Bilingual and Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education in the Philippines

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Bilingual education in the Philippines – the use of English in mathematics and science and Filipino, the national language, in all other subjects – is a complex story of postcolonial, neocolonial, nationalist, and ethnolinguistic ideologies and relationships. Thus, the recent law mandating the use of the mother tongues as media of instruction (MOI) in early primary years did not come easy. Called Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE), this recent linguistic structure of educational provision had to navigate the intricate discursive terrains of language policy-making in order to find a strategic space from which to articulate alternative and marginalized visions of education and nation-building in the country. This chapter provides a brief history of the language-in-education debates in the country, assesses the hits and misses of bilingual education, and takes stock of the arguments for and against the use of the mother tongues leading to the promulgation of a comprehensive basic education law which includes MTB-MLE. In the end, however, languages-in-education are never just about languages alone; they are about struggles for power and for contending visions of the nation. MTB-MLE promises to address different forms of inequities in Philippine society, but ideological and structural challenges against it are massive and relentless.