Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaching Mathematics in the Vernacular Language

The present secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) has signed the Department of Education Order 74 nullifying the three and a half decades old Bilingual Education policy which directs the use of Filipino and English as the only media of instruction from basic education to higher education. Take note that none of those languages mentioned is the mother language of most of the Filipinos.

It might take ages before this policy could be implemented but I appreciate the current administration for redefining the Philippines' surge of education. I believe that such policy, if properly implemented, would not only help in preserving the cultural values of our nation but it would also lessen the frustration of our learners. If carried out, the order would bring out the teaching of Mathematics using the learners' mother language as medium of instruction.

If we have noticed, the Philippines, in general, has been poorly performing when it comes to Mathematics although we stood out in recent international Mathematics competitions. Learning the concepts is very essential in Mathematics yet mathematical concept formation has been a problem for most of the Filipino students. The reason behind is that, the students have to understand the language first before they understand the concept and most of the times when they fail to understand the language their frustration in understanding the concept arises.

If our goal in mathematics education is for the students to enhance numeracy (which involves understanding of the concepts), I do not see any point of teaching the subject in a language which is strange in the part of the learners. Concepts could be better understood if taught in a language that is comprehensible. Instead of adding frustration to the students by teaching Mathematics in English, our government could focus more on enhancing the teaching of English as a separate subject. In fact, the teaching of English in the Philippines is a problem because it is very structured (grammar is given more focus) instead of teaching it in communicative approach.


BlogusVox said...

If you mean teaching arithmetic in the native language, then I agree. But teaching mathematics (which includes algebra, trigonometry, analytical geometry and the calculus) in Pilipino, then this is where we part ways. I have doubt if students will understand it better if we replace all the mathematical terminologies with a native version.

It was introduced to us before in the ’80s, and we have difficulty in understanding the concept especially in physics.

Phil said...

Some English terms are now borrowed in English especially the technical terms in higher Math and Science. Those terms have been used even in our daily vernacular conversation. Our vernacular languages have been so influenced by other languages like Spanish and English. Afterall, language is dynamic (one of the major properties of language).

Teaching concepts in higher Science and Mathematics could still be possible. What is important is we teach concepts to the students using a language which is familiar to them. For example, FUNCTIONS in Algebra could still be retained as it is. However, when we would like to develop the concept on functions, it might be more comprehensible in the part of the learners when the concept is developed using their mother language.

It has to be understood that language is the key to learning the concept but the concept is not the key to learning any language. Remember how we learned to speak? We did not learn any concept prior to learning a particular language. It was all communicative.

The implementation would take time, for sure, because the development of curriculum and the supplementary materials would also take time. Moreover, the implementation should be started in the early stage of education not in the later stages.

EMinEm said...

I think using the vernacular language as the medium of instruction in teaching Mathematics is really a good idea. If your concern is the terminologies, well, I do agree that we don't have to change them anyway! What's more important is the language that will be used in explaining the mathematical concepts to students. However, I think, this should only be done in the primary level. English can already be used as the medium of instruction in the secondary level since students are more familiar with this language by this time. Besides, it would be an avenue for students to practice their English skills,aside from their English classes. In addition, secondary education is a training ground for tertiary. With this, the students should be trained in using the English language since it is indeed needed in the tertiary level and of course in their respective field or career in the future.