Policies, Practices, and Prospects in Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Synergies for Sustainable and Inclusive Basic Education in the Philippines*

*A Paper Presented at the 8th National Social Science Congress, 15-17 June 2016, Lyceum of the Philippines University-Batangas, Batangas City


I.  Introduction

Broadly, this paper shall present an overview of the policy implementation of mother tongue-based multilingual education in the Philippines within the purview of Republic Act No. 10533, popularly referred to as the K12 Law. With policy reform as the primary concern, this paper seeks to understand the synergies in the implementation, identifying relationships that exist among stakeholders and their role and influence, if any, in the success or failure of the program. This paper also examines if the program implementation is in keeping with the policy provisions as well as the underlying theories and assumptions of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE). Specifically, this paper presents a case of implementation at the community level.

This paper utilizes the data from a study commissioned by the University of the Philippines-Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP-CIDS) on the implementation synergy of MTBMLE in schools and the broader community in view of the provisions of Republic Act 10533, also known as the K12 Law. Using purposive sampling, the study was conducted in selected areas in seven regions in the Philippines, namely: Ilocos, Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Western Mindanao, Central Mindanao, and Southern Mindanao. The study started with consultative forums and orientation about the study where key stakeholders are invited and interviewed. The key stakeholders include the Department of Education through its officials at various levels, teachers, students, parents, non-governmental organizations, parents-teacher associations, local government units, local media, local writers and artists, private sector and business, people’s organizations, higher education institutions, and elders of ethnolinguistic groups. The study was concluded on December 2015 and this paper benefits from the baseline information gathered. For this paper, however, the focus is on the case of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School in Tacurong City, in the province of Sultan Kudarat.

MTBMLE is “starting where the children are,” to borrow the title of a book on the subject. It is the use of a learner’s first language as the medium of learning. Positions vary as to the length of exposure to first-language learning to achieve proficiency. Some scholars argue for longer exposure (Thomas and Collier 1997) while others propose an early exit. MTBMLE practices also vary according to social contexts. In parts of Southeast Asia, community-based implementation is the preferred mode as is an inexpensive and sustainable.

The key policy provisions examined in this paper are to be found in Sections 4 and 5 (c), (f), (h) of RA 10533. Section 4 provides that “for kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.

For purposes of this Act, mother language or first Language (LI) refers to language or languages first learned by a child, which he/she identifies with, is identified as a native language user of by others, which he/she knows best, or uses most. This includes Filipino sign language used by individuals with pertinent disabilities. The regional or native language refers to the traditional speech variety or variety of Filipino sign language existing in a region, area or place.”

Meanwhile, in Section 5, the following explicit provisions provide the basis for MTBMLE implementation:

(c)       The curriculum shall be culture-sensitive;

(f)       The curriculum shall adhere to the principles and framework of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) which starts from where the learners are and from what they already knew proceeding from the known to the unknown; instructional materials and capable teachers to implement the MTB-MLE curriculum shall be available; and

(h)      The curriculum shall be flexible enough to enable and allow schools to localize, indigenize and enhance the same based on their respective educational and social contexts. The production and development of locally produced teaching materials shall be encouraged and approval of these materials shall devolve to the regional and division education units.

Section 12 of RA 10533 provides for the formulation of strategies for transition from the old 10-year basic education cycle to the enhanced 12-year system, and from the bilingual English-Filipino education policy across levels to MTBMLE for the early grades with a transition provision of up to Grade 6


II. Language-in-Education Policy Evolution

The Philippines’ language-in-education policy has evolved with the imperatives of the state and its institutions over time and the policy embedded in the fundamental law defines the tenor by which government responds to the educational demands of the time. During the Spanish colonial period, our school system had Spanish as the official medium of instruction. The use of Spanish language is extended to civil service and business. During the short-lived first Philippine Republic, the 1899 Malolos Constitution made Spanish compulsory in public and judicial affairs. During the American period, English replaced Spanish as the official State language and the language used in commerce and trade. Eventually, the post-war establishment of the Philippine Republic precipitated also a shift in language-in-education policy. But as early as the Commonwealth period, former president Manuel L. Quezon had already envisioned a national language based on Tagalog, the lingua franca of his region and his mother tongue. Quezon’s vision is articulated in Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1935 Constitution, which provides that “The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages.” In response, the First National Assembly approved in November 13, 1936 Commonwealth Act No. 184, mandating the creation of the National Language Institute (NLI).

The goal of the Institute was to recommend one of the existing native languages to be used as the basis for a national language. On December 30, 1937, President Quezon signed Executive Order No. 134 s. 1937 proclaiming the national language of the Philippines based on Tagalog language as recommended by the members of the NLI. The said executive order would precipitate initiatives for full policy institutionalization, namely a national language based on Tagalog. The institutionalization of the Tagalog-based national language, then called Pilipino, found traction during the Japanese occupation when it was used as the language of the propaganda, bringing the language to areas where it was not even spoken, much less understood. However, the national language project was not without opposition as there were more non-Tagalog speakers in the Philippines at the time compared to Tagalog speakers.

The language divide that pervaded for decades was left unresolved even after the passage of the 1973 Constitution. Article XV, Section 3 (2) which provides that “the Batasang Pambansa shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.” Nevertheless, the provision did not serve to calm the unrest among majority non-Tagalog speakers over the non-feasibility of the provision because as an artificial language, Filipino lacked both native speakers and a literary tradition to help propagate it.

In light of the 1973 Constitution, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) released DECS Order No. 25 s. 1974, entitled “Implementing Guidelines for the Policy on Bilingual Education,” which served as a basis for the institutionalization of bilingual education policy in basic education. The Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) “aims at the achievement of competence in both Filipino and English at the national level, through the teaching of both languages and their use as media of instruction at all levels.  The regional languages shall be used as auxiliary languages in Grades I and II.  The aspiration of the Filipino nation is to have its citizens possess skills in Filipino to enable them to perform their functions and duties in order to meet the needs of the country in the community of nations.” The BEP is sustained in the succeeding language policy as embodied in the 1987 Constitution, with the following goals: (1) enhanced learning through two languages to achieve quality education as called for by the 1987 Constitution; (2) the propagation of Filipino as a language of literacy; (3) the development of Filipino as a linguistic symbol of national unity and identity; (4) the cultivation and elaboration of Filipino as a language of scholarly discourse, that is to say its continuing intellectualization; and (5) the maintenance of English as an international language for the Philippines and as a non-exclusive language of science and technology. Filipino and English shall be used as media of instruction, the use allocated to specific subjects in the curriculum as indicated in the DECS Order No. 25 s. 1974.

In effect, the 1987 Constitution upholds the designation of Tagalog-based Filipino as the national language. Article XIV, Section 6 provides that “The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, 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.”

However, Section 7 of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution provides for the inclusion of regional languages as auxiliary official languages that can be used as an auxiliary media of instruction. Section 9 of Article XIV underscores the promotion, research, development, propagation, and preservation of Filipino and other languages (emphasis mine). In light of the new Constitution, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports issued DECS Order No. 81 s. 1987 containing the Alphabet and a Guide for Spelling in the Filipino Language. The Order stipulated that the Filipino alphabet is composed of 28 letters comprised of the original 26 letters of the English alphabet, plus the letters Ñ and Ng. The order also provides instruction on how to read the letters. On August 25, 1988, then President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 335 enjoining all government offices to take steps necessary for the purpose of using Filipino language in official transactions, communications and correspondence.

On August 14, 1991, President Corazon Aquino signed into law Republic Act 7104 creating the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), which is tasked to “undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages.” On May 13, 1992, the KWF under Ponciano B. P. Pineda passed Resolution 92-1, describing Filipino as a native language, spoken and written in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region, and in urban centers in the archipelago where it is used as a language for communication among ethnic groups. Like any other language, Filipino is evolving as it draws from other native and non-native Philippine languages and their varieties as it is used in various situations by speakers for colloquial and for scholarly purposes.

In 1994, President Ramos signed into law Republic Act No. 7722 creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). In 1996, the Commission issued CMO No. 59 s. 1996, which states that “in consonance with the Bilingual Education Policy underlined  in DECS Order No. 52, Series of 1987, the following are the guidelines vis-a-vis medium of instruction, to wit: (1) language courses, whether Filipino or English, should be taught in that language. (2) At the discretion of the HEI, Literature subjects may be taught in Filipino, English or any other language as long as there are enough instructional materials for the same and both students and instructors/professors are competent in the language. Courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences should preferably be taught in Filipino.”

