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Saving endangered Philippine languages via the K+12 Program

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Title: Saving endangered Philippine languages via the K+12 Program
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The Republic of the Philippines is home to 100 million people and approximately 7,100 islands and numerous mountainous terrains resulting in isolation of communities over time, which create ideal conditions for language variation. These conditions have also resulted in the difficult task of identifying the total number of languages in the nation. The number of known Philippine languages had increased by ten from decade to decade from 1980 (130 languages), to 1990 (140 languages) and to 2000 (150 languages) (Ramon, 2014). It is estimated that there are approximately 175 languages and dialects in the Philippines today (France-Presse, 2012) indicating that the methods of identifying the existence of different languages have been improving. In June 2012, because higher enrolment, retention, and achievement rates are correlated with longer use of the mother tongue especially in developing countries and marginalized populations (Save the Children, 2011), the Philippine government replaced the insufficient ten year educational system with the K+12 program. As a consequence, twelve of the most populous languages, representing two thirds of the country’s population, replaced English and Filipino for kindergarten through third grade. Although the Philippine government’s original intention was to increase the quality of education in the Philippines, it is anticipated that the decision to teach in the mother tongue will also have a preservation effect on the endangered languages. Although the most endangered languages will not realistically be included as the medium of instruction due to the lack of both students and teachers, it is expected that the Philippine government will introduce more languages into the educational system as experience with the new program is gained. But in order for true language preservation to be realized, the Philippine people need to take ownership of the problem of vanishing Philippine languages. This needs to be accomplished via a well organized effort by the local communities to provide the expertise needed to teach basic subjects in the oftentimes vanishing language. In some regions this initiative is already occurring. In Zambales, for example, two local residents are teaching kindergarten and are assisting first grade teachers using the mother tongue of the Ayta Magindi (France-Presse, 2012).

This paper will present an educational reform proposal that will specifically address the inclusion of endangered languages in the government’s K+12 program via the involvement of the local communities.


France-Presse, A, (2012). A Long fight begins to save Philippine languages. Rappler. April 30, 2012. Retrieved on August 21, 2014 at:

Ramon, A. (2014). Many Voices, One Nation: The Philippine Languages and Dialects in Figures. Philippine Statistics Authority-National Statistics Coordination Board. Retrieved on August 21, 2014 at:

Save the Children, 2011. Closer to Home: how to help schools in low- and middle-income countries respond to children’s language needs. Retrieved on August 21, 2014 at
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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