Effectiveness of Mother Tongue in Learning English Among Primary Learners

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The objective of this study is to establish the Effectiveness of Mother Tongue in Learning English among Primary Learners and identify the differences from the different respondents and investigate the correlation of the grades of MTB-MLE subject and English subject to the academic performance of the pupils and their language learning capability. The researchers compiled the latest scores of the respondents (third grading grades) and quantified the relationship and difference of the over-all perception between the three variables which has a total respondent of 79 pupils in their academic performance. Generally, the researchers found that the grades of MTB-MLE and English subjects of the students have a relationship. Student’s learning capability is not affected by the learning stereotype if he/she is not good at one subject; he/she is good at the contrary subject. For further studies, the researchers recommend to know the different learning techniques in teaching both languages at the same time and to know why they are effectual in improving the student’s language learning capability.

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Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) is reinforcement for primary education. Mother Tongue supports its goal which is “Every Child A-Reader and A-Writer.” Learners use the first language to acquire reading and writing skills. Observations show that MTB-MLE learners have difficulty in learning English. Sentence constructions and vocabularies are being confused and mixed-up. This study is determining the MTB-MLE effectiveness in acquiring English.

In 2009, the Department of Education (DepEd) challenged the Bilingual Education Policy by issuing an order that called for the institutionalization of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE). This order requires the use of the learners‘first language as the medium of instruction for all subject areas in pre-kindergarten through grade three with Filipino and English being taught as separate subjects (Philippines Department of Education, 2009). In 2012, another order was issued that offered more specific guidelines for MTB-MLE and embedded the reform in the newly adopted ―K to 12 Basic Education Program‖ (Philippines Department of Education, 2012). This order shifted from the original mother tongue approach by specifying twelve major regional languages to be used as the languages of instruction. Under this order, teachers are provided government-issued materials in their regional languages but are expected to adapt them to reflect the students’ first languages. The role of mother tongue in English language acquisition has been the subject of much debate and controversy. (Koucká, A. 2007) The use of the mother tongue has been an important issue in teaching grades 1 to 3. Teachers used mother tongue for all kinds of situations including giving instructions, doing translation or presenting foreign language structures. This happened mainly because some of the teachers feel that the use of the mother tongue always has an active and beneficial role in facilitating English language learning. Research has shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school (UNESCO, 2008).

With the occurrence of the new curriculum, K-12 program, the Department of Education of the Philippines imposed the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education among the Kindergarten, Grades 1, 2, and 3 learners. K-12 aims to give learners an opportunity to learn in their mother tongue first hand before learning other languages. In this way, learners could show their understanding resulting to high participation in class discussion, learners become freethinking in their choice of communication, and the use of mother tongue in explaining the definition of some English words. Many researchers had been committed on studying on what is the fundamental contribution of mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education programs, demonstrating their determination and commitment to help provide access to quality education for linguistically marginalized communities and their children. As Rosalina Villaneza, chief of teaching and learning division of the DepEd, “Researchers have proven even during our education with the Thomasites that the child’s first language facilitates learning, as emphasized by Dr. Monroe, that we should be educated in our mother tongue.” The ministries of education emphasized what language could be used in the instruction that would easily facilitate the learning of every student. This is the ground of the implementation of Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education in primary education. However, the feedback on its efficacy arises on MTB-MLE in our educational curriculum. It is a question on helping the children not only to learn but to acquire it in the system of their way of communicating the English language. This study aims to prove that using mother tongue as the medium of instruction does not only build the ability of the learner to learn the lessons in the schools but mostly it will prove that the learner will grow towards acquiring efficacy to learn English vocabularies and English language will follow.

The Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) in the Philippines has already materialized for already three years, and with this advance of a new language, the policy is also a coming of different issues affecting its implementation. This research aims to determine the grades of primary pupils in MTB-MLE grades. Moreover, it seeks the grades of primary pupils in ENGLISH grades. Additionally, it targets to identify the differences of MTB-MLE and ENGLISH grades amongst grade 1, 2, and 3 pupils. Lastly, its goal is to know the correlation of MTB-MLE and ENGLISH grades to investigate the effectiveness of mother tongue in learning English among primary learners.