Between 1995 and 2009, there have been numerous attempts at policy legislation to strengthen and make English as the medium of instruction at all levels. In the 13th Congress, for example, the House of Representatives passed on third reading the so-called English Only Bill (HB 1339) by Cebuano congressman Eduardo Gullas Jr. However, the Senate failed to act on the Bill, which was intended to supersede the bilingual education policy that is still in place since 1974. The English Only Bill didn’t muster legislative strength and on July 14, 2009, the Department of Education issued DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 mandating the institutionalization of the mother tongue-based multilingual education in Philippine basic education. In 2010, the new administration under President Aquino introduced a major education reform via the K12 program and in 2011, he signed into law Republic Act 10533, which subsumes the provisions of DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 in Sections 4 and 5.

Yet the most compelling argument for shifting the language-in-education-policy is the outcome of the bilingual policy that has been in place since 1974. While the 1987 Constitution takes notice of regional languages as auxiliary languages, the bilingual education policy in effect is patently English and Filipino only. The Asian Development Bank and World Bank, in a study, pointed to dismal performance and poor mastery of reading and writing skills in Filipino and English of students under the 1987 BEP, which allows use of regional languages as transition languages in Grades 1 and 2 only (ADB and WB 1998). The study, however, pointed out that the failure of the BEP is not due to resistance but stems from its operationalization, which includes factors such as teacher competence, teacher upgrading, instructional materials, support, the same issues that now attend the implementation of MTBMLE within K12.


III. Underlying Theories and Assumptions

Mother tongue-based multilingual education is contextualized within the fold of Education for All (EFA) which requires that new models of development and language and education policies that are integrative in character and operation be put in place to ensure sustainability of education programs (Malone 2003). The institutionalization of MTBMLE in the Philippines through Republic Act 10533 is a product of a long process involving theory building, validation, and evidenced-based advocacy driven enough to sustain until a certain level of recognition is achieved.

A survey of research reports on the use of language in education revealed that using the learner’s mother tongue facilitates literacy, learning of academic content, acquisition of a second language (enabling learners to be bilingual) and overall academic achievement. Parents, on the other hand, become more involved and teachers are able to assess learning achievement better (Kosonen 2005). In the First Iloilo Experiment (1948-1954), the test results showed that the experimental group using Hiligaynon as the language of instruction was significantly superior in proficiency in language and reading tests and in tests on arithmetic and social studies subjects compared to the control group using English for the same tests among Grades 1 and 2 pupils. For Grades 3 to 6, the experimental group obtained higher proficiency in reading and higher achievement levels in arithmetic and social studies than the control group that learned English starting in Grade 1 (Aguilar 1961). In a similar experiment that spanned ten years known as the Lubuagan Experiment in Lubuagan, Kalinga Province, test results showed significant and consistent advantage for children in the experimental group using Lilubuagen across all subjects in the curriculum compared to the performance registered by children in the control group using the prevailing bilingual instruction in English and Filipino (Walker and Dekker 2011). In African countries, the use of the mother tongue has positive implication for social development as more girls are able to enter school, repeat classes less frequently, and stay longer in school (Benson 2010). A local study lends credence to this as it finds that accessibility to the medium of instruction by the learners contributes to minimization of a phenomenon called school leaving (Nava 2009). Additionally, a longitudinal study spanning 11 years involving a total of more than 210,000 students in both urban and rural schools in the United States showed results that students with the longest exposure to their mother tongue outperform the average native English speaker. Students who had an early exit—those that switched to English only after the third grade—in their mother tongue education performed poorly in the latter years (Thomas and Collier 1997).

In terms of operationalizing MTBMLE, Kosonen made a comparative study of language- in-education issues in South-East Asia and China. Drawing observations about general trends, he noted that community-based implementation with a sense of local ownership is the inexpensive, efficient and sustainable way to implement MTBMLE. External stakeholders including local or foreign linguists, educators and academics, NGOs and funding agencies must link with the local stakeholders and should cooperate and coordinate with various stakeholders (Kosonen 2005a). Kosonen’s assertion echoes a Unesco study whose findings of case studies in Southeast Asian countries reveal that community-based and community-managed mother tongue literacy program that is led by a team of local implementers and managers selected by the community is the preferred model (UNESCO 2005).

Malone holds the view that a strong MTBMLE program draws much of its strength from research where baseline information such as language and education situation are ascertained and factors such as challenges and difficulties in program implementation are obtained and carefully analyzed. In a study that examined why reforms in the Department of Education did not transform, it was determined that previous language-in-education policies failed because these were oblivious to research evidence that instructed otherwise (Bautista, Bernardo and Ocampo 2010).

Social acceptance and buy-in are important in that stakeholders should be adequately informed about initiatives that affect them. Higher awareness levels often result in greater mobilization for program support at various phases. Meanwhile, bringing in the right people into the program is an equally important component and refers to competent, motivated, respected, and passionate policy champions. Orthography development is another component required of a strong MTBMLE. In several instances, orthography development proves to be contentious. Protests are held by linguistic communities whose members believe that some agencies of government have stripped them of ownership of their own orthography because they are not involved in its development process. Bow noted that the trend worldwide in the development of writing and spelling system of a particular language community is moving away from an expert or linguist driven process. The preferred mode is a community-based participatory process where the linguist serves as a ‘midwife’ in a workshop that discusses linguistic and non-linguistic issues associated with orthography development (standardization, representation, transparency, acceptability) and propose a plan of action to meet a commonly desired outcomes (Bow 2012). The study in Zambia shows that such model may be challenging and complicated yet community participation can still happen as what people did in Region XII and in other areas where orthography development is being undertaken. This process promotes a sense of ownership and custodianship over their own orthography (Bow 2012).

Curriculum and instructional materials are a given in any learning environment. The curriculum and learning materials enable learners to build strong foundations of the first language (L1) and a bridge to additional languages. The materials should be responsive, contextualized and localized and enable learners to improve performance and achieve education goals, as the case of the MLE+ intervention in Orissa, India lends itself as an example. The Orisa intervention is holistic, culturally situated and historically informed of culturally embedded social, mathematical, literacy and science practices, taking into account the everyday practices and knowledge of the communities that inform the classroom as well as community-based activities such as training given to parents (Panda and Mohanti 2009).

The learning materials should also be appropriate, interesting, challenging, and engaging. It must be noted that communities have diverse socio-economic patterns that must be considered in determining levels of literacy development and in designing appropriate programs to improve literacy skill. Aside from macro-level (nation-state) and micro-level (individual) measures and determinants of literacy, given the new construct of literacy as a social practice, there ought to be a means to study and develop literacy at the community level (Bernardo 2000).

As with any policy or program, a monitoring and evaluation component is necessary to allow implementers and key program stakeholders to make adjustments and to draw lessons and best practices from the implementation. In many cases, it is through monitoring and evaluation that some flaws inherent in program design are discovered. Funding is another major component, and Malone cautions that it should be regular, available, and sustainable and a supportive policy environment is what provides permanence and strength to a program to survive in the long term.

According to Ball, education programs and policies are influenced by several factors in spheres (Ball 2010). Ball contends that a child’s early education is influenced in spheres by—from the most to the least proximate—family, programs in education, training and resources, research, policies and funding, and the macrosystem values. These spheres of influence relates closely with Malone’s framework, in that they correspond on training, research, policies and funding. The programs sphere in Ball’s has to do with curriculum and graded learning materials in Malone’s. The sphere for macro system values is what we often refer to as the ‘big picture,’ and relates to understanding policy formulation within the policy system model.

Meanwhile, a central theme in policies and programs administration in post-centralist regimes is participatory governance, which results from dynamic interactions between government, business, and civil society organizations in the formulation of state policies, implementation of government programs, projects and activities, and in ensuring government transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation (Lucas and Tolentino 2006), and therefore must find its place in every aspects and processes in social development initiatives that aspire to be inclusive such as MTBMLE.

Among the key elements in participatory governance are people’s mobilization and training and awareness raising on participatory mechanisms (Lucas and Tolentino 2006) that provide space for civil society organizations (CSOs) to engage with government agencies together with other key stakeholders. It must be noted that CSOs play an important role in public policy making and program implementation, as in the case of MTBMLE implementation in many areas of the Philippines. The rationale for participatory governance has always been to exact accountability, transparency, and responsibility from government as was the case in the years after EDSA which saw the rise of CSOs as a reaction to the opaque Marcos regime. Training and awareness, as viewed by Malone and Ball, are pursued to encourage better citizen participation and good leadership and governance in local bodies, such as in the Local School Board, the parent’s teachers association, the local education councils and other organizations that engage with the Department of Education.

