This App Challenge Advocates Cebuano Language for Small Children

I am a Cebuano by birth although many people would ask me if I am a Filipino because I look like an Indian.  When I was younger, many people mistook me as a Middle Eastern. But despite my physical resemblance to a certain race, I speak Cebuano fluently and I can write articles in Cebuano.

I couldn’t anymore find a commentary article about the deteriorating skill among Cebuanos when it comes to speaking English fluently. That piece of article was written at the time when BPO’s were in a hunt for more English speaking Filipinos to cope with labor demands in BPO industry. It would be less costly for BPO’s to train Filipinos already proficient in speaking the “recognized” universal language in business. And though it had had successes, the aftermath of the “advocacy” in that language created a culture among BPO employees and yuppies. The advantages in that culture contributed to the increase in population of middle-class Filipino citizens.

And yet, the consequences of that culture have given rise to younger generations, who have quite grasped the language of their BPO-employed parents.

BPO employees already adept in that language, perhaps, subconsciously put their offsprings into the language training, resulting to a new class of young Filipino generations who have picked the English language and have made it as their mother tongue. What’s more surprising is that they have become increasingly adept in the use of jargons and cliches. Even my 7-year-old half-Korean niece wouldn’t have a hard time to be in the group of girls, parading like Alicia Silverstone’s clique in Clueless.  At that age, she already learns English cliches that would make Silverstone say, “Get it on, girl!”.

But is learning the English language among Cebu-born children that bad?

I don’t think so.

But I think it’s also important to make them learn the language that their parents have been born with: Cebuano.

Globe Telecom’s App Challenge

Globe is advocating the use of Cebuano language because it holds a certain promise. Now, please take note that Cebuano can be considered a language, not the “dialect” that most Cebuanos have been taught about.

Globe Telecom, in partnership with Molave Development Foundation, launches App Challenge Cebu 2016 to encourage the creation of educational Android apps that will teach K-3 pupils about reading and writing in Cebuano.

“We want to advance Globe Telecom’s education initiatives by coming out with top-quality content in learning areas that are underserved. The tri-lingual system is a key cause of lack of basic reading comprehension. With poor reading skills, students are ill-equipped to learn other key subjects such as Math and Science. Literacy in the mother tongue is an essential component in the foundation of early learning. Thus, we didn’t hesitate to accept the request of Molave Development Foundation to mount an app challenge encouraging developers to create an educational app that can teach K-3 students about reading, writing, and comprehending Cebuano,” said Michelle Tapia, Head of Education and Digital Learning under Corporate Strategy and Business Development Group of Globe.

At present, a lot of students have minimal-to-no usable material for in-classroom learning or for self-study especially for fundamental skills like mother tongue literacy in K-3, thus, while they are able to speak and to understand their main language or dialect, their reading and writing abilities are limited.

On the other hand, many teachers all over the country are saddled with additional work on content development to compensate for the lack of available good-quality materials instead of being able to focus on improving student outcomes.

Cebuano as a mother tongue among 21M Filipinos


Cebuano is among the pre-identified major Mother Tongues for instruction, according to the Department of Education. The language is the second most widely used language, after Tagalog, and is spoken by 21 million Filipinos.

The apps are expected to help address the problem by teaching the half-a-million Cebuano children their native alphabet and helping them build their vocabulary, among other things, through various activities. Learning concepts will focus on colors, numbers, shapes, family members, and/or body parts.

To qualify for the App Challenge, interested parties need to form a group of 3-4 members with at least one member who is fluent in Cebuano. Teams may register at and submit their proposal by November 10, 2016. Teams based outside Cebu are expected to travel to Cebu for the Pitch & Awarding at their own capacity.


The project proposal, which has to be in PDF format of two pages or less, should explain the following: how the Android app will respond to the required functionality, how it will appeal to the target audience of K-3 children and their parents, any additional features or ideas to achieve the app’s learning objectives, and illustrations and graphics that depict the concept.

The top five qualifiers will be announced on November 11 and will be invited to attend a one-day online workshop via Brightspace on November 14. Technology and learning experts from Globe Telecom, Molave Development Foundation, and IREX will also participate in the online workshop to mentor the qualifying teams.

The qualifiers may use Globe Labs Application Program Interface (APIs) for SMS, Voice, Charging, Sponsored Access, and Location-Based Services to create their app. To access the API, they have to register with Globe Labs at

Live Beta version of the app must be 70% completed and will be presented during the face-to-face Pitch Day in December in Cebu. Winning Android apps are expected to be completed by March 31, 2017 and must be published to the Google App Store. It will also be disseminated to the network of libraries and schools in the country.

Prizes in the app challenge

           The first prize winner will receive P100,000 for funding development, a special gadget for each team member, long-term advisory with Molave and Globe Labs, and an audience with Kickstart Ventures, Inc., a fully-owned venture capital firm of Globe. The rest of the participants will be given tokens and consolation prizes.

           The apps will be judged based on the following criteria: features – 30%, quality of design – 15%, feasibility/sustainability – 15%; appropriateness (content, learning outcomes) – 30%; and uniqueness – 10%.

         To know more about the App Challenge, please visit or email

Multilingualism in Context:

App Challenge Cebu 2016 is in support of The Department of Education’s Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE).

In the implementation of MTB-MLE, the children’s mother tongue is used in the classroom from Kinder to Grade 3, as a bridge to learning Filipino and English.

The purpose of MTB-MLE is to develop appropriate cognitive and reasoning skills to enable children to operate equally in different languages – starting in the mother tongue with transition to Filipino and then English and to preserve the Philippine cultural treasure as well. It provides learners with a strong educational foundation in the first language in terms of instruction and a stepping stone in achieving the aims of education as well as the goal of functional literacy.

DepEd has identified at least 18 Philippine languages that are used in MTB-MLE.

Of these, Cebuano is the 2nd most-spoken language in the country, after Tagalog, but is the language with the largest number of native speakers, at around 21 million (2007).

One of the biggest challenges facing MTB-MLE is that there is not sufficient reading and learning materials in many of our native languages, either in print or digital. This is one of the main reasons why we are organizing this App Challenge, so that we can start to develop online and mobile content that children, schools and families can access, using their native languages.

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