Objections to Teaching Kapampángan – Answered (Part II)

May 11, 2019

You can read part 1 HERE.

The perilous state of the Kapampángan language, which is classified as “definitely endangered” by UNESCO, has been taken up in the first part of this article, along with attempts to correct misconceptions, and objections to on the teaching of the language. That portion was more general, and related to objections to the teaching of the language to Kapampángan children, and in effect to the transmission of the language.

This section is more specific, and tries to refute objections to the teaching of Kapampángan in school, to its use as a medium of instruction, a practice which stopped after the declaration of martial law, and resumed only following the passing of Republic Act 10533 in 2013.


Teaching in Kapampángan in school retards performance in school, and is a barrier to the teaching of Filipino and English, the languages of higher education, the official languages of the Philippines, and the linguae francae of the country. It would be best to begin education in these two languages, and use them for entire duration of the child’s years in school. This will also be more economical, dispensing with the additional instructional materials needed for teaching Kapampángan.


“Research has increasingly shown that teaching in a mother tongue early in school helps reduce dropout rates and makes education more engaging for marginalised groups. Children who benefit from mother tongue-based-multilingual education (MTB-MLE) also perform better in their second language.”1

This has been shown in the United States for Spanish-speaking children educated in their mother tongue, in this case Spanish. “Multilingual education helps ELL children both learn English and maintain their home language—both of which benefit these children’s overall language and social development. When ELLs have a strong foundation in one language, that strong foundation also supports learning and academic achievement in the other language. For example, Spanish-speaking ELLs’ oral language skills in Spanish (the home language) has been found to predict English literacy skills, such that ELLs with stronger Spanish-speaking skills have better English literacy skills 2 years later! Thus, helping ELL children maintain and further develop their home language can actually support English language learning as well.”2

“Children learn better and faster in a language they can understand (preventing delays in learning). They enjoy school more, they feel more at home. Pupils tend to show increased self-esteem.”

The improved self-image imparted by the use of the mother tongue in education is demonstrated among Mexican-American children educated in Spanish. “Beginning education through the child’s native language is not only pedagogically desirable from the standpoint of increased educational efficiency…Giving him pride in his cultural heritage will at once help him to improve his self image and improve his success potential…”3

This is especially crucial when alternative languages, such as Filipino-Tagalog or English, have higher “prestige” and are associated with groups with a higher status in society. The non-use of Kapampángan in education will reinforce a feeling of inferiority in the student, adversely affecting not just performance in school but the totality of the child’s personality and interpersonal relationships.

In addition, multilingualism imparts additional social, intellectual and health benefits to those who fall under the category. It creates an opportunity for early diversity, improves a person’s working memory, makes it easier to learn more languages, allows for individual wisdom to develop, facilitates travel, provides multiple positive cognitive benefits to the brain, and brings several health benefits such as reducing the onset of dementia, lowering the risks of experiencing Alzheimer’s disease, improving stroke recovery time, reducing overall stress levels, and reducing anxiety.4


The decades-long domination of the educational system, media and Philippine society by Filipino-Tagalog means that practically everybody, and most especially the youth, can understand it. This means that attempts to reintroduce Kapampángan, and other non-Tagalog languages are no longer needed, since they are no longer that widely spoken, but on the contrary have become progressively restricted, to the extent that they have become seriously endangered. Of the local languages, only Filipino-Tagalog needs to be used.


The endangerment of Kapampángan and other non-Tagalog languages is in fact the best reason to reintroduce them to the educational system. All Philippine languages are part not just of the country’s heritage, but of that humanity. Their disappearance will cause the disappearance of entire ways of life, points of view, ways of looking at the world – practically the extinction of entire nations or branches of the human race. This is the effect of decades of government policy, and its effect on mass media, and now the Internet, and the way of thinking of society, especially its most influential parts.

As it is, the enthronement of a “national language” (in a non-nation, since the Philippines is a multinational state) has reinforced the stranglehold of what the rest of the oppressed country calls Imperial Manila or Infernal Manila, something that extends to political, economic and other matters. The is exercised most potently through language and the educational system, and only the reinstatement of Kapampángan and other non-Tagalog system in society, beginning with the educational system, can repair this catastrophe. The generalized damage of the domination of a single “national language” has been noted, and the solutions discussed. The resumption of the teaching of Kapampángan in Indung Kapampángan, the Kapampángan Region (and of non-Tagalog languages in their respective areas) will be central to the solution.


