Keep Changing It. What's next?

July 09, 2009

It is Bahasa again but more emphasis will be placed on learning English

PUTRAJAYA: The Government has decided to reverse the Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English policy and revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools and Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.

More emphasis would also be placed on English, including the hiring of retired teachers, assistant teachers for bigger classes and having additional periods.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this meant that from 2012, students in Years One and Four and Forms One and Four in national primary and secondary schools would study the two subjects in Bahasa Malaysia while those in vernacular schools would be taught in their mother tongue (Chinese and Tamil).

“We want to have a ‘soft landing’ which is why we will begin only in 2012. This will allow us time to make the necessary preparations,” he told a press conference at the ministry when announcing the reversal of the ETeMS policy or better known by its Malay acronym, PPSMI.

Asked why the ministry was not starting with a new cohort of Year One students, Muhyiddin who is Education Minister, said there was time to fine-tune the policy.

“There is still two-and-a-half years to prepare.

“Some members of the Cabinet made an observation that those in Form Four may be affected but that’s okay because we can still make changes so they continue their studies in two languages,” he said.

Muhyiddin said the ministry would do “whatever we can to make it as soft as possible for these students.”

“This is why the ministry is staggering the changes that will happen.

“It was quite sudden when the PPSMI was introduced previously,” he said.

The PPSMI policy was implemented in phases, beginning with Year One, Form One and Lower Six students in 2003, under former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure.

The first cohort who completed six years of primary schooling and studied the two subjects in English received their Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results last year.

Muhyiddin said that to ensure the implementation of the new policy did not affect the first batch (who started studying the two subjects in English in primary school in 2003), they would continue to study Mathematics and Science bilingually (in English and Bahasa Malaysia) until 2014.

He stressed that the reason for the reversal in policy was due to objective considerations and not political ones.

“It was based on empirical studies and other specialist reviews,” he said.

Based on studies conducted in 2008, he said, the ministry found that only a small percentage of teachers fully used English to teach the two subjects.

“On average, the percentage of those using English during Mathematics and Science periods was around 53% to 58%,” he said, adding that only a small number of teachers were proficient.

Muhyiddin said studies carried out by local universities found that students’ mastery level of English during the entire policy was around 3% while the level among rural students was low.

“Based on these observations, the Government is confident that Mathematics and Science should be taught in languages understood by students, which is Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, and Chinese and Tamil in the respective vernacular schools,” he said.

On whether the decision goes against Dr Mahathir’s vision, Muhyiddin said he and senior ministry officials had a three-hour meeting explaining the problems faced by those involved.

It’s saddening, says Mahathir

PUTRAJAYA: The future of our schoolchildren will be compromised with the Government reversing the teaching of Science and Mathematics from English to Bahasa Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

Dr Mahathir, who was behind the original policy of teaching both subjects in English, said his intention was to ensure that Malaysians were able to face global challenges at the earliest opportunity.

Expressing sadness on the policy reversal, he said schoolchildren would find it difficult to know more about the developments in the field of Science.

“These matters, of course, cannot be resolved overnight. But it’s the Government’s responsibility to train and supply capable teachers. I’m confident that our teachers will be able to study and teach in English,” he told reporters at his Perdana Leadership Foundation office yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said it was good that more teachers would be trained in English.

“But if we can train teachers to learn English, why can’t we do the same by training them to learn and teach Science and Mathematics in English?,” the former Prime Minister asked.

Dr Mahathir also questioned why no one protested when the medium of teaching in English in the colonial times was changed to Bahasa Malaysia.

“And at that time, not many teachers knew the national language. Now, it’s all right if we mix a little bit of Malay and English, but at the same time we need to improve the ability of our teachers too,” he added.

On his meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is the Education Minister, before the new policy was announced, Dr Mahathir said he was only given a briefing.


My opinion

Why changing it again??? Seriously stop burdening the kids. This is just my point of view as a student in this country. I'm from the batch who took my SPM in Bahasa Malaysia for the science subjects Chemistry, Biology, Physics and even Maths plus Add Maths. But after I entered matriculation all the teachings are in English for Science Subjects and Maths as well. But I still managed to study well. Now, I'm at Degree Level and my campus official languange is English.

The point is, even though the teachings would be done in BM again, but once these students enter university they'll have to "face" lectures in English. Maybe the concern here is about the students in rural areas. I cant deny I'm from one of the large cities. So, maybe I dont have the difficult experiences in adapting new language in my learnings. But still, you should not measured the performances of students based on passing percentage of exams like UPSR etc. Those are like overall data. Even though they want to give extra time for English classes but still learning Science and Maths in English are different from learning the language itself. In terms of how you analyse the concepts and all the terminologies. I still think that the earlier you have the exposure in learning English, the better. After all, the life doesn't stop only during schooling time.

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