Participatory governance is closely associated to collaborative governance, defined as a governing arrangement where public agencies directly engage with non-state stakeholders in a collective decision making process that is formal, consensus-oriented and deliberative for the purpose of making or implementing public policy or in managing public programs and projects (Ansell and Gash 2008). Echoing Ansell and Gass, Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh define collaborative governance as the processes and structures of public policy decision making and management that engage people constructively across the boundary of public agencies, levels of government, and public, private and civic spheres to carry out a public purpose that could not be accomplished otherwise (Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh 2011). The Ansell and Gash definition, meanwhile, highlights six important criteria: (1) the forum is initiated by public agencies or institutions, (2) participants in the public forum include non-state actors, (3) participants engage directly in decision making and are not merely consulted by public agencies, (4) the forum is formally organized and meets collectively, (5) the forum aims to make decision by consensus, and (6) the focus of collaboration is on public policy or public management (Ansell and Gash 2008). This definition is what guided the research from which this paper is fashioned out and wherein forums initiated by the research proponent, in this case the UP-CIDS, were conducted in the regional centers of the research sites. For a clearer understanding, governance is to be understood as the development of governing styles in which boundaries between and within public and private sectors have blurred.

There is also the need to differentiate collaborative context in network governance from hierarchical systems in terms of leadership. While leaders in network systems spend more time motivating personnel, creating trust, treating others as equals, maintaining a close-knit group, hierarchical leaders spend more time focusing on scheduling, assigning, and coordinating work (Silvia 2011). This differentiation is a valuable insight in the analysis as well as in the identification of advocacy champions of public policy in question from either the public or private sector.

As collaboration becomes more complex as more stakeholders participate, there is a need to keep an eye on the inclusion process. When managed appropriately, the inclusion process can be an active force in creating the virtuous and reinforcing cycle of trust, commitment, understanding, communication, and outcomes that mark successful collaboration (Johnston et al 2010).

Dodge contends that civil society organizations have a role to play in policy formulation and deliberative democratic decision making through what she calls ‘storylines.’ Storylines are narratives used to shift the dynamics of the deliberative system and to advance the CSO’s own interpretation of issues and policy making processes to set the agenda, to construct the content and form of public deliberation to change the rules of the game in shaping meanings related to policy, and align forums and arenas of the discourse across the system (Dodge 2014).

In the Philippine experience, the MTBMLE institutionalization is very much a product of narratives that were brought to the national consciousness by advocates who documented the splinter initiatives in various communities of practice and transform these into one compelling action agenda for decision-making, eventually bringing MTBMLE into the educational mainstream by legislation through the K12 Law. This is an important point for assessment as this provides for a clear triangulation between theories, policies, and community practices.

As with any policy or program, the success of MTBMLE implementation is partly hinged on the kind and quality of the planning involved in different levels, for which this research tried to determine. Margerum asserts that meaningful and effective planning must be based on a two-way communication flow between the public and the planning agency, in this case the DepEd or its specific implementing unit, emphasizing communicative and interactive nature of planning practice achieved through collaborative planning (Margerum 2002). There is so much value in invoking collaborative planning in view of participatory governance demanded of successful policy implementation. Collaborative planning, from the perspective of project or program management, ensures half the success; the other half being the proper implementation. For an inclusive program such as MTBMLE, collaborative planning would come in handy as it involves interaction in the form of partnerships in the course building consensus, development planning, and implementation. Because collaborative planning means collaborative decision making, it is imperative that the key stakeholders are involved in all its three phases: in the problem-setting phase, in the direction-setting phase, and the implementation phase where they work individually and jointly (Margerum 2002).

Finally, a number of issues associated with K12, of which MTBMLE is a major component, is linked much to the very policy design of the K12 Law itself. As noted by Howlett, policy design process is complex, often internally orchestrated between bureaucrats and target groups and usually much less accessible to public scrutiny than many other kinds of policy deliberations (Howlett 2014). As established in this research, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of 10533 is disjointed from the main law itself, allowing for arbitrary interpretation.

The MTBMLE narrative is full of struggles. In the policy arena, it had to contend with castrations[1] as Prof. Ricardo Nolasco of the UP Department of Linguistics noted the diminution of the salient provisions of K12 that are watered down, making options out of these otherwise educational imperatives.

Nolasco echoed the sentiments of Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, the MTBMLE champion in the House of Representatives since the 13th Congress until RA 10533 was passed in the 16th Congress, who parried attempts to thwart MTBMLE in favor of an English Only Bill championed in the same chamber by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, whose known motive was to support then President Arroyo’s agenda of expanding the BPO sector where frontline service workers need to be proficient in the English language.[2] In fact, as recently as the 16th Congress, Mrs. Arroyo, now representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga, filed House Bill No. 311 seeking to enhance the use of English as the medium of instruction in Philippine schools.

What Howlett conveys is that translating policy aims and objectives into practice is not as simple as it might appear, hence the need to monitor its implementation guided by relevant theories and assumptions. In moving to a new policy design thinking, Howlett suggests starting with the basic reality that there are a variety of different actors interacting with each other for a long period of time within the confines of political and economic institutions governed by norms and standards, each of them with different interests and resources, yet all operating within a climate of uncertainty caused both by context and time-specific knowledge and information limitations as the basis of design efforts (Howlett 2014). It is in this light that civil society organizations and other stakeholders maximize their participation in the policy making processes where allowed to guarantee that the outcome reflects the negotiated form and substance of a given policy. Needless to underscore, social mobilization and awareness play an important role in maximizing such participation.


IV. Practices, Partnerships and Synergies: Experience in Selected Areas

Synergy is the confluence and convergence of varying interests unified by a common goal to ensure effective policy implementation. It capitalizes on the strengths, expertise, and specialization of each part in dealing with specific tasks, issues, or concerns that affect the whole as in a consortium (Harris 1981). However, in presenting the case here, the synergies are to be examined on at least two levels, at the national and at the level of the community of practice (COP) to locate specific issues and challenges as well as the emerging practices in the policy implementation of MTBMLE.

The DepEd is the principal national government agency tasked in implementing the state policy on basic education, including specific provisions contained in Republic Act No. 10533. Despite its size, scope of operations, DepEd does not have all the technical expertise necessary to fully support policy implementation. For this reason, the DepEd forges partnerships with different stakeholders. At the macro level, the DepEd works with higher education institutions in the development of orthographies and learning materials and in training teachers in the use of the developed materials.[3] The Department of Linguistics of the University of the Philippines Diliman, for example, has been continuously providing assistance to DepEd on initiatives and concerns pertinent to orthography and linguistics research. Faculties from the College of Education of the same university have been consulted as well by the DepEd on pedagogy and assessments. Scholars from various state universities such as the University of the Philippines Baguio, Philippine Normal University (PNU) and Leyte Normal University (LNU) have also been engaged by the DepEd through its various regional units for the skills training of public school teachers in learning materials development and production. Aside from the academia, the DepEd also consults with the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) in providing guidance on orthography development in some areas.

The Philippine Normal University in Manila has pioneered a graduate level program that offers advanced studies for MTBMLE practitioners and education students who wish to further their skills and knowledge in multilingual education that will come in handy upon their induction into the teaching profession. As a leading teacher education institution (TEI), PNU has lent its resources to the DepEd for the various departmental initiatives in the institutionalization and strengthening of MTBMLE and provided the venue for various teacher training programs. Furthermore, PNU also maintains at least two centers that work on producing quality teachers and ensuring the delivery of quality education to learners—the Center for Planning and Quality Assurance and the Philippine National Research Center for Teacher Quality.  In Leyte, academics at the LNU have initiated a project that put together the first 1,000 commonly used words in Waray into a Waray-English dictionary that serves as an important resource for MTBMLE educators in the region. This is among the HEI initiatives in the region in a collaborative response to the needs of MTBMLE implementers who have difficulty navigating the challenge of teaching and managing multilingual classrooms.

For years, the DepEd has been in partnership with a number of international non-governmental organizations in its programs and projects, among the more recent with the USAID’s for the Basa Pilipinas Project which has complemented the education department’s supply of reading materials in the early grades by producing story books for children in their own languages. For technical assistance, the DepEd has engaged consultants from the Summer of Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Talaytayan MLE Consortium. The DepEd has also mobilized resources by partnering with Save the Children, another international non-governmental organization involved in child welfare with strong presence in the Philippines. Countless other NGOs, both local and foreign-based, have partnered with the DepEd in its various programs and projects. A relatively new player to engage with DepEd is Teach for the Philippines, [4] which deploys a cadre of young teacher volunteers to selected schools across the archipelago to fill in some gaps in the teaching force. Many of these volunteer teachers are graduates of top notch education schools.

The private and the business sector are an important and fairly represented stakeholder. The numerous chambers of commerce have been donating school buildings to the DepEd. Other groups of civic-minded business people also engage with DepEd by offering free English language training courses to public high school students and graduates who wish to be part of the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.[5] Still, other business groups such as the Philippine Business for Education or PBED work to complement the teaching force of DepEd by mobilizing the business community to finance the scholarships of prospective teachers in partnership with teacher education institutions.[6]

The international donor community is also among the major education stakeholders. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have continuously provided aid packages to the Philippine government to achieve its education goals. The facility provided by these donors is a major resource for the country as it aims to meet the local, regional, and global goals in education as spelled out in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. This group also extends valuable technical assistance to the education sector by funding and conducting researches that examine various issues and challenges that affect the sector.

The media, for their part, play a rather significant yet indirect role in education on account of their ability to deliver educational information with pervasiveness and wider reach. Except perhaps in areas where television or Internet connection has low penetration rates, or where the latter suffers from poor connection, the rest of the country is fairly covered by media as well as the Internet and social media. However, DepEd’s relationship with the media has always been passive, often reduced to the usual coverage of DepEd events, especially controversial ones that invite public curiosity and scrutiny from time to time. Hence, the huge potential of media as major partner in improving the delivery, and possibly quality, of instruction aside from projecting DepEd as either ill- or well-managed organization has not been fully tapped.

One of the most enduring partnerships that DepEd has forged is with local government units (LGUs) by way of the Local School Board (LSB) where DepEd and LGUs work together to address school and education related concerns within their jurisdiction. While by law the LSBs are established in all LGUs in the Philippines, the kind and quality of relationship between the LGUs and the DepEd at various levels vary from one local school board to the next, the resulting synergies of which affect the implementation of national and local education policies, programs, and initiatives. The local school board system is a creation of Republic Act 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991. Co-chaired by the local chief executive and the highest DepEd official at the district or division level, the LSB serves as an advisory committee to the municipal, city or provincial council on educational matters, including uses of local appropriations for educational purposes involving the Special Education Fund drawn from special tax on real property imposed by local governments to supplement the budget requirements in the operation and maintenance of public schools.

Finally, the parents are as important stakeholders as teachers. Among the earliest forms of partnership in education—long before the establishment of local school boards and the advent of non-governmental organizations—was between parents and teachers through the Parent Teacher Association, now fully institutionalized and present in all public schools under DepEd. Its role has evolved and its privileges as well as accountabilities have been further clarified in a DepEd Memorandum Order No. 54. 2009.

A. Macro Components, Synergies and Cross-collaborations for Sustainable MTBMLE Implementation

At the macro level, the following components for sustainable MTBMLE implementation are established: (a) preliminary research, (b) awareness raising and mobilization, (c) recruitment and training, (d) acceptable orthography, (e) local development of materials, (f) teacher training/preparation, (g) availability of graded learning materials, (h) mechanisms for coordination and monitoring and evaluation, (i) availability and accessibility of funding to sustain the program, and (j) supportive policy environment.

The institutionalization of MTBMLE in DepEd in the middle of 2009 via DepEd Order No. 74 s. 2009 was guided by research and evidence culled from the studies of Aguilar known as the Iloilo Experiment and also from the results of the Lubuagan Experiment. MTBMLE, in effect, is a corrective policy of the failure of previous language-in-education policies for not heeding research evidence that instructed otherwise (Bautista, Bernardo and Ocampo 2010).

Awareness raising and mobilization for wider public acceptance and support for MTBMLE did not fall on DepEd’s shoulder alone as advocacy groups and NGOs, both based locally and internationally, also took part in this challenging task to ensure the program is understood by a larger audience.

The first adopters and implementers of MTBMLE pre-RA 10533 were among the recruits who were trained to implement the program. They were chosen from various schools and ethnolinguistic backgrounds across the country and were assembled for an intensive training on all facets and aspects of MTBMLE, including orthography, materials development and in the use of the materials they developed. Some of the early adopters eventually became MTBMLE champions in their schools and communities. Recruitment and training of the right people who will ensure the sustainable implementation is ongoing especially in view of the need to fill up at least thirty thousand teaching positions across levels with the full implementation of K12.

Orthography development for languages with no spelling system in place is ongoing, and DepEd at various levels works closely with its partners—advocacy groups and NGOs—to complete this task, especially for the languages identified as MOIs in the two departmental orders issued in 2012 and 2013. The KWF, another government agency, is also involved in this undertaking.

Though marred by confusion on the meaning and extent of the devolution in production and approval, local development of materials is ongoing in various communities in varying degrees of difficulty and success, depending on factors such as time, talents, and resources necessary for this endeavor.

Teacher training and preparation is now aligned with K12 and other existing policies and agreements and quality commitments. TEIs/HEIs, in view of the reforms in basic and higher education, are in close coordination with other key stakeholders such as Tesda, NGOs, the business community and the private sector over a shared mission of improving instruction and the quality of graduates produced by these institutions.

Graded learning materials are now available and accessible via DepEd’s Learning Materials Development and Management System which maintains an online hub utilizing the Internet and cloud computing. The LRMDS is the repository of all resources relevant to the implementation of K12 and other programs. The quantity and quality of the said materials are continuously being monitored, evaluated, and improved.

The system for coordination and monitoring and evaluation is also in place, allowing the stakeholders and the public in general to provide feedback necessary to further improve MTBMLE and other programs’ implementation. This component is also linked to a government-wide performance measurement system designed to optimize resource utilization invested into such program.

Funding for sustainable MTBMLE implementation is made permanent and available upon the passage of Republic Act 10533, which guarantees allocation to the program. However, access to funds has been further rationalized to minimize leakage and non-utilization as absorptive capacities of government agencies such as DepEd is continuously being reviewed.

Lastly, a supportive policy environment is in place, starting with the legislation of K12 which embraces MTBMLE and the issuances of supporting legislations and departmental orders to ensure full policy implementation.

As far as exploring synergies, linear or direct and cross-collaborative arrangements are noted in this paper as far as engagements by DepEd with other stakeholders and as far as stakeholders other than DepEd collaborate with each other across components and levels of policy implementation. The following are the direct or liner collaborative arrangements:

DepEd and HEIs/TEIs. DepEd under this arrangement has entered arrangements with the faculties from College of Education and the Department of Linguistics of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippine Normal University Main, University of Philippines Baguio, Leyte Normal University. The partnership and collaboration pertain to the provision of skills training for public school teachers in orthography development, materials development and their proper use, pedagogy, reading, and assessments.

DepEd and other government agency/ies. DepEd has a working relationship with KWF as the latter is being consulted by DepEd on matters relating to use of Filipino as the national language. DepEd also partners with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples or NCIP for the delivery of instruction to indigenous peoples communities across the country. The CCT Program of the government, also known as 4Ps, brings DepEd DoH, DSWD together in a close partnership as they cater to a common clientele—disadvantaged school-age children who need to be nourished and in school and whose mothers’ maternal health needs require attention.

DepEd and international and local NGOs. DepEd has also engaged SIL and Save the Children for skills training on materials development and orthography development workshops. Its engagement with the advocacy group Talaytayan MLE Consortium also involves skills training and awareness raising and social mobilization. DepEd also benefits its engagement with Teach for the Philippines, a local counterpart of Teach for America, which deploys young teacher volunteers to school communities in need.

DepEd and business community and the private sector. DepEd and PBED are working together to train teachers to complement DepEd’s teaching force. DepEd also benefits from the philanthropic and civic minded organizations in terms of donations ranging from personal computers to classrooms to entire buildings.

DepEd and international donor organizations. The World Bank and Asian Development bank are a constant source of fund for DepEd’s reform initiatives and together they have developed tools and interventions toward these ends. DepEd is in partnership with USAID through the Basa Piipinas Project that provides, among others, big books for use in the early grades. Is it also in partnership with Australian Aid for Scholarships for Teacher Education Programs to Upgrade Teacher Quality in the Philippines or STEP UP.

DepEd and media. The media have been helpful to DepEd in disseminating information that needs to reach the widest audience possible. Due to its reach, nearly all regional units of DepEd are covered in their activities.

DepEd and LGUs. DepEd and local government units are said to be inseparable partners because of the so-called forced marriage that binds them in the form of the LSB, which serves as an advisory committee to the municipal, city or provincial council on educational matters, including uses of local appropriations for educational purposes involving the Special Education Fund drawn from special tax on real property imposed by local governments to supplement the budget requirements in the operation and maintenance of public schools.

DepEd and Parents. The partnership between DepEd and parents via the PTA precedes all partnerships and even considered by some as the most important at the school level. This partnership is further strengthened by DepEd Memorandum Order No. 54. s. 2009.

