultural treasure. Asking that a mother tongue be offered as a subject is asking a lot less than asking for a mother tongue to be used as a medium of instruction. MTB-MLE, because of its cost, can only select a fraction of the languages. Otherwise, it is prohibitive.

These are real issues that Philippine basic education faces. The country is indeed a colorful tapestry in terms of spoken languages as depicted in the following figures:


DepEd K+12 aims to teach students in the Philippines their mother tongue, English and Tagalog (Some call this language Filipino or the national language while some claim that the national language, Filipino is really a mix of the above languages). Looking at the above figure, one should not be surprised why such language policy in the Philippines still causes people to be angry.

"My view: We should become tri-lingual as a country.Learn English well and connect to the World.
Learn Filipino well and connect to our country.
Retain your dialect and connect to your heritage."


-Philippine president Benigno Aquino III
It sounds good as a slogan. Unfortunately, this is simply impractical....




Friday, October 4, 2013

Talking to Children

How language relates to thinking is still a continuing debate among psychologists, linguists and neuroscientists. Nonetheless, there seems to be no doubt that these two are related. Children learn language first at home. Children hear words from various sources. Some are in fact directed to a child, while others are simply overheard. Of course, inside homes where there is a radio or television, these provide additional opportunities for a child to hear spoken words. The vocabulary gap at the beginning of formal schooling cause by socio-economic status is important to analyze if one desires to reduce this gap. A child's vocabulary is crucial in the early years. Its effects on a child's education are long term. In fact, the gap only widens through the years of basic education.

There are now several studies that indicate that only conversations by adults directed to a toddler have an effect on the child's vocabulary. Adults talking directly to toddlers is the only factor that has been shown to correlate with how fast a child develops vocabulary. Children talking to toddlers does not. Overheard speech does not. One of these studies is nicely summarized in a YouTube video by Laura Shneidman:


The paper "Language input and acquisition in a Mayan village: how important is directed speech?" is published in the journal Developmental Science:


The above study is independently supported by another work, this time, from researchers at Stanford University. Their paper, "Talking to Children Matters: Early Language Experience Strengthens Processing and Builds Vocabulary", is published in the journal Psychological Science:



Language acquisition is important in a child's education. Some even have this notion that learning through the mother tongue is more efficient. It is difficult to address all the various factors that may influence learning outcomes especially when these factors themselves are not really independent from each other. Some of these factors correlate with each other. Children from poor families tend to hear fewer words because adults do not talk directly to their children in these homes. In multilingual societies, the weaker languages are usually spoken inside poor households. Thus, it is indeed refreshing to see studies that allow for a clear conclusion to be drawn.

Talk to your toddler....




Friday, July 26, 2013

"Should Spanish-Speaking Students Be Taught in English Only?"

This is the title of a report from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired on 18 July 2013. It is about a school district in New Britain, Connecticut. Most of the students in this district have Spanish as their mother tongue. Currently, only one in four students in the district can read proficiently at the end of third grade. One of the major problems the schools face in New Britain is absenteeism starting in kindergarten. Out of 1000 students, about 300 have missed at least 18 days during the school year. Among these students who miss kindergarten often, more than eighty percent are behind reading by the time they reach third grade. Home visits reduce the rate of absenteeism from 30 percent down to 18 percent, but test scores in reading are still far below satisfactory. A large majority (about 85 percent) of the students whose mother tongue is Spanish are still failing Connecticut's reading test. The new superintendent, Kelt Cooper, is working on changing this by implementing the English Language Development (ELD) method. Apparently, in Texas, Cooper had some success. The school district in Texas Cooper supervised rose from near the bottom in English proficiency scores in the state to near the top:

Captured from PBS video
"Should Spanish-Speaking Students Be Taught in English Only?"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Learning in the Early Childhood Years

Human learning is inextricably linked to the physical development and changes within the human brain. Research in both neuroscience and behavioral psychology over the past few decades have provided rich insights on how the brain develops during the early years and how this affects learning, behavior and health in the later years. As in any building task, the foundation is formed at the early stages. The strength, stability and resilience of a building rest on how well the foundation is built. For human learning, most of the foundation is formed in the early years. The physical connections that the brain uses (neurons) are shaped by experience. The brain is designed from birth to learn. What neuroscience currently shows is that this network, the circuitry in the brain, its architecture, is influenced by early childhood experiences. The brain is highly flexible at the early stages. However, with time, this flexibility disappears and rigidity sets in. The plasticity only remains for a short time in early childhood as connections in the brain that have been rarely used are shut down in a pruning process.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has provided a brief summary of where research in neuroscience and behavioral development currently stands on early childhood learning.  The following figure provides a good idea of when most of the network architecture inside the brain is developed. One must pay close attention to the change in the x-axis to appreciate fully the fact that the earlier part of this growth curve has been expanded into months while the later part is compressed into years:

