MLE’s successes and lessons across countries

The strategies to implement a multilingual education (MLE) were central in the presentation of Dina Joanna S. Ocampo, PhD at the UP Diliman (UPD) Department of Linguistics symposium Multilingual Education: An Essential Strategy for Transforming Education, in celebration of International Mother Language Day 2024.

A professor at the UPD College of Education whose expertise is literacy difficulties, Ocampo said language is essential in advocating for peace.

Ocampo. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO

In discussing Multilingual Education: An Essential Strategy for Transforming Education Systems, Ocampo remarked MLE in any model or form is a strategy in accomplishing restorative justice in education.

“Every child gets a fair chance. You cannot separate MLE from [the] 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,” she said.

Ocampo said that MLE has four claims: to improve learning, help children to learn through the use of the home language in school, support inclusive and culturally appropriate education, and help students to learn target languages in school.

She said to fully accept MLE one would need to quit mere lip service and start actual program development.

“The slowing down of the MLE program implementation means only one thing. That there will be a child who speaks a language different from that which is used in school, who is not getting a fair chance at learning, and learning delays will compound over time,” she said.

In discussing the strategies for implementing the MLE, Ocampo said the first thing that should be done is to have the children learn their mother tongue.

“So first, we need to look at rapid community assessments and see what children are actually speaking. The initial data on what children are speaking in communities is very important,” she said.

She also underscored the importance of developing inclusive policies.

“Policies that work are always learner-centered,” Ocampo said. “In my book, when we say education is improving, it means children are learning, or learners are growing no matter what age they are. So they have to be learner-centered,” she added.

Ocampo speaking before the symposium participants. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO.

Ocampo said the policies should also be well disseminated. If these are not well disseminated, they tend to be half-baked policies.

“When they are well-disseminated and explained, it provides for a little bit more flexibility,” she explained further.

She also said, “A constellation of policies is needed to support the main policy.”

“If the policy facilitates the mother language in schools, [then] you need a policy for teacher development. We need a policy for instructional materials development, and so on, and so forth,” Ocampo explained.

The former Department of Education undersecretary for curriculum and instruction also made a very important point regarding policies.

“The frequent changing of policies confuses everybody. If it keeps on changing, then people don’t know what the prevailing policy is,” Ocampo said.

She also said, “Planning with stakeholders for the MLE policies and programs needs to be consistent with theory and research evidence.”

Ocampo closed with things to ponder. She said, “There are many larger forces that are hindering or allowing us to progress in terms of servitude to children, but we must remember that education is not the end in itself. What we are truly striving for is social justice.” Further, she said, “These knowledge and competencies are facilitated by our languages. We must work towards rectifying persistent problems that the last pandemic magnified for all of us. We must recognize that issues of poverty have an impact on learning, [we must] implement interventions to reduce hunger and marginalization, make quality a constant, fix age-old blocks to learning, widen bottlenecks, and have restorative justice in education.”

Ocampo’s lecture was delivered on Feb. 21 at the UPD National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development auditorium.