Understanding Best Practices in Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education in the Philippines

Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) policy in The Philippines involves implementation of local mother tongues as the language of instruction in Kindergarten to year three (K -3), with the official languages (Filipino and English) being introduced as the language of instruction after grade three. Previously, the early years of schooling used Filipino and English as the language of instruction, with local languages being used to assist teachers and students in the classroom. MTB-MLE is being implemented across the country from the 2012-2013 school year. While a very small number of schools previously implemented MTB-MLE, many schools and teachers are now learning how to use a local mother tongue as the language of instruction, and in the coming years this will be taken up by more schools, teaching a wider variety of languages.

This project is designed to study the widespread implementation of the mother tongue as the language of instruction within the MTB-MLE policy in four phases. Phase 1 surveyed a small number of schools across different types of language contexts to identify the factors relevant to implementation of the policy. Phase 2 surveyed a much larger number of schools across the country to identify the degree and range of influence of these factors. Phase 3 investigated four case studies of schools (one in each type of language context), to describe in detail best practices used in schools successfully implementing MTB-MLE. In Phase 4, data from Phases 1 to 3 are being matched to actual learning outcome data from selected schools: program factors are being associated with the results of student testing.

Project Team

Alan Williams, Project Leader, University of Melbourne

Romylyn Metila, University of the Philippines

Lea Pradilla, University of the Philippines

Reference Panel

Reference Panel Membership

The Reference Panel provides perspectives on the Philippines curriculum as well as advice concerning viability of research implementation.


Metila, R., Pradilla, L., & Williams, A. (2016). The challenge of implementing mother tongue education in linguistically diverse contexts: The case of the Philippines. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher. doi: 10.1007/s40299-016-0310-5

Metila, R. Pradilla, L. & Williams, A. (2016). Investigating best practice in Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) in the Philippines, Phase 2 progress report: Patterns of challenges and strategies in the implementation of mother tongue as medium of instruction in the early years: A nationwide study. Report prepared for Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Philippine Department of Education. Melbourne and Manila: Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre (ACTRC).

Williams, A., Metila, R., Pradilla, L. A., & Digo, M. (2014). Investigating Best Practice in MTB-MLE in the Philippines MTB-MLE: Phase 1 Progress Report. University of the Philippines: Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre.

Understanding Best Practices in MTB-MLE in the Philippines, ACTRC Research Forum Presentation, 18 July 2015

Teaching Math and Science in the Mother Tongue: Challenges, Strategies and Perceived Effects. Paper delivered at the International Conference in Science and Mathematics Education, October 28-30 2014. Abstract, Summary

Understanding Best Practices in MTB-MLE in the Philippines, Curriculum Forum Summary, 31 July 2014

DepEd Advisory, Research Project on Understanding Best Practices in Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education in the Philippines – Phase Four