The following is a video that helps visualize what is going inside the brain during the early formative years:



The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University provides the following bullet points that summarize what is currently known from research:
  • Brains are built over time, from the bottom up.
  • The interactive influences of genes and experience shape the developing brain.
  • The brain’s capacity for change decreases with age.
  • Cognitive, emotional, and social capacities are inextricably intertwined throughout the life course.
  • Toxic stress damages developing brain architecture, which can lead to life-long problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
Clearly, a very important take-home message from these studies is the defining role of early childhood care in a person's development. What happens or does not happen in the early years greatly influences life in adulthood. What experiences shape the brain in its early years can affect learning in the later years. These seem to be clear points.

I would like, however, to explore the third point from the above list, "The brain’s capacity for change decreases with age." The brief specifically mentions:
The brain is most flexible, or “plastic,” early in life to accommodate a wide range of environments and interactions, but as the maturing brain becomes more specialized to assume more complex functions, it is less capable of reorganizing and adapting to new or unexpected challenges. For example, by the first year, the parts of the brain that differentiate sound are becoming specialized to the language the baby has been exposed to; at the same time, the brain is already starting to lose the ability to recognize different sounds found in other languages. Although the “windows” for language learning and other skills remain open, these brain circuits become increasingly difficult to alter over time. Early plasticity means it’s easier and more effective to influence a baby’s developing brain architecture than to rewire parts of its circuitry in the adult years.
Language learning is a major issue faced by basic education. There is one camp out there that advocates as far as suggesting that mother-tongue based instruction is more effective. The implication from the neuroscience studies is that language learning occurs at an early age. The breadth and robustness of the brain architecture formed during early childhood depends on a child's exposure to a language. Clearly, this does not depend on what language an infant is first exposed to. What matters is the richness and depth, the vocabulary and precision. The two countries, Finland and Singapore, offer two seemingly opposing options. In Finland, the mother tongue is used as medium of instruction while Singapore teaches primarily in English. What these two countries probably have in common is a childhood marked with rich conversations between infants or toddlers with their parents or caregivers. It is amazing that difficulty in English language learning across the globe is often associated with socio-economic background as well as educational attainment of parents. These are factors that are likewise expected to correlate quite strongly with the type and level of the language used at home. It does not really matter what language is used. If conversations are limited to "No", "Stop it", the vocabulary of a child entering school is poor. More importantly, as neuroscience suggests, the network connections are more likely not optimized for learning. In these cases, even if a child's mother tongue is English, the child may still be challenged in education. As well controlled studies have shown, it is not the medium of instruction but the quality of instruction that matters most. Mother tongue instruction equally fails if conversations in the early years are void of richness and depth in that language. It is perhaps one of the reasons why even children from English-speaking homes, but with parents less inclined to talk intelligently with their children, find themselves performing at the same level as children who are raised in homes with a different language, but also with parents less likely to engage their children in intelligent conversations.

Elsa Di Ruggiero cites in her blog the following study:



Abstract

In a bilingual context, the mother tongue plays a key role in a child's social and personal development, in education and in second-language learning. There is a complex relationship between these three areas. Support for children receiving education through a second language is often in the form of additional learning opportunities in the second language. However, first-language competence has been shown to affect learning in the second language. This paper looks at pre-school migrant children in a bilingual context and investigates the nature of the children's bilingualism. Findings show that they do not have the same level of mother-tongue competence as children brought up in their country of origin. The paper goes on to consider the reasons for these differences in mother-tongue competence and possible responses. The paper concludes that for these children, nursery education in the mother tongue could raise levels of competence in the second language and increase wider educational opportunities, as well as contributing to mutual respect, social cohesion and harmony. There is a complex relationship between mother-tongue development, children's self-esteem, educational opportunities and second-language learning. This paper considers how this complex relationship affects groups of children in four European contexts: Turkey, Norway, Germany and Austria.

