Recognizing the mother tongue: multilingual education in the Philippines
Earlier this month three students at the Saviour’s Christian Academy (SCA), a private elementary school in the Philippines, were overheard speaking Ilocano, a regional language. They were advised to leave the school grounds. The Philippines boasts 171 local languages. Yet, for years, many schools have implemented English-only policies or offered English and Tagalog as primary languages of instruction. Students are often penalized for speaking their local languages. Within the past seven years, community-based organizations like Nakem Conferences International have been working with local and national authorities to make the linguistic diversity of the Philippines visible in the classroom. In May 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed the “Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013,” a framework for a mother tongue-based multilingual curriculum. Aurelio Agcaoili, associate professor at the University of Hawai’i Manoa and program coordinator for the Ilokano Language & Literature Program, tells us about efforts to preserve linguistic diversity in the Philippines. (Photo: AP Images).