MLE celebrated at DLing’s symposium

The UP Diliman (UPD) Department of Linguistics (DLing) of the UPD College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) recently held a symposium commemorating this year’s International Mother Language Day (IMLD), where multilingual education (MLE) was the focus.

Co-organized by the Embassy of Bangladesh in Manila, the symposium was titled Multilingual Education: An Essential Strategy for Transforming Education Symposium.

CSSP College Secretary Jem R. Javier, who hosted the event said, “The IMLD was proclaimed by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1999. The idea to celebrate IMLD was the initiative of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly welcomed the proclamation of the day in its Resolution of 2002.”

Javier added DLing is “one with the UN and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in recognizing that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion and that no one is left behind in pushing for a sustainably developed future.”

In her remarks, DLing Chair Maria Kristina S. Gallego said, “Both institutions value and promote linguistic and cultural diversity.” She added, “It was indeed a great opportunity to work with the embassy in co-organizing this IMLD.”

The many participants filling the UPD National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (NISMED) auditorium was noticed by CSSP Dean Ruth R. Lusterio-Rico as she welcomed the symposium guests, which included various dignitaries, university officials, faculty, staff, and students within and outside UPD.

“It’s so nice to see a full hall today to celebrate the IMLD,” Lusterio-Rico said.

She said the symposium marks “a day for all of us to learn and appreciate the importance of the first language we learn from our birth, our mother language. This activity aims to provide for us an opportunity to discuss the needs, challenges, and strategies for MLE and the different challenges we face today.”

The symposium highlight was the keynote message of Dina Joanna S. Ocampo, PhD, former undersecretary for curriculum and instruction at the Department of Education and former dean and professor of the UPD College of Education.

Ocampo. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO

“It’s a day that many people all over the world have fought for to celebrate mother languages, and to think about mother languages as integral not only to our community but also to our educational lives,” Ocampo said.

In her address, Multilingual Education: An Essential Strategy for Transforming Education Systems, Ocampo discussed the importance of MLE in education development.

“Our educational systems usually have a combination of humanistic and pragmatic goals and objectives. We seek the development of happy children because we want them to become happy adults. And happy adults don’t really start wars and don’t really hurt other people. This is really a simple way of advocating for peace, and language is essential to that,” Ocampo said.

She underscored the transformative power of MLE as she closed her keynote message.

“I think that MLE, mother tongue-based education, multilingual education in any model or form is a strategy towards achieving restorative justice in education. Every child gets a fair chance. You cannot separate MLE from social ills that [make] bleak our societies, but through some quality and effective program implementation, we hope to shift the balance of privilege. Through a well-developed and implemented MLE, we give children a fighting chance to use the super powers of language learning to overcome poverty and ignorance,” Ocampo said.

Meanwhile, Signe Poulsen spoke on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Gustavo Gonzalez, saying, “The UN stands ready to lend its expertise and support to the Philippines and beyond. Looking [at] past achievements, I think the Philippines is an excellent ground knowing that it’s an island country with so many languages as well. And [we are] hoping to do this fast so that we don’t miss this broad and very rich tapestry that we have.”

Poulsen is a senior UN human rights adviser.

(From left) Sayma Razzaki, the counselor and head of Chancery of the Embassy of the Republic of Bangladesh-Manila, Poulsen, Uddin, Ocampo, and Gallego. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO

She added that the “traditions, unique modes of thinking, and expressions that come out from the different languages are the kinds of skills we look for when we look also to the future of the UN, and resolving the many crises that the world is facing at the moment.”

Meanwhile, F.M. Borhan Uddin, ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the Philippines, said, “I believe that observing the IMLD will play a specific role in the development and preservation of our own language as well as building a sustainable future through MLE.”

He also proposed that DLing and the embassy embark on other future projects, given the symposium’s success. Uddin offered a memorandum of understanding for the department to look at.

The symposium was held on Feb. 21 at the NISMED auditorium.

Uddin speaking before symposium participants. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO