Mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE) is a formal or nonformal education, in which the children’s mother tongue is used in the classroom as a bridge in learning Filipino and English. Children begin their education in a language they understand, their mother tongue, and develop a strong foundation in their mother language. The purpose of a multilingual education program is to develop appropriate cognitive and reasoning skills enabling children to operate equally in different languages – starting in the mother tongue with transition to Filipino and then English.
It is a structured program of language learning and cognitive development which provides learners with a strong educational foundation in the first language. If the mother tongue is not used, we create people who are illiterate in two languages. Children do not become sufficiently fluent in their mother tongue (L1) in both oracy and literacy if their vocabulary in L1 is limited, thus restricting their ability to learn a second language (L2). A strong foundation in L1 is required for learning L2.
Children’s understanding of concepts is limited or confused if leaning is only L2. What are the advantages of mother tongue-based multilingual education? Providing education in children’s first language, while at the same time providing them with support to learn a second language of wider communication, has several advantages: it increases access to school, as well as promotes equity in learning; it leads to improved learning outcomes; it reduces repetition and drop-out rates; and it can lead to lower education costs due to greater efficiency.
In one study, analysis of data from 22 developing countries and 160 language groups revealed that children who had access to instruction in their mother tongue were significantly more likely to be enrolled and attending school. Conversely, lack of education in a child’s first language was a significant reason for children dropping out (Smits et al. , 2008).
Additionally, teaching children to read in their first language helps them to learn to read a second language, because language skills that are developed in a first language are transferrable to a second language. Moreover, mastering of the first language promotes cognitive development needed to more easily learn a second language. 4. Language is one of the most important variables affecting education. Indeed, we will not achieve Education for All unless we provide children with the opportunity to learn in their mother tongue.
The MTB-MLE path to school success is based on providing children with an equitable opportunity to access learning. Use of the mother tongue, or home languages, is key to increasing access to school and facilitating learning, including learning of second language. This is because the use of a child’s home language is one of the most important factors in helping children learn to read and write, learning academic content (such as mathematics and history), and also learning other languages.
Primary education programs that begin in children’s mother tongue help students gain early reading skills more quickly, as well as transfer key skills to a second language. Without a solid foundation in literacy, math and other subjects, children will not succeed in school. They will not pass their exams, they will be discouraged and alienated from the culture of school, and they will drop out, often after only a few years. 5.