About a couple of years ago, when I was busy playing Civilization III on my PC, my youngest brother whom we nicknamed Pepito then was a Grade 4 student, entered my room and asked me this question:
Kuya, bakit tayo kailangang mag-Ingles eh mga Pilipino naman tayo? Big brother, why do we have to use English when are Pilipino?
I caught my mother giving me a raised eyebrow, she probably thought that I had began instilling anti-US thoughts on my little brother. Much to her relief and to my surprise, I was not. The following conversation proved my innocence:
Me: Bakit mo naman naitanong yan? Why do you ask that?
Pepito: Eh kasi nahihirapan akong sagutan yung assignment namin sa English. Kailangang gumawa ng essay tungkol dun sa kwento pinabasa sa amin. (It’s because I’m having a hard time to do my homework in English. We need to write an essay about the story we were asked to read.)
Me: Naintidihan mo naman ba yung kwento? (But did you understand what the story was about?)
Pepito: Medyo. Pero noong kinuwento n’yo sa akin sa Tagalog mas naintindihan ko. (Not quite. But when you told me about it in Tagalog that’s when I really understood it.)
Me: Pero kaya mong gumawa ng essay tungkol sa kwento? (But still, can you write an essay about the story?)
Pepito: Opo. Kung sa Tagalog, patulong na lang paki-Ingles. (Of course. If it’s in Tagalog, can you help in translating it to English afterwards?)
This conversation I had with my little brother would always strengthen my belief that we should do away with the bilingual method of teaching in primary education. Instead, we should teach in the vernacular tongue of the region or province. This would greatly help the thousands of young students who are forced to struggle in learning alien tongues which only become an unnecessary stumbling block to their learning.
I’m no education expert, but I’ve been in school long enough to know that one of the top hindrances to effective learning is the language barrier. That’s why I join the real experts in education who are calling on the Aquino administration to institutionalize a mother- tongue-based multilingual education for early learners. The Inquirer report describes it as:
The technique, which goes back to an education basic of starting where the children are, makes use of regional languages in teaching students from grades 1 to 3. Such foundation is then used to bridge learning to secondary languages, including Filipino and English.
Veering away from traditional bilingual teaching, the method is proven to improve comprehension and retention among young students and builds a strong foundation for learning other languages and Philippine waterloo subjects like math and science.
The report even says that this teaching technique is already being tested in many school throughout the country and has produced results that show a significant improvement in students’ learning and understanding.
Teaching our young students the proper way early on, and they would be better prepared to take on tougher learning tasks like learning other languages. This grass-roots approach to basic education is a sure solution in improving the quality of education in our country.
This call has been long forwarded by renowned historian Renato Constantino who put it so eloquently in an 1990 essay entitled Ang Paggamit ng Ingles Pumipigil sa Pag-iisip nang Malalim:
Ang paggamit ng wikang banyaga bilang isang wikang panturo ay sagabal sa pag-iisip dahil dapat munang masanay ang mag-aaral sa mga bagong tunog, tono, at balangkas ng pangungusap. Nahihirapan siyang ipahayag ang kanyang mga saloobin at ito’y pumipigil sa kanyang pag-iisip. KAYA, MAKIKITA NATIN NA MARAMI SA ATING MGA KABABAYAN ANG HINDI SANAY NA MAG-ISIP NG MALALIM. Hindi nila ganap na maunawaan ang mga aklat at peryodikong nakasaulat sa Ingles. Hirap na hirap ang marami sa atin na nag-iisip sa wikang Ingles pero hindi rin sila makapag-usap ng mahusay sa sarili nilang wika dahil ito ay napabayaan.