SIL Philippines


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Serving Language Communities through Linguistics, Literacy and Translation since 1953


Literacy continues to be a part of the work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics internationally and in the Philippines. SIL is pleased to be involved in literacy activities which touch the lives of adults, young people and children. Although the Philippines has a basic literacy rate of more than 88.5%, pockets of illiteracy remain. According to the Department of Education, there are more than 1 million pre-literates in the country and more than 6 million people are deemed to be functionally illiterate. Many of these are found among the indigenous cultural communities where SIL works in association with the Philippines Department of Education.

The languages spoken by a number of these communities have had no written tradition. Initial work involves linguistic research which leads to the development of an appropriate orthography for the language - an alphabet which is easily read and affords the student opportunity to use the skills they have learned in reading in the vernacular to transition to reading in other Philippine languages. SIL endeavors to serve these communities through literacy education - tailoring such education to the felt needs of the people using a learner centered, bottom-up approach. Our desire is that, beginning from initial literacy, the learner will develop a desire to maintain their reading and writing skills and that these will provide the basis for continuing education, benefiting the individual, the community in which he lives and his nation. Learning is a lifelong process and some of the basic tools are reading, writing and numeracy.

  • MALEI (Matigsalug Literacy Education Incorporated) oversees the on-going development of literacy and education among the Matigsalug Manobo of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. SIL members helped facilitate the formation of this people's organization. MALEI aims to include community education as part of their on-going programs for out-of-school youth and adults. Typically, this would include sessions on topics such as budgeting, leadership training and agricultural matters.

  • Under the umbrella of OMALRACDI (Obo Manobo Active Language Resource and Community Development Inc.), various activities take place in partnership with SIL. These include the promotion of literacy through equipping Manobos to become literacy teachers and supervisors. To date, more than eight Literacy Teacher Institutes have been held in Manobo communities, taught by Manobos. OMALRACDI also facilitates health care education programs through primary health care classes taught by a Manobo midwife.
  • Among the Tagakaulo Kalagan speakers of Sarangani Province and Davao del Sur in association with the Department of Education Bureaus of Elementary Education and Alternative Learning Systems. Beginning in the barangay of Lutay, an area which formerly has had neither formal school for children nor non-formal classes for adults, a program for children has begun where basic reading and writing lesson materials are constructed first in the mother tongue of the students, bridging into Filipino and English. SIL members are very active in this area and the program is spreading to a number of Tagakaulo speaking areas.

See also: Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education.