Kids to learn reading & writing in mother tongue starting June

MANILA, Philippines – When classes open in June, kids from kinder to Grade 3 nationwide will be learning reading, writing and other key skills using their mother tongue.

By mother tongue, we do not mean Filipino. What the Department of Education (Deped) refers to as mother tongue are 12 languages spoken at home by major ethnic groups in the country including: 

  • Tagalog, 
  • Kapampangan, 
  • Pangasinense, 
  • Iloko, 
  • Bikol, 
  • Cebuano, 
  • Hiligaynon, 
  • Waray, 
  • Tausug, 
  • Maguindanaoan, 
  • Maranao, and 
  • Chabacano


These languages have been selected by the Deped as medium of instruction and as subject matter as part of the department’s thrust to implement the Mother Tongue-Based  Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE).

The policy is based on results of local and international studies which demonstrated that using the language spoken by kids at home (mother tongue) inside the classroom during the early years of schooling produce better and faster learners who can easily adapt to learn a second (Filipino) and third language (English). 

“We are institutionalizing the teaching of MTB-MLE  as one of the subjects from Grade 1 to Grade 3 and  as the medium of instruction from kinder to Grade 3 so that we can develop well-rounded and  life-long learners under the K to 12 basic education reform program,” said Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro FSC.

Focus on skills 

Based on DepEd Order No. 16, series 2012, the MTB-MLE will be implemented in two modules: 1) as a learning/subject area and 2) as medium of instruction. 

The mother tongue as a subject will focus on the development of reading and speaking from Grades 1 to 3. 

As a medium of instruction the mother tongue will be used in all learning areas from kinder to Grade 3 except in the teaching of Filipino and English subjects.

Filipino will be introduced on the first semester of Grade 1 for oral fluency (speaking). For reading and writing purposes, it will be taught beginning in the second semester of Grade 1. 

The four other macro skills which are listening, speaking, reading and writing in Filipino will continuously be developed from Grades 2 to 6.

What about English?

Meanwhile, English as a subject will be introduced in the 2nd semester of Grade 1 while reading and writing in English will start in the 1st semester of Grade 2.

Training, pilot schools 

There are currently 921 schools across the country which have been pioneering the MTB-MLE.

Related to this, DepEd has organized a team of MTB-MLE trainers for each region composed of education supervisors. 

The existing MTB-MLE regional training team organized for the pilot schools shall be the same team that will be responsible for the division and school-based training of teachers on MTB-MLE for the K to 12.

“We are expanding the membership to include trainers in kindergarten because that is where we are going to start the reforms,” explained Luistro.

Also giving support to the project are MTB-MLE trained writers who will continue to update their knowledge and skills in developing indigenized learning materials to provide the students with a variety of learning resources.  

The mother tongue pilot program is implemented with assistance from the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao, Third Elementary Education Program, Translators Association of the Philippines, Save the Children Foundation, and the Summer Institute of Linguistics. –