Elsa Di Ruggiero adds:
The learning of a second language is highly dependent on the effectiveness with which a child learned his/her mother tongue. Children with high grammar and vocabulary levels in their mother tongues have reportedly found it easier to learn a new language within the school setting and consequently, read and wrote more fluently and earlier. Therefore, the higher the mother-tongue competence, the greater readiness for reading in either the first or second languages (Yazici, Ilter & Glover, 2010).
Neuroscience research is telling us when it is optimum to achieve competence in mother tongue.  It is in the early years (not in the elementary years). The following paragraph by Patricia K. Kuhl in "Early Language Learning and Literacy: Neuroscience Implications for Education" highlights data from neuroscience studies and their implications of early childhood learning:
These results are theoretically interesting and also highly relevant to early learning practice. These data show that the initial steps that infants take toward language learning are important to their development of language and literacy years later. Our data suggest as well that these early differences in performance are strongly related to experience. Our studies reveal that these early measures of speech discrimination, which predict future language and literacy, are strongly correlated to experience with “motherese” early in development (Liu, Kuhl, and Tsao, 2003). Motherese exaggerates the critical acoustic cues in speech (Kuhl et al., 1997; Werker et al., 2007), and infants’ social interest in speech is, we believe, important to the social learning process. Thus, talking to children early in life, reading to them early in life, and interacting socially with children around language and literacy activities creates the milieu in which plasticity during the critical period can be maximized for all children.
Advocates of mother tongue-based multilingual education perhaps need to pay attention to what they are in fact facing. The real problem may actually lie in the early years - before kindergarten. A child who does not get exposed to language and literacy activities even in the mother tongue during the early years is already at a disadvantage before school starts. The solution may not lie in the elementary years.  Returning to the Harvard study, it concludes:

The basic principles of neuroscience indicate that early preventive intervention will be more efficient and produce more favorable outcomes than remediation later in life.








Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bilingual Children Have Advantage in Working Memory

A post in this blog, "Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education : A Barrier to Cognitive Development?"
last year shared the results of a study in India that demonstrated better cognitive development among bilingual school children. The authors' explanation for their findings were as follows:
"...Getting education through English involves differential curricular pressure and cognitive demands on the part of the students. The student has to understand the instructions presented in English which is not his mother tongue, to develop linguistic competence in it and simultaneously master the course content. For Odia medium children the task is much simpler as they have to master the course content only using a language already acquired earlier at home. However, this tougher task demand at an early age helps in faster development of cognitive processes in the children being educated through English medium...."
This year, a recent paper has been published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology that examines the effect of bilingualism on working memory. The article, "Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children", has the following abstract:
Abstract 
Two studies are reported comparing the performance of monolingual and bilingual children on tasks requiring different levels of working memory. In the first study, 56 5-year-olds performed a Simon-type task that manipulated working memory demands by comparing conditions based on two rules and four rules and manipulated conflict resolution demands by comparing conditions that included conflict with those that did not. Bilingual children responded faster than monolinguals on all conditions and bilinguals were more accurate than monolinguals in responding to incongruent trials, confirming an advantage in aspects of executive functioning. In the second study, 125 children 5- or 7-year-olds performed a visuospatial span task that manipulated other executive function components through simultaneous or sequential presentation of items. Bilinguals outperformed monolinguals overall, but again there were larger language group effects in conditions that included more demanding executive function requirements. Together, the studies show an advantage for bilingual children in working memory that is especially evident when the task contains additional executive function demands.
The children included in these studies have been carefully chosen so that the grouping between bilinguals and monolinguals does represent the only major difference between the students. Parents in both groups all have college education and the students all live in a somewhat homogeneous middle class neighborhood. In terms of English vocabulary, the monolingual children (those who speak English in both home and school) perform better. On "Pictures Task", an exercise that measures working memory and speed, bilinguals are significantly faster than the monolinguals although both groups have similar accuracy. A second study described in this paper makes use of a test similar to a Corsi block task:

An example of a Corsi block task
Downloaded from Gebhard Sammer, "Working memory load and EEG-dynamics as revealed by point correlation dimension analysis"
In this test, monolinguals do as well as bilinguals when the children are asked to recall only which blocks had a figure. However, when asked to provide the correct sequence, 5-year old bilinguals had a higher score (50% correct) than the 5-year old monolingual children (41% correct).