The following are cross-collaborations are noted in this paper:

NGO/Private Sector and International Donor Organization. PBED has a partnership with Australian Aid and DepEd for Scholarships for Teacher Education Programs to Upgrade Teacher Quality in the Philippines or STEP UP. STEP-UP is a scholarship campaign by  PBEd, funded by the Australian Government, under the Basic Education Sector Transformation (BEST) program that seeks to attract good-performing college graduates and professionals into the teaching profession by offering them competitive scholarship packages. According to its website, a total of 1,000 scholarships will be awarded to deserving candidates between the years of 2015 to 2019. The goal of the program is to produce 1,000 high quality teachers ready for public school employment by 2019.

Among International Donor Organizations. The World Bank and ADB have joint undertakings for the Philippine basic education sector, principally through the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda or BESRA which ran from 2005 to 2010, which supports the institutionalization of MTBMLE in the country. This undertaking is also participated in by Australian Aid and USAID.

Higher Education and International NGO. The UP College of Education and SIL have collaborated on skills trainings on materials development and orthography development for public school teachers.

International and Local NGOs and Local Advocacy Group and Higher Education. Save the Children, SIL, Talaytayan MLE Consortium, and the Univerasity of the Philippines through relevant colleges and departments have collaborated on MTBMLE awareness raising and mobilization pre-Republic Act 10533, holding countless public forums across the country, which culminated in the issuance of Deped Order No. 74 s. 2009 institutionalizing MTBMLE in the Philippine basic education system.

Higher Education and International Donor Organzation. The UP College of  Education and Australian Aid are collaborating on a study on MTBMLE classroom practices in selected areas in the Philippines.

USAID and ADB. The Basa Pilipinas, which benefits the DepEd literacy program and learners in the early grades, is a collaboration between USAID and ABD.

Teach for the Philippines and ADB. ADB and Teach for the Philippines have a funding arrangement for SY 2014-2015.


Synergies in Components

Figure 1. MTBMLE Components, Stakeholders and Synergies


B. Components and Synergies in Local MTBMLE Implementation

Preliminary research. The program implementers at Tacurong Pilot Elementary School (TPES), for example, are guided by their trainings on MTBMLE, which draws from the experiences of previous attempts at institutionalizing a multilingual education policy in some areas of the country, foremost among these the so-called Iloilo Experiment undertaken for years by the late Dr. Jose Aguilar and which produced some encouraging results that provided the argument for pursuing what is now called the MTBMLE (Aguilar 1961). For its part, the Division of Tacurong has its own system of drawing baseline information—the kind that Malone sets as one condition for sustainable implementation—such as language and education situation in its area of operation. It is through this activity that its management is able to plan and allocate its limited resources in the schools under its jurisdiction, including TPES. Research at the local level, however, is more of a function of a teacher education institution or any higher education institution for that matter. However, knowing that research determines challenges and difficulties in program implementation, some teachers in the Division of Tacurong, and at TPES itself, who are taking masteral studies are doing action research on MTBMLE to improve on the delivery and effectiveness of instruction. In fact, the regional leadership encouraged and incentivize teachers who do action research to improve MTBMLE implementation in their respective schools.[7] The regional leadership understands the value of a long-term study on MTBMLE, as Thomas and Colliers did, but it is also aware of its limited resources, hence the need to collaborate with TEIs/HEIs operating in the region. This has been the strategy of DepEd Region XII, which is host to a few reputable state and private universities in the area, among them University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato, the Sultan Kudarat State University in Isulan, and the Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, the regional center. In terms of technical assistance, teachers at TPES benefit from whatever the Regional Office is able to mobilize from its partners, among them business groups, nongovernmental organizations, and other bodies based either locally or abroad. The assistance on learning materials development and teachers training provided by the local office of Save the Children, for example, has benefitted MTBMLE teachers in TPES, even before the Department of Education rolled out its own training for teachers starting in 2012. In fact, according to teachers at TPES who have gone through both trainings, the one provided by Save the Children is more beneficial to them than the training they got from DepEd. When probed why, the teachers explained that the DepEd MTBMLE training time, which was embedded in the training for K12 implementation, was too short at two hours, leaving them yearning for more.

Awareness raising and mobilization. Within TPES, this activity is reduced to explaining to the parents among early grade pupils in PTA meetings the value and benefits of MTBMLE. Essentially, the kind of awareness raising is what Kosonen premised his first-things-first on language and education: that the use of mother tongue facilitates literacy, learning of academic content, acquisition of a second language, and overall academic achievement. Outside its walls, the confluence of advocates and NGOs doing child welfare and language education such as Save the Children and SIL, respectively, with strong presence in the region somehow facilitated some degree of awareness among residents and other stakeholders. The teachers, for their part, are themselves mobilizers in raising awareness, having learned some basic idea in creating buy-in, which allows space for civil society and other organizations and government agencies to engage and find participatory mechanism for better coordination which, according to Lucas and Tolentino, is an essential part of participatory governance. Malone is clear that social acceptance and buy-in and higher awareness levels can only result in greater mobilization for program support.

Recruitment and training. The recruitment for teachers these days factors in language proficiency of an applicant and is decided at the Division level. The language factor is a national strategy or, to some, policy. Accordingly, this strategy will address the language barrier between teachers who do not speak of or lack the proficiency in the language of their pupils used as the MOI. For its part, TPES has been sending its teachers to several trainings and seminars as long as these are officially sanctioned by DepEd, the latest at the time of this research was on curriculum contextualization, which came after their training on orthography development. At the time of the research, too, the regional office was trying to harmonize the different interventions coming from both DepEd and other organizations as these have an impact on their scheduling, the teaching hours or interactions, as well as their resources. As mentioned earlier, some TPES teachers have benefitted from technical assistance such as trainings and seminars offered by NGOs such as SIL, Save the Children, and by academe-based advocacy groups, whose inputs enriched their teaching. On the other hand, the private sector, notably publishers who sell their titles to both public and private schools, have done their share for this component. A few teachers in TPES have undergone trainings on materials development and on the use of the developed materials provided by publishers for free, using the expertise of MTBMLE practitioners and experts from the academe.

Acceptable orthography. When DepEd prescribed the 19 auxilliary languages to be used as MOI for MTBMLE instruction, the orthography of most of those languages are not yet in place. For this, DepEd launched orthography development workshops in the different parts of the country. For Region XII that oversees the Division of Tacurong and TPES, the orthography workshop took place much later than the K12 trainings rolled out by DepEd in 2012. Following bottom-up principle in Bow, the orthography workshop they attended was community-based and participatory and the only role the expert who was present played was to facilitate the discussions. Like in previous components, TPES through the DepEd Tacurong Division and the DepEd Regional Office has benefitted the assistance extended by NGOs in this aspect, foremost among them the SIL, which maintains a stable of linguists and education researchers who work with DepEd and also collaborate with advocacy groups in the development of orthographies. Since DepEd has limited funding, and many of its principals in Region XII rarely tap into their school’s MOOE to avoid liquidation issues as noted by Regional Director Farnazo[8], the local government units there, the Tacurong LGU included, have stepped in and contribute to the pool of fund utilized for orthography development. This arrangement is facilitated by the local school board, which is present in all LGUs by law.

Local development of materials. A lot of criticisms heaped on both the K12 and MTBMLE are due to the lack of materials that are locally developed and historically informed of culturally embedded social, mathematical, literacy/oracy and science practices that are interesting, challenging and engaging as envisioned by Panda and Mohanti. In TPES, teachers have to make their own big books or story books fashioned out of manila paper using either crayons or colored pens for the illustrations. The local development of materials provides an opportunity for collaboration between DepEd and LGU. The LSBs in Region XII, including Tacurong, have extended funding to teachers training on the development of learning materials, including big books. While the cost of production is not covered in the funding from LSB, teachers are allowed to charge the cost to their school’s MOOE. Teachers at the TPES have produced story books they now use to teach pupils in the early grades. These big books are culture sensitive and relate local stories and lessons as demanded in the K12 Law. This is so because according to Bernando, communities have diverse socio-economic patterns that must be considered in determining levels of literacy development and in designing appropriate programs to improve literacy skill. This practice defeats the very purpose of developing local materials from the ground up.

Teacher training/preparation. As already mentioned, teachers at TPES have undergone trainings to prepare them for the implementation of MTBMLE even before the passage of RA 10533 that gave us the K12 system. But as pointed out earlier, the difference in the trainings conducted by DepEd for the K12 implementation and the ones attended by teachers offered by non-DepEd organizations have created a gap in terms of understanding of the principles and the operationalization of MTBMLE. Even within TPES, teachers have varying perspectives on MTBMLE. While some of them understood MTBMLE as promoting the first language as a bridge to learning the second and third languages, others hold the view that MTBMLE should build proficiency of the first languages first. In view of this, remedial workshops were conducted to harmonize the varying perspectives on MTBMLE in order to have what Malone describes as the right people to champion the program and its implementation. Since DepEd now tightly regulates trainings, only a handful of teachers get to attend such activities.

