Luistro to teachers: Use jejemon if you have to

Jee Y. Geronimo

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The education secretary admits it's a bad example, but it reflects the reality in PH – teachers must teach in jejemon if that's what the preschooler understands

MANILA, Philippines – It is a bad example, but it reflects a reality in our country – the use of jejemon language, that is.

Education Sec Armin Luistro made this admission in a recent language conference, where they took up the use of more than a hundred mother tongues to make learning easier for pre-schoolers.

More than anything, what the [mother tongue-based multi-lingual education] program seeks to foster is a new learning environment that is “kaliga-ligaya, kawili-wili at [isang] magandang karanasan” (joyful, interesting, and [a] good experience), regardless of the child’s first language, Luistro said.

Jejemon language – which often breaks grammar rules – is used by the jejemon, who is defined in an Inquirer article as “a new breed of hipsters who have developed not only their own language and written text but also their own sub-culture and fashion.”

The use of jejemon language was strongly discouraged by Luistro’s predecessor, Mona Valisno.

The Kindergarten Act allows and encourages the use of mother tongue — the language first learned by the child — as the medium of instruction.

So far, the department has identified 19 languages in its mother tongue-based multi-lingual education (MTB-MLE) program. 

But with a total of 177 mother tongues in the country, teachers do not have to be constricted to these, Luistro said. In fact, if they have to, they may even use jejemon.

The lack of Filipino-to-English translations that could fully encapsulate Filipino feelings and culture prompted the education secretary to include the MTB-MLE in the K to 12 program.

But contrary to popular belief, MTB-MLE is not just a language subject. Under the program, important topics like mathematics and sciences, as well as basic competences like reading and writing, are also learned in the mother tongue.

“Mas madaling matutunan yung konsepto ‘pag ang ginagamit ay ‘yung kanilang nakagisnang wika…. Kahit ano yung kanilang karunungan sa bahay, ito po yung ating tinatanggap, na ito po yung kanilang initial na kaalaman at walang mali doon,” Luistro said.

(It’s easier to learn the concept when [the students] use the language [they] first learned…. We accept that whatever they learned at home is their initial knowledge, and nothing’s wrong with that.)

READ: INFOGRAPHIC: 10 things about K to 12

Challenges of mother tongue-based program

Critics think focusing on the mother tongue may lessen English competitiveness of Filipinos. But with the English language introduced to the curriculum as early as grade 1, this could be one less thing to worry about. 

There were also concerns on how teachers will conduct classes where students speak different mother tongues.

Ito’y hindi magandang halimbawa pero kung ang salita ng bata ay jejemon language, ang teacher, kailangan mag-aral ng jejemon. Medyo mahirap po talaga ito. ‘Yung guro po ang mag-adapt dun sa pangangailangan nung bata,” Luistro said. 

(This is not a good example, but if the child speaks the jejemon language, the teacher has to study jejemon. This is really a bit hard. The teacher has to adapt to the needs of the child.)

Luistro said in exceptional cases like this, the teacher has to adjust to the students, may it be by grouping them according to their mother tongue and teaching them separately.

Although an obvious setback, he said this situation may even trigger lively and interesting discussions among the students.

The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), which is chaired by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, has offered DepEd their assistance in coming up with solutions to these challenges in the program. 

The law requires DepEd to coordinate with the KWF, and collaborate with academic and research institutions to formulate a mother tongue-based multilingual framework for teaching and learning.

“Marami po kaming pagkukulang, marami pa ring kakulangan sa materyales, at higit sa lahat, marami pang dapat bunuin,” Luistro admitted.

(We lack a lot of things, we lack a lot of materials, and most importantly, we still have a lot to work on.)

But all these, he said, are necessary to rediscover our identity as a Filipino.

“If we want to go back to who we are as a Filipino, we have to go back to our indigenous knowledge, indigenous vision, and even the indigenous language we first learned,” he said in Filipino.

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.