The paper then concludes with the following paragraph:
"The current studies fill an important gap in our understanding of the bilingual mind. Working memory is crucial to cognitive development, and its precocious development by bilingual children is important evidence for developmental effects of experience. The results also contribute to the growing literature on the effect of experience on cognitive outcomes. In this regard, bilingualism is particularly important because, unlike experiences such as musical training and video game playing, bilingual children are not typically preselected for talent or interest. The children in the current studies were bilingual because of a family history of immigration and not because of a talent for learning languages. This is powerful evidence for the role of experience in shaping the mind and directing the course of development."



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are We Teaching Math and Science through a Good Medium or Are We Teaching Math and Science?

"DepEd K to 12: Teaching Math and Science" is one of the most viewed articles in this blog. There is no doubt that educators around the world are examining basic education in the math and the sciences. Both math and science are seen as central to the 21st century. Some studies now even focus on demonstrating how learning in math and the sciences can facilitate education in other disciplines. Unfortunately, there are countries that are currently struggling in math and science education, and are continuing to fail in grasping the fundamental problems plaguing their educational system. Instead of identifying what the real problems are, these countries venture into various hypotheses that have not been validated by data. Recently, I received a comment that claims that one reason why children in the Philippines are not doing well in math and science is that these subjects have been taught in a foreign language. One simply has to cross the South China Sea to see an example that repudiates this claim. That example is Singapore:
Math in Focus explains the role of the medium of instruction in Singapore Math
Downloaded from  http://www.hmheducation.com/singaporemath/ell.php
Singapore not only ranks high in international standardized exams, the country is also among those with the lowest fraction of students performing below the "Low" benchmark of performance:

Table 1. Proportion of Students Below the “Low” Benchmark in 2011
Grade/ SubjectSingapore (%)International Average (%)
P4 Mathematics118
P4 Science319
P4 Reading312
S2 Mathematics127
S2 Science423
Table downloaded from a press release of the Ministry of Education, Singapore

Yet, the medium of instruction for math and the sciences in Singapore is not the mother tongue, but English. Outside Singapore is the country of Malaysia. Malaysia, like the Philippines, is facing problems in math and science education. The Malaysian Insider reports:
"...64 per cent and 66 per cent of Malaysia’s secondary students who had participated in the TIMSS study scored “Low” and “Below Low” in mathematics and science respectively...."
Similar to the Philippines, the medium of instruction has also been used as a scapegoat. Malaysia likewise has been experimenting on which language should be used as medium of instruction for math and the sciences. Over the years, policies seem to easily shift without careful research or gathering of evidence. And if there is evidence, there is no guarantee that the government would actually listen to research. In 2010, the following paper was published in the Journal of Science and Mathematics, Education in Southeast Asia:


The authors of the above paper conclude:
"The differences in their achievements highlight an important matter – the inaccuracy of the accusation that English as the medium of instruction in mathematics is the cause of the pupils’ less than ideal achievements in the said subject. This is because both groups of pupils were weak in content knowledge as evidenced by their low mean scores in both tests. Noteworthy as well was the fact that learners from the rural area were not significantly handicapped by the said language in their mathematics achievements. As for the urban pupils, while it was shown that they were slightly advantaged by the use of Bahasa Malaysia’s accommodation, the bulk of their inaccurate answers seem to originate from errors in content-knowledge. To reiterate a point made earlier, the pupils’ lower scores in the English Test should not summarily be assigned to the use of the English language as the medium of instruction alone. It is important to acknowledge that mathematical acumen also has a role to play in determining the pupils’ achievements in the said subject."

The difference between Singapore and Malaysia in math and science education is huge. More than 95% of Singapore children pass international exams in math and science. On the other hand, only about a third (34-36%) of Malaysian students pass. As the authors correctly state, perhaps, it is about time that we ask ourselves if we are in fact teaching students mathematics and the sciences. I actually do not think it is a wild guess that the problems lie in content teaching.










