Thursday, March 6, 2008

Using Maranaw as Medium of Instruction in Lanao

(I have recast this posting somewhat to add what I missed in my original posting and instead of posting in toto an excerpt from Michael Tan's column I am merely citing the gist of the column so as to avoid any copyright infringement problem!)

MSU is probably the only university in the Philippines that have what is called the "College-bound" program to accommodate students who are not yet college material due to lack of English and Math skills. The present MSU President (or is it Office-in Charge?") is supposed to be one of the success stories of the "College bound" students. But the existence of such a system merely indicates that many Maranaws exit elementary and high school still lacking in the basic knowledge skills required for tertiary education. Had this always been the case or had literacy among Maranaws deteriorated?

I would like to cite in this posting what Michael Tan in his Pinoy Kasi! column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (2/20/2008) had to say about the use of Maranaw language in Lanao by the Americans during the U.S. colonial period. (if you want to read the whole column I suggest you look for it in the Inquirer website, specifically

Michael Tan cited an article written by Frank Laubach entitled "The Lanao System of Teaching Illiterates". ( If the name Laubach rings a bell, think Laubach Institute which he apparently founded. Laubach was one of the American pioneer educators in the Philippines). It appears that when the Americans first came to Lanao to establish schools they found only a small percentage of the population was literate and that furthermore they could read and write only in Arabic. It was then they realized that Maranaw as a language was only spoken. So before they can even establish any school and recruit teachers they have to devise a writing system for Maranaw using the English (or do is it called Roman?) alphabet. Citing Laubach, Tan pointed out that the Americans did this by transcribing local songs, prose and poetry. They did not lack for materials and found that the Maranaws had “at least 35 long epic poems that would range from 20 to a hundred printed pages in length,” “many prose stories resembling those of the Arabian nights,” “kisas,” or stories from ancient prophets, and thousands of lyric poems “about the harvest, the rain, the clouds, the sunset, love, despair ... everything in their lives.”

Laubach attributed the success of their literacy program in Lanao to the use of these folk literature The Maranaws were intrigued by the idea of being able to read their own literature. The success can be gleaned from the fact that in the first four months of 1931 when the program was launched they were able to teach 3,000 individuals to read and write. From there it was easy to translate into Maranaw other materials on “health, government, history, geography, business, morals and religion” as well as Philippine laws into Maranaw" and even Philippine laws so they became accessible to the Maranaws.

The present approach of the DepEd is to allow the use of the mother tongue only during the first two years and thereafter shift to English and Pilipino (which of course is basically Tagalog). After reading Michael Tan the following questions came to my mind:
  1. How do the elementary and secondary schools in Muslim Mindanao fare when compared to other schools in the Philippines?
  2. Up to what level is Maranaw used as medium of instructions in Lanao del Sur? How about Tausug, Samal. Badjao in Sulu and Tawi-tawi? This includes of course the Subanen, Manobo, Tiboli, etc in the respective areas where they are spoken.
  3. Could an increased use of Maranaw (or whatever mother tongue) as medium of instruction especially in Level 1 and Level 2 education be an effective way to improve the literacy levels in Mindanao?
  4. Has any study been made by MSU along this line?
Looking back I now regret not having learned to converse in Maranaw during my four years of stay in MSU beyond the "bastos" words and a few others. Learning another language is always enriching, I now realize. But then again there was no organized effort at that time towards getting those interested to learn how to converse in Maranaw. In effect Binisaya became the lingua franca in the campus. Not surprising Bisaya being the lingua franca for most of Mindanao.

This posting of course should not be taken to mean I am advocating the use of Maranaw as medium of instruction in the MSU Marawi campus! This cannot be due to the mixed nature of the students who come from all over Mindanao. What I am only saying is that the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction during the formative years may be a means to improve even English or Pilipino, not to mention Math and Science skills of the youth in Mindanao so that they are better prepared for the university as the following excerpt explains.

As Michael Tan lamented in his column "We don’t seem to have learned from that experience in Lanao. English remains the preferred medium of instruction, using English textbooks, and we like to imagine a time when, supposedly, Filipinos spoke proper English. We forget fluent English was a function of class, of people who could use English both in schools and at home, and with their social circles. For the majority of Filipinos, English and, later, Filipino was, and still is, distant."

Lately due to the mushrooming of the all centers, there is a demand for greater fluency in English among Filipino college graduates. Its not enough that all our textbooks and public documents and even court hearings are in English, many of our lawmakers are demanding for laws to make English the only medium of instruction evejavascript:void(0)
Publish Postn in all subjects in high school and college. Its as if it will be more effective for a Physics teacher whose competence in English is less than 100% to explain Newton's Laws in English to students whose competence in English is probably less than 50%!


i2castillo said...

this is actually very good... i think my speaking and understanding of the maranaw language is fair... i spent my growing up years in msu marawi and it was enough i guess that i have the confidence of going to padi-an and get good deals with the vendors... back in 1994 i volunteered as a cbp (college bound program) teacher for math... there were some instances that i have to explain math in the maranaw dialect.... i remember some of my students gave me some props for making it clear to them and being a maranaw speaker...

mapiya aki ini....

Fred Yap said...

Good for you! Ar least you were able to use your Maranaw to great advantage in teaching Math. But by the way Maranaw is NOT a dialect. You started out correctly by saying Maranaw language then you lapsed into saying "Maranaw dialect". Maranaw is a language just as Chinese, English or Greek as well as Bicolano Ilocano and Bisaya are languages. Bol-anon, Surigaonon and Sikihudnon are dialects of Bisaya. So let us be careful in calling ond essentially "downgrading" our rich regional languages, of which we have more 300, I believe into mere "dialects". This is a very common midtake among many Filipinos imclufing many of our so-called journalist.

tom mascarinas said...

i agree to using maranaw as moi in lanao, waray in samar and leyte, ilongo or hiligaynon in panay and negros occ, cebuano in many of parts of visayas and mindanao, ilocano in northern luzon, tausug in sulu, yakan in basilan, maguindanao in south-central mindanao, etc. in order to preserve this very important part of our culture... filipino and english as official languages must be used just that...