SIL Philippines

Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education

Teaching in a child’s first language or “mother tongue” in the early grades facilitates learning, because it is the language a child understands best. It provides the best opportunity to learn to read and write, and helps develop critical thinking skills essential to learning. Children then use those skills to learn a second or third language introduced in higher grades.

First-language-first studies in which SIL has participated show a positive transformation of attitudes of young learners toward education and improvement in classroom success. In a longitudinal study in Lubuagan, Kalinga, children educated in a mother-tongue-first program scored 40 percentage points higher than their peers who were taught with Filipino-first or English-first instruction.

In contrast to “other-tongue-first” education, which requires children to speak an unfamiliar language and which sometimes stops them from using their own first language at all in the classroom, “mother-tongue-first” or “first-language-first” education affirms the personal worth of the children as well as their language and cultural heritage.