Thursday, February 14, 2013

Early Childhood Education and Reading Comprehension


Now, these initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing, all these things will help entrepreneurs and small-business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age. You know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That’s something we should be able to do.Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children -- like Georgia or Oklahoma -- studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
-US President Barack H. Obama - State of the Union Address , 2013


President Obama reiterated in his address the importance of early childhood education. It is at this stage of basic education that a child learns the basics of social interactions, reading, writing and counting. The early years set the stage for lifelong learning. Children are taught to read in the early grades so that by grade 4, they are ready to read to learn. Reading comprehension is the next step and it is hoped that the later years produce citizens who can read critically. In the reading dimension alone of the human mind, there are levels and basic education helps bring a child from one level to the next.

Reading comprehension requires more than recognition of letters in the alphabet. To make sense of a text, understanding how sentences are structured is important. Stories and ideas are expressed in writing but these can only be extracted by reading with familiarity and knowledge of the words used. There is no doubt that vocabulary plays a crucial role in reading comprehension. Without the knowledge of what words mean, reading comprehension becomes a daunting task.

When children are introduced to a language, vocabulary instruction is necessary. This is one of the reasons behind the need to provide high quality preschool education especially to poor children. As noted in a previous post in this blog, "Vocabulary and Learning", one major root of the achievement gap is the fact that children in poor households have been exposed to a very limited number of words. Children whose parents are professionals have already developed a vocabulary twice as big as those of children from poor families. Without knowing what words mean, reading comprehension, a key to learning content, becomes impossible. Enriching the vocabulary of children is therefore an important objective of early childhood education. How effective these early years of schooling in developing a child's vocabulary can be measured. One example has been recently published in the Elementary School Journal of the University of Chicago, "Vocabulary Instruction in Commonly Used Kindergarten Core Reading Curricula" by Tanya S. Wright and Susan B. Neuman. In this paper, the four popular kindergarten curricula were examined:
"...Using market research data, we selected the four most commonly used core reading curricula in kindergarten classrooms. Together, these four programs accounted for 52.3% of the market penetration in 2009–2010: Houghton Mifflin Reading (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) (18.3% market penetration), Scott Foresman Reading Street (Pearson Education, 2008) (13.7%), Harcourt Trophies (Harcourt, 2007) (10.8%), and Treasures (Macmillan/McGraw Hill, 2009) (9.5%). Because our goal was to understand curricular supports for vocabulary instruction, each curriculum was assigned a letter name to maintain its anonymity...."
These curricula were evaluated in terms of weekly scope and sequence, word selection and difficulty, frequency of instructional practice, review and progress monitoring, and instructional structure. With the first criterion, scope, as measured by the number of target vocabulary words per week, the four curricula were found to vary widely. One curriculum averages 21 words per week, a second one does 14 per week, while the other two average 3 words or less per week. Noting that children whose parents are professionals already have 1,100 words in their vocabulary by the age of 4, while those in welfare only know 500. The rate of 3 words per week leads to only 150 words per year. Clearly, to close the gap, at least a dozen target vocabulary words per week must be covered. Two of the four most popular kindergarten reading curricula do not meet this need.

The above concerns vocabulary breadth which depends solely on the number of words that are familiar to a student. There is also vocabulary depth. Proctor and co-workers outline three means by which a student can develop vocabulary depth in a 2011 paper in the journal Reading and Writing, "The role of vocabulary depth in predicting reading comprehension among English monolingual and Spanish–English bilingual children in elementary school". The first one is morphology, by knowing the root of a word, a child can have a clue of what the word means. It begins with inflectional morphology (e.g. boy + s = boys) to compound morphology (e.g. man + power = manpower), to derivational morphology (e.g. magic + ian = magician). A second means  is semantics, which highlights relationships between words. Words are related to concepts which sometimes bind such words into a family. Consider, for example, this set of words: cell, row, column, table. These words are related to each other within the context of presenting data in a particular fashion. Used separately and in a different context, a cell can mean a unit of a living organism, or a table can correspond to a furniture in a house. The last one is syntax. A language has a structure. There are subjects, verbs, objects, adjectives and adverbs. With syntax, a child maybe able to decipher the meaning of a word when one sees how such word is used in a sentence. A word that is appropriately and precisely used lends clues to what it means. It is one reason why James Paul Gee highlights the role of language in science:

Downloaded from  http://www.jamespaulgee.com/sites/default/files/pub/TeachingSciencetoELL-Ch07.pdf
The question in hand now is: How does this relate to Mother Tongue Based - Multi Lingual Education? How does a child taught in his or her native language develop both vocabulary breadth and depth in that language?  How many words in the native tongue does a child know before enrolling in kindergarten? These are important numbers for these provide an idea of what the starting point is. How many words in the native tongue does a child learn to read after kindergarten? How does the curriculum in the mother tongue achieve the objective of increasing vocabulary in the mother tongue? Can we quantify the number of words a child learns (breadth) and does a child develop skills necessary to navigate and discover new words (depth)?

