Respect for Deaf’s rights in K to 12

“DepEd made the least provisions for Deaf learners in K to 12,” ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio laments.  “In its haste to implement K to 12, DepEd is pushing the Deaf more into the margins.”

On paper at least, DepEd now implements mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE), which directs teachers to use the student’s first or home language (L1) as the medium of instruction (MOI) from Kinder to Grade 3.  The guidelines for the implementation of MTBMLE (DepEd Order 16, series of 2012) lists Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and nine other major languages teachers should use in the various subjects.
However, neither of these 12 languages, all oral and written, applies to education of Deaf persons, whose L1 is visual—sign language.  It was also revealed in consultations with the Filipino Deaf community that DepEd started implementing MTBMLE in K to 12 without due regard to them.
Last summer, DepEd issued teachers a curriculum guide for the language arts which set minimum competencies in the mother tongue at each grade level.   Tinio observed that these competencies are based on oral and written language.
“These modules are insensitive to the special learning proficiencies, culture, and identity of the Deaf,” Tinio said.  “Most of the minimum competencies begin with ‘listen and...’ and targets oral fluency and mastery in phonetics, grammar, spelling, and other skills which have no meaning and use to Deaf learners.”
The Deaf Education Council (DEC), formed through the efforts of Rep. Tinio after representatives of the Deaf community complained of the marginalization of the Deaf in Philippine education, is still in the process of drafting a language arts module for Deaf education when DepEd started MTBMLE in K to 3 this school year.  This is contrary to DepEd’s commitment, aired last year at a forum which established the DEC, that it welcomes the formulation of a Deaf-friendly curriculum and instruction within the K to Program.
“Children appreciate DepEd for its effort in institutionalizing the use of the mother tongue in basic education.  But Deaf children have doubts—as done by DepEd, there is no MTBMLE.”
Tinio noted that this insensitivity to the Deaf learner is another proof that DepEd is not ready to implement K to 12.  As it is, Deaf children cannot understand lessons because their teachers use a language foreign to them—either Filipino, English, or any oral language, or sign systems they cannot understand.  This disconnect between the teachers’ language and the Deaf learners’ leaves a big portion of Filipino children without significant access to education.
According to 2009 data, there are 13 M Deaf Filipinos, with only 1 to 2 percent in school.  Deaf rights advocates believe that, the Deaf being a “hidden population,” the numbers are greater.
Studies show that a child’s level of mastery in his or her L1 indicates his aptitude and competency in learning a second or subsequent languages (L2 or L3, and so on).  The child’s L1 should thus be used as the medium of instruction throughout the entire basic education.
Aside from calling for a Deaf-accessible module, Tinio urges DepEd and PNoy to provide for sufficient items for teachers, especially Deaf teachers, with sufficient training in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).
Tinio, in consultation with the Deaf community, drafted and filed House Bill 6079, “The Filipino Sign Language Act of 2012,” which mandates FSL as a separate subject for Deaf learners and its use as the MOI. 

(Reference: ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio) 

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