Instructional materials in Kapampángan are grossly inadequate. This is in contrast to those in Filipino-Tagalog and English. This, in addition to the fact that it has been decades since Kapampángan was used in school, so that both teachers and the educational system are unprepared. Considering that the bilingual system has been used ever since Kapampángan was last used, the most logical and safest way is to continue teaching in both Filipino-Tagalog and English and Kapampángan at all levels.


The “safest” way? With the current highly endangered state of Kapampángan, continuing with the bilingual system will be anything but safe. On the contrary, it will be the surest way to endanger the language beyond saving, and ensure that it will become “safely” extinct, and totally beyond saving.

The fact is that the linguistic situation in the Philippines is that one language, or subdialect (the Manila subdialect of Tagalog), is put on a pedestal, enthroned far above the rest, reinforcing ethnolinguistic stereotypes which raise Manileños and Tagalogs above other Filipinos. It is, frankly, not just discriminatory but racist, adding an ethnolinguistic element to the regional inequalities which plague the country.

Using Kapampángan and other non-Tagalog languages, something long overdue, will go a long way in remedying the situation and correcting these gross inequalities in education, development and economics.

Also, six years have passed since the passing of R.A. 10533. If educational materials were lacking in the beginning, the inadequacy should have been addressed by now. And since Kapampángan was used as a medium of instruction in the 1960s, we do not lack textbooks from that period which could serve as models for those to be used at present.


The situation is actually much more serious than it seems. More and more children born to Kapampángan parents are being brought up Tagalog, and when their number is added to the children of non- Kapampángan migrants, who have similarly been brought up speaking a language other than Kapampángan, mainly Tagalog, but sometimes English among the upper classes, they already form a majority in some schools, and some areas of Indung Kapampángan. This group, according to Tagalists, is the best reason *not* to use Kapampángan in schools, since they cannot speak the language, and their Kapampángan classmates would communicate with then in Filipino-Tagalog.


On the other contrary, teaching this group, non-Kapampángan children, or the children of Kapampángans brought up speaking Filipino-Tagalog or English, Kapampángan in schools in Kapampángan-majority areas will be beneficial, for it will not only allow them to function well in a Kapampángan-majority environment, but will help them make more friends, improve their working memory (a known benefit of multilingualism), make it easier to learn more languages, reinforce respect for Kapampángans, provide multiple positive cognitive benefits – aside from providing an opportunity to preserve, nay, to revitalize the language, and prevent its extinction.

It is best to do this in the early grades, when children are best equipped to learn other languages, and achieve near native speaker competence in another language. This is the ideal time to teach the language to non-Kapampángans in Kapampángan-majority areas, in Indung Kapampángan or the Kapampángan Region. “According to a new study, performed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, if you want to achieve proficiency similar to that of a native speaker you should start learning before the age of 10.”5 This is borne out by the practice in Catalonia, in the industrial belt around Barcelona, where the children of non-Catalan speakers in Catalonia in Spain, who are educated first in Catalan rather than Castilian Spanish: “Immersing the child in a Catalan speaking environment during this optimum age for language learning” means that “Catalan would be learnt without damaging the child’s spontaneous development in Castilian.”5

In addition, the use of Kapampángan along with other languages in school fosters multilingualism, and this, as previously mentioned, brings social, intellectual and health benefits and other benefits, such as facilitating travel and social interaction, providing multiple positive cognitive benefits, improving working memory, reducing the onset of dementia and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, multilingualism improves stroke recovery time, and reduces overall stress levels.

You can read Part I of this article HERE.


1The benefits of Mother Tongue in Teaching-Learning>

2The benefits of multilingual education


3Mexican-Americans: People on the Move. National Geographic, June 1980, p. 808.

46 Advantages and Disadvantages of Multilingualism


5Scientists Reveal Cut-off Age for Learning a New Language


6Language Policy and Identity: the case of Catalonia


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