Availability of graded learning materials. According to Malone, graded materials are materials that are responsive as they are appropriate to the level of learners. Hence, a Grade 3 pupil is provided learning materials deemed appropriate for the third grade. Yet this is not totally the case at TPES, mainly due to the lack of learning materials in the first place. The shift in the curriculum from the old RBEC to K12 has left a gap in the inventory of learning materials whether these are developed by DepEd in-house or supplied by a privately publisher. The speed and the preparation at which K12 was implemented resulted in the lack of graded, appropriate learning materials as writers are undergoing reorientation in view of the new language-in-education policy in place. Moreover, the need for graded learning materials opened the door for Basa Pilipinas[9], a literacy project funded by USAID, to engage DepEd by providing in limited quantity big books to areas that have not developed their own in their learners’ language. As in the case with previous components, advocates and NGOs are a constant collaborator of DepEd in this particular undertaking. Experts from SIL have done the rounds in Region XII, including Tacurong, to train teachers how to make culturally sensitive big books whose content promotes understanding, tolerance, and appreciation of other cultures and whose characters are familiar to learners in the early grades whose world view revolves around family and their immediate community.

Mechanisms for coordination and monitoring and evaluation. TPES, like other schools that implement MTBMLE, uses some tools to monitor their implementation of MTBMLE. For quality monitoring and on a school level, the principal at TPES makes it a point to visit Grades 1 to 3 classrooms randomly and unannounced to check on teachers whether they apply the right strategies and approaches in MTBMLE. This monitoring is also done by the DepEd regional director himself, who has gone to the remotest school in his region for this purpose. This is done because monitoring and evaluation are central to the success of policy implementation as echoed by Malone. An important part in monitoring is the recording of best practices, or emerging practices, to be used as useful guides later on. It is through monitoring and evaluation that flaws inherent in program design may be detected. Within their school, teachers share their experiences handling variety of multilingual classrooms in a highly diverse environment. This sharing of experiences is scaled up to the regional level where teachers exchange narratives whose lessons they can bring to their own schools for sharing. Outside of its walls, there was no clear indication if TPES has an organized system for collaboration with other schools in the city as far as MTBMLE implementation is concerned.

Availability and accessibility of funding to sustain the program. Malone advocates funding for MTBMLE and for education in general, in the manner that is regular, available, and sustainable. Funding in this component should be understood as the totality of MTBMLE and includes all aspects of its implementation. As with most public schools in the country, TPES is funded by the national government on an annual basis. For SY 2014-2015, its MOOE was P1,606,000. For SY 2015-2016, its MOOE is P2,204,000 based on DepEd records. And as mentioned earlier, the school also receives some supplemental support from the local government of Tacurong through the LSB in the form of assistance to activities such as trainings and sports as well as for procurement in limited quantity of books and other instruction materials. The LSB fund, it should be noted, is a percentage derived from a special tax fund that the LGU imposed on the establishments in its jurisdiction and so by nature it is limited, hence its spending is also targeted. (At the time of the data gathering, there was no figure available).

Supportive policy environment. At the school level, the management of TPES is in full support of MTBMLE although it noted difficulty in the first two years of its implementation. However, the absence of a supportive policy from either the DepEd Regional or DepEd Division level or from the LGU did not deter teachers at TPES to express full support to MTBMLE as some of them go beyond the call of duty by learning the language of the learners in order to understand them and for them to be understood better. Two teachers in the early grades who were assigned to handle multilingual classrooms resolved to learn Maguindanaon. They are both conversant in Ilocano and Cebuano as are common among offspring of intercultural marriages in the area. In their assigned classes, there were more Maguindanao and Iranun speaking pupils than there were Hiligaynon, Ilocano or Cebuano. In about two years, the two teachers have become conversant not only in Maguindanao but also in Iranun.

C. Community Initiatives for Sustainable MTBMLE Implementation

TPES and the school management have always made it a point to link MTBMLE to school activities whenever an opportunity arises. From the LGU’s end, local festivals supported by the local government have been turned into spaces for introducing MTBMLE to a wider public so that they may be aware of the program being implemented by the DepEd in their schools. According to teachers at TPES, school events tend to promote MTBMLE almost by default judging from the colors of the banners that represent diversity in the school and the city that adorn the compound.

Classrooms especially in the early grades now have MTBMLE corners featuring pictionaries in different languages. In some classrooms, instructions in English and Filipino have translations in the local languages. The TPES school community is especially active during celebration of the International Mother Language Day, which is set every 21st of February, in honor of the language martyrs of Bangladesh and in celebration of diversity.

Guided by Kosonen’s idea of inexpensive, efficient, sustainable and community-based MTBMLE implementation with a sense of local ownership, local initiatives that include writing about local stories for children’s books with the help of local writers or writers who have links to the city were being planned at the time of the visit. Being a community-based and community-managed program, however, does not mean the MTBMLE implementation in TPES or any school community for that matter is untethered from the national support system of DepEd. Rather, the implementation should capitalize on the strengths of the locally available talents and resources for sustainable implementation.

Outside of TPES and Tacurong, there are various initiatives among HEIs in the region, as with HEIs in other regions. However, these are mostly far and in between and many do not feed into the goals and objectives in the basic education sector. For one, the HEIs have their own agenda as well as their respective missions and goals. The basic education sector, on the other hand, is dictated by the provisions of Republic Act No. 10533 and other pertinent laws and policies in the implementation of the constitutional and legal mandates and policies governing basic education.

However, research is a useful substitute of a formalized arrangement between HEIs and the DepEd at the local level as demonstrated by the experience in Region XII wherein the DepEd Regional Director encourages teachers and principals taking masteral and doctoral courses, respectively, to conduct action research to improve teaching skills and outcomes and to manage their respective schools efficiently. Research provides the space for collaboration between HEIs and DepEd. The HEIs are institutionalized structures where various stakeholders and their representatives can come together to identify, plan, and implement ideas, start up innovations, think of measures, and monitor and track their progress in improving areas of concern in both the basic and higher education program implementation. This is the drawing power of HEIs, which makes them natural go-to places as well for NGOs and international donor agencies seeking to contribute to education development.

The participation of donor agencies, non-governmental, the private sector and people’s organizations in various programs and initiatives in Philippine basic education has a long history and it is evolving. In the case of Region XII, the DepEd Regional Director was able to harmonize the different non-DepEd interventions and initiatives, mostly emanating from the said stakeholders, to avoid duplication and redundancies. Under this system, any initiative, program or activity from any of the aforementioned stakeholders has to pass through the regional office which maintains an updated education profile of the region, including an inventory of needs and resources at their disposal. While it is not perfect, the system allows for an improved collaboration among stakeholders. Gone are the days when a certain organization can just go to a school and donate a school building because, as the director claimed, every decision, initiative and intervention has been rationalized, thereby avoiding the concentration of donations in one area while depriving the rest that are in most need.

Meanwhile, the media play a rather passive role in all of these arrangements despite the sector being a major influence, resource, and channel for learning. In the research areas so far, there has never been a single formalized arrangement at their level of what could pass as an attempt at synergy between media and the key stakeholders. This could be rightly so as media need to maintain a certain level of independence. There is so much power in media that remains largely untapped to create proactive relationships to better facilitate the achievement of the shared goals and objectives in education.


V. Issues and Challenges

 A.  Entanglement of MTBMLE in the ‘Language War’

A little known story behind the institutionalization of MTBMLE is the struggle of its advocates against the centralist, pro-nationalist one-language perspective that not only dominates discourse but also imposes its monolithic view on language in the academia and mainstream media whose predominantly Tagalog content guised as Filipino and whose prevalence and reach suppress emerging narratives that lend voice to multiculturalism and multilingualism as counter perspectives.

As the awareness raising and mobilization for MTBMLE was gaining momentum and generating buzz online, the oppositors slowly emerged and became known. MTBMLE essentially was fighting war on three fronts. First, it was fighting against proponents of the discredited bilingual education policy that concerns only in developing fluency in English and Filipino and treats regional languages as mere bridge to the already dominant languages. Second, it had to tangle with the pro-English crowd, who had strong influence on policymaking. Recall that Rep. Gullas was unyielding of his English Only bill. Recall also that no less than former president Arroyo, now reelected representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga, filed in 15th Congress a thoroughly English Only bill mandating the use of the language from Grade 1 through college. Third, MTBMLE had to fend off attacks from some nationalist quarters that advocated a Filipino only language policy, led no less by noted artists, writers, and academics who subscribe to the monolithic centralist language planning and education.

