The Philippines linguistic map is made up of 175 languages — 19 of them now taught in public schools. Many of these languages lack the basic stories and materials that are necessary for young students to learn to read. What if there was a way to help communities gather, create, and print their own local language materials? In the Philippines, that’s what IREX and its partners are doing through Beyond Access.
For many years, English and Filipino were the languages of instruction in schools. But three years ago, the Department of Education introduced a policy of mother-tongue based instruction for grades 1 to 3, meant to help children learn to read and learn to learn in the language they speak at home. Along with this new approach to education has come a surge in demand for reading materials in the languages now being taught in public schools. But in most of these languages, there are few materials available beyond the textbooks. Because of their scarcity, most families don’t have mother tongue books at home, meaning children get little practice in reading on their own or with parents outside the classroom.
We’ve previously explored if public libraries have something to offer to the mix. Last week, in Urdaneta, we brought together about 20 librarians, teachers and education officials at the Urdaneta City Library to test out one tool that might be used in generating locally-produced reading materials for children. The Bloom software, created by SIL, was designed with the specific purpose of making it easy and quick to produce books in any language, and even in multiple languages.
During the workshop, the group learned how to use Bloom by creating picture dictionaries in Ilocano, Pangasinense and Hiligaynon. They then moved on to create books from stories written by youth who had participated in an Urdaneta library reading camp earlier in the summer. Others translated Filipino stories into new languages. The Bloom software makes formatting easy and churns out well-designed, attractive books that can be instantly published from an ordinary office printer. By the end of the day, more than two dozen new books had been created.
“This workshop is very timely for me, working on curriculum development for elementary schools in the entire Region I,” said Department of Education program supervisor Gina Amoyen. “One of our biggest problems is the lack of learning materials in Ilocano for Grades 1-3. Bloom can be a very powerful tool that teachers in my Region can use to make their own learning materials, so that we can strengthen literacy efforts for our children using the mother tongue.”
This workshop was just the first experiment with the software among the library community in the Philippines. Participants suggested that with Bloom’s ease of use, many more books could be created this way and suggested ways of creating thousands more over the next six months.
We plan to document and disseminate the lessons learned from the workshop so that the process can be replicated throughout the Philippines.