Mother Tongue Emphasized After New k-to-12 Curriculum

Philippines—Last May, President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III signed into law the legislation involving the new K-to-12 (Kindergarten to Grade 12) curriculum, based on the 2013 Enhanced Basic Education Act. Apart from extending the basic education to include kindergarten and Grades 11 and 12, the new curriculum establishes a bilingual education based on the students mother tongue, which should be taught from Grades 1 to 3. The twelve mother tongues included are: Iloko, Bikol, Pangasinense, Chabacano, Hiligaynon, Bahasa Sug, Kapampangan, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Cebuano, Tagalog and Waray-Waray.


So far, professors have reported a positive outcome, with students showing enthusiasm and excitement towards the classes and their content. The rationale behind the measure is based on the belief that teaching children new content in a language they are not most familiar with implies adding an extra load on them. Given 75 percent of Filipino children use a native language at home, using this mother tongue at school allows for the creation of a solid foundation, which will make them confident in their oral skills and can promote involvement in the classes.


Teachers have argued that the old curriculum encouraged rote learning, as children were taught to memorize content they did not understand due to a language barrier. With the new curriculum, participation has increased, which is central to the lower grades which are aimed at improving communication skills. According to the supporters of the K-to-12 curriculum, once students are confident enough in their own language and used to speaking in class, the transition to another language such as English will be easier due to the solid basis on which each student has learnt.


Mercedes Arzadon, a professor at the University of the Philippines, has recently advocated in favour of taking the changes one step further when she stated that the law should not prescribe the way in which teachers are supposed to teach. She said each teacher knows when their students are ready to move on from one language to another one and that they should be allowed to learn in their own mother tongue as long as they want. Arzadon pointed out that if a child wants to grow up to become a novelist in their own mother tongue, that child should be given the opportunity to do so.

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