While MTBMLE has been institutionalized through the K12, the forces against it, notably the pro-Filipino only proponents, continue to mobilize to discredit it and for the government to eventually scrap the policy. Relative to this development, in late 2014, a case was filed at the Supreme Court by a group of professors and Left-leaning student leaders and lawmakers to stop the Commission on Higher Education from implementing CMO No. 20 s. 2013 that offloads Filipino and Panitikan courses from college to the basic education curriculum as part of the K12 program. The Supreme Court has since issued a TRO on April 22, 2015.[10] There are at least three cases pending at the Supreme Court, all praying for the scrapping of K12, threatening the gains and successes of MTBMLE.

B. Lack of Materials and Funding Inaccessibility

As demonstrated in the preceding sections, the lack of materials and inaccessible funding are among the issues that affect the policy implementation of MTBMLE. These issues arose as the shift in curriculum from the old RBEC to K12 is not fully anticipated, leaving gaps in the inventory of K12-compliant materials. The transition also ushers in new policies and systems, one of which is the LRMDS which makes learning ‘paperless.’ Yet this system makes access difficult especially in areas where Internet service is poor or non-existent at all. Funding, on the other hand, is available although its access is made difficult because of the stringent COA audit system. As a result, school administrators are stymied from tapping into their school’s MOOE to draw funds to support MTBMLE-related and allowed activities to avoid added accountability and responsibility as fund utilization comes with a lot of paperwork.

C. Gaps in Policy and Practice

There are major gaps between what the policy says about funding, curriculum and learning materials development and devolution, and transition provision and the actual implementation of these provisions. There is a cost of MTBMLE implementation, among them teacher training, learning materials development and contextualization. While the law provides for funding of these activities, the DepEd and COA make it difficult for teachers to access it to finance MTBMLE-related and allowed activities. In fact, according to the regional MTBMLE coordinator for Region XII, funding for their MTBMLE activities is sourced not from MTBMLE fund pool but from IPED. As provided for in Section 5 of RA 10533, the development and approval of learning materials are devolved to the regions. Yet this is not the case in TPES as they have to defer approval to the DepEd Central because it also needs to defer to KWF as the materials involve language and orthography. In reality, the escape clauses in the IRR rendered the devolution provision optional rather than imperative. The MTBMLE transition program for grades 4 to 6 as provided for in Section 4 of Republic Act 10533 is also not being done by DepEd.

D. Policy Flaw

  1. Disjointed RA and IRR

The passage of Republic Act No. 10533 was hailed as landmark legislation for the sheer magnitude and impact the law will bear on the entire basic and higher education sector. Yet, the enthusiasm by many who supported its passage immediately died down as soon as the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was issued because it contains inconsistencies and provisions that seem to contravene the mother law itself. This is so because policy issues are linked to complex policy design process, which is often internally orchestrated between bureaucrats and target groups and usually much less accessible to public scrutiny than many other kinds of policy deliberations (Howlett 2014). This is true in our own legislative mill where at the bicameral committee some things can happen as was the resulting discrepancy in the version of the K12 Law signed by the President from the version agreed by both chambers before the powerful bicameral committee was convened to reconcile some of its differences, which resulted in a castrated policy. Howlett cautions then that translating policy aims and objectives into practice is not as simple as it might appear, hence the need to monitor with greater vigilance in its implementation.

The first of these inconsistencies is to be found on Section 10.3 of the IRR which provides that “The production and development of locally produced teaching and learning materials shall be encouraged. The approval of these materials shall be devolved to the regional and division education unit in accordance with national policies and standards.”

The second is to be found in Rule II, No. 10.4, the introductory paragraph which states that “The curriculum shall develop proficiency in Filipino and English, provided that the first and dominant language of the learners shall serve as the fundamental language of education.” What the law provides in Section 4 is “For kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.”

Clearly, the provision that the curriculum shall develop proficiency in Filipino and English is absent in the main law. The distortion in the IRR not only betrays the spirit and intention of the law; it is also an indecent accommodation to lobbies that advance the cause of English and Filipino learning only, which is bilingual education, and from nationalist-democratic forces that continue to advocate a monolithic national language, part of which includes the continuing opposition by some elements identified with the Left to leave the decision to universities which MOI should be used in the teaching of General Education courses. This provision runs counter to the main purpose of MTBMLE which is to build proficiency in the first language for better transition through second language.

The deference to national policies and standards may lend sense to uniformity but this is also where and how the trouble persists for uniformity does not and will never guarantee effectiveness and success. What Republic Act 10533 does is provide general guidance, the mechanisms for specific responses of which are supposed to be embodied in the IRR. But the IRR contravenes the main law, confusing rather than clarifying the otherwise clear provisions embodied therein, diluting MTBMLE provisions into mere options rather than imperatives.

  1. Devolution and tokenism

Devolution is a form of administrative decentralization, which seeks to transfer specific decision making powers from one level of government to another (Gregersen et al). In the Philippine context, devolution is commonly understood as the transfer of specific decision making powers from the central government to local government units or to its sub-national agencies. Yet devolution remains less understood, largely misapplied if not misappropriated.

As it exists today, the Department of Education is a top-down, heavily centralized service delivery agency with the decision-making powers mostly emanating from the central office. For certain functions and purposes, however, DepEd’s regional and division level units are vested by Republic Act 10533 certain decision making powers, including the production and development of locally produced teaching materials and the power to approve them for usage. In real practice, though, this power is effectively curtailed by a proviso on deferring final approval from national government agencies such as the KWF for matters involving orthography, which is crucial for materials development, teachers training, and teaching.

MTBMLE is rested on diversity and multiculturalism defined by specificity in and of contexts such that no school community system is the same as the other; that languages and cultures are distinctly unique or uniquely distinct from one another. Therefore, the policy framework that undergirds successful program implementation should be location-specific and culture-sensitive, as outlined in Sections 4 and 5 (c), (d), (f) and (h) of RA 10533, a univocal recognition that the only way to effect meaningful governance in education is by decentralization. And the only way for DepEd to effectively deliver on its mandate is by devolving not just functions but authority for decision making and financial resources to fulfill such mandates. The rationale of the Local Government Code of 1991 is also decentralization where significant powers and functions concentrated in the central government are devolved in recognition that those on the frontlines know better the realities on the ground.

When a government devolves functions, it also transfers authority for decision-making, finance, and management to local government units or sub-national units of central agencies vested with proportional power and corporate status. In devolved systems, agencies with devolved powers have clear boundaries over which they exercise authority and within which they perform functions (Gregersen et al 2004). Yet the case on orthography and materials development and approval shows the contrary, except for the funding provision that the study noted the teachers having difficulty accessing.

Hence, the observation that decentralization is often decided top-down and is a strategy for increasing the central government agency’s capacity to achieve proposed goals and objectives (Bresser-Pereira 2004) warrants deeper reflection if only to account for reform in introducing the K12 system, whose language-in-education policy provisions may suffer the same fate as countless other laws and provisions do as being mere options rather than imperatives. Devolution is usually a response to demands for more local or regional autonomy to which government officials in the central government reluctantly accede (Bresser Pereira 2004). Power sharing, in effect, is easier on paper than when it is operationalized.

E. Ambiguous Stakeholder Synergies and Relationships of Institutions Involved

The role of each agency, organization or institution involved directly or indirectly in the implementation of MTBMLE has to be spelled out clearly. The rules of engagement should be set in an unambiguous language to avoid interference in the processes and procedures ensure sustainable implementation of the program.

While there are numerous stakeholders and partners ready to collaborate, a clear system that harmonizes the otherwise disjointed initiatives is very much needed as in a consortium (Harris 1981) where each stakeholder’s strengths are identified so they are assigned a role or function that best utilizes them. This is to minimize if not totally stamp out redundancies which impact the resources whether coming from government or private coffers


VI. Collabotrative MTBMLE Governance: Prospects and Possibilities

While the passage of Republic Act 10533 signaled the overhaul of the entire Philippine education system, much remains to be seen if the implementation of MTBMLE as its major component that articulates the language-in-education policy of the Philippine basic education is in keeping with the theories and assumptions and the legal provisions that undergirds a living multilingual education policy. Apart from understanding how and where MTBMLE stands in the policy ecosystem, it is imperative to ensure its sustainability. Key to its sustainability, more than mere survival, may lie in how it is managed across time and administrations wherein constantly shifting priorities are a recipe for neglect. The key may just lie in its governance.