Theoretical Background/Conceptual Framework

This study is primarily associated with Second Language Acquisition Theory by Stephen Krashen, supported by Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills and lastly Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency by Jim Cummins. The Second Language Acquisition Theory as stated by Stephen Krashen, acquisition requires significant interaction in the chosen language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their verbalization but with the ideas they are emitting. In line with Krashen’s theory, the input hypothesis is Krashen’s attempt to explain how the learner obtains a second language – how second language acquisition takes place. The Input hypothesis is only concerned with ‘acquisition,’ not ‘learning.’ Building a strong base in the first language helps second language learning much more than early or prolonged exposure to the additional language. Studies have shown it is more logical to develop the first language because the skills and concepts can then easily be transferred to the second.

Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills according to Baker (2006) ‘BICS is said to occur when there are contextual supports and props for language delivery. Face-to-face `context embedded´ situations provide, for example, non-verbal support to secure understanding. Actions with eyes and hands, instant feedback, cues, and clues support verbal language.”

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency, on the other hand, is said to occur in ‘context reduced’ academic situations. Where higher order thinking skills (e.g., analysis, synthesis, evaluation) are required in the curriculum, language is `disembedded´ from a meaningful, supportive context where language is `disembedded´ the situation is often referred to as `context reduced´. (Baker, 2006)

Overall, the Second Language Acquisition Theory supported with Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills, and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency is used as variables in determining the effectiveness of mother tongue in learning English among primary learners.

Research Design & Methods

This study utilized the Correlational Method of determining and evaluating the Efficacy of the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education in Acquiring English Vocabularies among primary learners. This is a quantitative analysis of the strength of relationships between two or more variables. This method determines whether the two variables are correlated. This means to study whether an increase or decrease in one variable corresponds to an increase or decrease in another variable.

This study was conducted in Don Vicente Rama Memorial Elementary School because most pupils are using bilingual as their means of communication and the school followed mandating the order from DepEd regarding the implementation of MTB-MLE curriculum as a subject and medium among the primary graders, grade 1, 2, and 3. The researchers choose this school because MTB-MLE is practiced and used as a means of communication among primary learners. The researchers will ask grades in MTB-MLE and English Subject from 79 pupils amongst Grade 1, 2 and 3.

The methods use: (1) Kolmogorov Smirnov Normality Test to check the normality of MTB-MLE & English Grades of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Grade. (2) ANOVA Method to test the difference of MTB-MLE in all three values. (3) Kruskal Wallis to test the difference in English grades in all three levels. (4) Spearman Rho to test the correlation of MTB & English 1, MTB & English 2, MTB & English 3 and overall MTB & English grades.

These are the following hypothesis in testing the data:

  • Null hypothesis: The data follows a normal distribution

Alternative Hypothesis: The data does not follow a normal distribution. Thus it should be treated.

  • If the MTB-MLE grades and English grades correlate to each other then, it shows the effectiveness of Mother Tongue in learning English among primary learners.
  • If the MTB-MLE grades and English grades do not correlate to each other then, it shows no effectiveness of Mother Tongue in learning English among primary learners.


First, the researcher will ask for permission given from the Department of Education-Division of Cebu City for the administration of the survey. After, the researcher then requested cooperation from Don Vicente Rama Memorial Elementary School for carrying out the study and ask permission from the principal and class advisers. During the intervention, the researcher personally goes to school to ask for the grades of the pupils from the teachers. The pupils and teachers will be informed about the confidentiality of their responses and that the data will only be utilized for the study.

Results and Discussion

After gathering all the pertinent data, the information from the survey was tabulated, analyzed and interpreted. Moreover, descriptive statistics were used to surface patterns and trends. A total of seventy-nine (79) participants: Grade 1 there are 20 pupils, Grade 2 there are 32 pupils, and in Grade 3 there are 27 pupils.

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