Lastly, how does the transition to English instruction really occur? Are any of the vocabulary schemes transferable? Both breadth and depth in vocabulary allow for greater reading comprehension. In this aspect, reading is not solely seen as an objective of basic education. More importantly, reading is seen as a means for learning. The above studies concern the early years of education since vocabulary is seen as a foundation for the later years. Neglecting the foundation precludes building.






Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How a System Responds to Change

In the quest for alternative sources of energy, microorganisms can be tapped for the production of biofuels. Some Clostridium bacteria, for example, can produce butanol from the sugar that these microorganisms are fed. This scheme has not reached the desired yield yet to compete with industrial processes. One of the reasons involves unwanted responses from these living systems to the imposed perturbation. The desired product, for instance, when present in significant amounts, can be toxic to the bacteria. The microorganism can also alter pathways in its "chemical factory" that will reverse the process of producing the desired fuel and convert it into a nutrient that the microorganism can actually use. Photosynthetic bacteria also hold promise if the intrinsic ability of these organisms to harness sunlight can be utilized to produce fuel such as alkanes or hydrocarbons. Similarly, in these cases, the bacteria use sunlight to produce its nutrients for growth and survival. Channeling this process into production of something else elicits unwanted responses from the bacteria. Unable to use sunlight to generate its own food because it is forced to produce fuel instead results into the death of the organism. Systems respond to changes. Thus, it is necessary to analyze a system, understand how each component depends on each other, in order to anticipate possible responses to a perturbation that will be introduced.

Public basic education is a system and education reform is a major perturbation. An intelligent reform not only weighs and examines how the proposed changes will improve the system, but it also must put in place good monitoring measures to see in real time how the reform is taking place. Of course, pilot studies are important, but even with the best preliminary studies, problems of scaling as well as transferability still arise. In health care, when a physician prescribes a medicine, follow-ups and tests are usually necessary to monitor how a patient is responding to the therapy. Education is no different.

Recently, France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) spoke in a forum on DepEd's K to 12 at the Ateneo de Manila Uiversity:



These photos were downloaded from ACT's Facebook page
I was not in attendance in that forum. I do not have a transcript or a record of the presentation given by ACT's France Castro. However, based on the photos above, it is clear that this talk was not about praising DepEd's K to 12. The objections raised by ACT against DepEd's K to 12 have been related in various posts in this blog so it is probably unnecessary to repeat those points here. After all, DepEd's K to 12 is now simply awaiting the president's signature to make it completely legal in the Philippines. The perturbation, after all, has already been applied.

What is worth noting are some of the comments I saw provided by teachers to the photos posted by France Castro on Facebook. Some of these comments may appear to be trivial or "old story". However, these comments do carry very serious implications. The first comment (and this is perhaps expected because of the enormity of the reform) is about not having the materials necessary for the new curriculum. Related to this is the required training for the new curriculum is not reaching all the teachers that need to be trained. Teacher training is done by selection. A principal chooses from the teachers those who would be sent to regional seminars or training sessions and one teacher complains that this scheme plays to favoritism. These are "old stories". So what is new? Keeping the above comments in mind and looking at how language is taught in the new DepEd's K to 12 curriculum leads to serious implications:

The above figure, screen captured from
http://englishgrade1ph.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/grade-1-english-curriculum-presentation.pdf
The above summarizes in a way the language component of the curriculum of Grade 1 in the new DepEd K to 12 curriculum. The lack of materials is important especially when the text for reading is not available in the mother tongue. Without any text to read, there is really nothing in the curriculum that allows students to learn to read. Everything seems oral. Thus, one comment (which I have translated and edited) goes:
...There is no reading in grade one. What will happen to our pupils when they go to grade 2. All they could do right now is to express their ideas by speaking and singing. Is this not the same as kindergarten? Formal lessons in reading start only in grade 2.. I really do not know where this new DepEd K to 12 curriculum will lead us. As they say, it is already here so we might as well embrace and do everything we can....