The United Nations Development Program provides a working definition of governance as involving complex mechanisms, processes, relationships and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations and mediate their differences (UNDP 2004). While MTBMLE is just one component of the K12 program, its implementation needs to be managed as it involves a web of complex relationships and partnerships among stakeholders, as well as market and other forces within the policy ecosystem. In view of this complexity, the centralized, hierarchical policy regime may no longer be suitable because its inherent rigidities prevent a kind of arrangement where public agencies directly engage with non-state stakeholders in a collective decision making process that is formal, consensus-oriented and deliberative (emphasis mine) for the purpose of making or implementing public policy or in managing public programs and projects (Ansell and Gash 2008). Note that in hierarchical systems, the leadership is more concerned with focusing on scheduling, assigning, and coordinating work. In collaborative contexts, the leadership spends more time motivating people, creating trust among them, treating others as equals, and maintaining a close-knit group (Silvia 2011).

Moreover, participatory governance—synonymous to collaborative governance—is a central theme in policies and programs administration in post-centralist regimes, resulting from dynamic interactions between government, business, and civil society organizations in the formulation of state policies, implementation of government programs, projects and activities, and in ensuring government transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation (Lucas and Tolentino 2006). The key concept here is ‘dynamic interaction’ which means anything or everything but static, which aptly describes the hierarchical structure of DepEd and the vertical implementation of its policies across its units. Participation to DepEd policy or program implementation, including MTBMLE, remains largely restrictive because the terms of engagement is mostly dictated by DepEd and not a product of a negotiated, consensus-derived terms that are acceptable to most, if not all, stakeholders involved. This is something that is clear as far as DepEd’s collaboration with stakeholders go, based on feedbacks from key stakeholders who had difficulty navigating such restrictive relationship. As pointed out in the preceding section, there remain ambiguities in the synergies of stakeholders in the different phases or components of MTBMLE implementation not because the terms are not clear but more so because the roles that each stakeholder supposedly play are not clarified. This point is of primary importance because sustainable policy implementation exacts some serious accountability on any or all of the stakeholders involved and therefore their roles and functions should be very clear. While the full implementation of MTBMLE in view of RA 10533 demands certain degree or level of flexibility to optimize engagement with key stakeholders, there lies accountability at the core and in the course of its administration. What is more suitable then to MTBMLE governance in the long term is a kind that engages people constructively across the boundary of public agencies, levels of government, and public, private and civic spheres to carry out a public purpose that could not be accomplished otherwise (Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh 2011).

Collaborative governance, to be meaningful and effective according to Margerum, must be attended with planning based on a two-way communication flow between the public and the planning agency, emphasizing communicative and interactive nature of planning practice achieved through collaboration (Margerum 2002). As established in the preceding sections, part of the issues, difficulties and challenges attendant to the implementation of MTBMLE are traced to the flaw in the policy itself, such as the disjointed Section 4 of RA 10533 and Rule II, No. 10.4 of its IRR on the retention of bilingualism and Section 5 (h) of the same law and Section 10.3 of the same IRR on devolution in the production and approval of learning materials at the regional or division level. In a collaborative context, stakeholders can work on initiatives in the interim while preparing to launch a drive to amend and correct the flaw in the policy. This is so because as Margerum explains, the three phases in collaborative planning—the problem setting, the direction setting phase, and the implementation phase—provide stakeholders the space and time to think of all the possible scenarios that may arise in the course of policy implementation.

To guide further theorizing in understanding the complexity of issues attendant to MTBMLE policy implementation, a policy ecosystems framework is proposed below. All the elements in the research are contained in the framework: the underlying theories and assumptions, the key policy provisions, and the operationalization and confluence of both.

PowerPoint Presentation

Figure 2. The MTBMLE Ecosystem

            At the micro level, which is the school community, oftentimes referred to in this paper as the community of practice or COP, MTBMLE practices are documented from the case of TPES. These practices have a basis. And so we look at either the policies that govern or the theories that inform them. That’s one way of looking at the framework. Another way is to look at the situation from the side of policy. Is the policy supportive of the practices and somehow agree with the theories? Yet another way to look at the situation is from the side of theory. Does theory support the practice and inform policy? Just a word of caution in analyzing: the directions at which the arrow point are the ways to look at the situation which goes, as the illustration clearly shows, both ways.

Therefore, the practices are what the research is able to document in the school community, what the theory informs and what the policy prescribes. The policies, on the other hand, are what the theories inform and what the school communities need or demand. The theories, meanwhile, are drawn from observing the practices and analyzing the policies. In their respective spheres, theories, policies and practices are influenced, shaped, informed, guided, and validated by each other. Beyond their spheres, theories, policies are practices are also influenced, shaped, informed, guided, and validated by macro system values, which include but not limited to goals (local, regional, global), market and other forces, and the different obligations and conditionalities imposed on the spheres of policies, practices and theories .

The institutionalization of MTBMLE benefits from the confluence of positive results of community practices in many parts of the Philippines and elsewhere in the world and the common recognition at the regional and global front that language matters in education, that language rights is human rights and that learning is more meaningful when it is conducted in the language that is accessible to the learner (Kosonen 2005). This recognition partly defines the shared national, regional and global goals in education today. But the business of educating is not confined to goals alone. It is also dependent on the resources to finance programs to achieve such goals and the sources that provide them. This is how and where donor agencies and multilateral institutions come in, bringing with them a laundry list of conditionalities that come with every dollar granted to governments that implement education reforms, the K12 being one of them which is tied to the World Bank and the 4Ps, the government’s flagship social protection program. The K12 is a policy articulation that attempts to balance internal needs and challenges and external demands and obligations seen by some to be unfavorable and disadvantageous to public interest. But then again, it is too early to cast judgment on the cost and benefit of the program. Let the concern be refocused then on the ability and preparedness of the institutions tasked with managing the complex mechanisms, processes, and relationships involved in the MTBMLE policy implementation within RA 10533. As established earlier and as noted in this research, at the micro level, there are gaps and challenges in MTBMLE implementation that reveal flaws in the policy itself. These gaps, challenges and flaws need urgent attention. At the macro level, there are expressed concerns on the new global direction spelled out in the Sustainable Development Goals such that some targets and indicators therein actually lack context when broken down and brought to the school community level.

Finally, let the issues and challenges in the implementation and the flaws in the policy serve notice to DepEd and its key partners that these are clear and serious vulnerabilities that will persist until they are fully addressed. The sustained opposition to K12 and MTBMLE shows lack of social acceptance that is associated with weak social mobilization to drum up full support to the policy. As we transition into the next leadership, the certainty of the policy hangs in the balance because what has been highlighted are its infirmities and not the strengths and outcomes that lend rationale and argument for its continuity.

There is also the specter of the policy being scrapped by the next administration because of the bad press it is getting as the issues of displacement in the teaching force across levels and the common perception of DepEd’s unpreparedness to implement the much-maligned policy have not been fully addressed. Much is at stake for education as the sitting government has invested a lot of public funds as well as social and political capital to bring about the reforms in the basic education sector. It is therefore an imperative for the academe in partnership with key stakeholders to continuously examine the policies, practices, and theories that underpin government’s education programs. At the same time, it is an imperative for everyone to imagine alternatives and possibilities other than the system currently in place.






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[1] See http://opinion.inquirer.net/61025/castrated-mtb-mle.

[2] Interview with Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo at the sidelines of the 1st Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education, February 18-20, 2010, Cagayan de Oro City.

[3] The Translators Association of the Philippines (TAP) is one of the private organizations that lent support to DepEd in this initiative, together with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), and the university-based advocacy group, Talaytayan MLE Consortium. Leaders of the aforementioned organizations are among the implementers of the research from which this papers draws data from.

[4] From their website http://www.teachforthephilippines.org/ and from testimonies of former and current volunteer teachers.

[5] Various clubs of the The Rotary Club in Metro Manila have embarked on English proficiency training, financing the program out of members’ contributions.

[6] See http://pbed.ph/content/1000-teachers-program.

[7] Based on interviews with Dir. Allan Farnazo of DepEd RXII, who has since been assigned to DepEd RX, and Dr. Omar Obas, Schools Division Superintendent for the Cotabato Province Division, conducted between August 2015 and October 2015.

[8] Dir. Farnazo, in a gathering of supervisors and principals in Region XII in August 2015, called on the principals to tap into their school’s MOOE for activities related to materials development and training. Failure to do so, he warned, will result into disincentive and will be reflected in their performance assessment. He maintains the view that not tapping into the MOOE for important supplemental expense is a form of dodging responsibility and accountability.

[9] Information on the project can be accessed at https://www.usaid.gov/philippines/education/basa-pilipinas.

[10] See http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/694452/multi-sectoral-group-bares-discrepancies-in-k-to-12-law


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