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Maths and science to revert to BM (Updated 5.52pm)

Updated 5.52pm, 8 July 2009

PUTRAJAYA, 8 July 2009: The teaching of science and mathematics will be reversed to Bahasa Malaysia, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced today.

He also said the teaching of the two subjects in vernacular schools would be conducted in their mother tongue.

The policy change, he added, would take effect in 2012.

Muhyiddin, who is also the education minister, said the cabinet today approved the suggestion by the ministry to empower the Malay language and strengthen the teaching and learning of the English language at all levels of schooling.

“This strategy was drawn up based on the study and monitoring carried out by the Education Ministry on the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English since the policy was implemented in 2003,” he said when making the announcement at the ministry here today.

Muhyiddin said the implementation of the revised policy would be carried out in stages, in Years One and Four in primary school, and Forms One and Four in secondary school beginning in 2012.

However, he said, the change would not involve students in Form Six and matriculation class.

He said in order to ensure that the implementation of the new strategy did not affect the achievement of students who have been taught the two subjects in English, the teaching of and examination for the two subjects would be conducted in both languages until the last batch of students who were taught in English finished in 2014.

He said the government made the decision after scrutinising the outcome of studies and surveys carried out on the teaching and learning of the two subjects in English, which showed that it could not be implemented as desired.


Muhyiddin (File pic)
In decline

Muhyiddin said monitoring by the ministry last year found that only a small group of teachers were using English fully in the teaching of science and mathematics.

“On average, the percentage of English usage is between 53% and 58% out of the total time allotted for science and mathematics,” he said.

In addition, he said, only a small group of mathematics and science teachers in secondary and primary schools who took the English-language Proficiency Level Evaluation test last year achieved the proficiency level.

He said the percentage of students who scored grades A, B, and C for the science subject in the UPSR last year had dropped from 85.1% to 82.5% for urban schools, and from 83.2% to 79.7% for rural schools.

“For mathematics, the achievement of urban schools dropped from 84.8% to 80.9%, while the achievement of rural students dropped from 80.9% to 77%,” he said.

He said the gap in achievement between urban and rural schools had increased when the English Teaching of Mathematics and Science (ETeMS, or its Malay acronym PPSMI) policy  was implemented.

Muhyiddin said the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study 2007 also stated that the position of Malaysian students in the science subject had deteriorated from the 20th spot in 2003 to the 21st spot in 2007.

“For mathematics, the position of our students deteriorated from the 10th spot in 2003 to 20th spot in 2007,” he said.

He said studies by local universities revealed that the level of improvement in the command of the English language by students was nominal, that is, not more than 3% throughout the implementation of the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English.

“The command of the English language among students, particularly in the rural areas, is still low, making it difficult for them to understand the teaching of mathematics and science in English,” Muhyiddin said.

Based on this observation, he said, the government was convinced that science and mathematics must be taught in the language that could be easily understood by the students, namely Bahasa Malaysia in the national schools, and Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.

Not politically motivated

Muhyiddin added that the government’s decision was made upon objective, and not political, consideration, based on a scientific study on the matter.

“It was not made because of political factors or the Manik Urai by-election. It was made in the interest of the country,” he said.

The decision was also in line with the Unesco study, which showed that it was easier for students to master knowledge in their early school years by using the mother tongue.


Mahathir (File pic; public domain)
Asked whether the abolition contradicted the aspiration of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who introduced the policy, Muhyiddin said Mahathir generally accepted the reality that the policy had to be changed.

He said he and senior officials of the ministry had had a discussion with Mahathir that lasted over three hours to explain the difficulty in continuing with the policy, the problem of the ability of the teachers and pupils to master the English language, and the performance gap between the urban/rural and the national/non-national schools.

Muhyiddin also said the government took into account Mahathir’s views on further strengthening the teaching and learning of the English language, including the use of information communication technology (ICT) and the setting up of language laboratories.

Double jeopardy

Asked whether the government was wasting billions of ringgit by abolishing  PPSMI after six years of implementation, Muhyiddin said the government did not want the policy to fail to meet its objective after spending so much money.

“If we spend billions of ringgit and the system is not effective, it would be a double jeopardy,” he said. That’s why the government would strengthen the teaching and learning of both Bahasa Malaysia and English at all school levels, and would implement comprehensive measures to enhance the command of both languages among students, he explained.

“I am a parent too. I like to see my child have a strong command of English,” Muhyiddin said, adding that the new education system would aim to strengthen the English language while upholding Bahasa Malaysia.

Changes in store

He said in the efforts to empower the teaching of the Malay language, the subject curriculum would undergo a transformation at primary and secondary school levels with focus given to enhancing the language skills among students.

“It will be implemented through an integrated, balanced and holistic modular approach. It will cover skills like listening, speaking, reading and writing, as well as the command of the language in terms of grammar and proficiency.

“At the primary school level, the Malay-language curriculum will focus on fun learning and the appreciation of the language,” he said.

At the secondary school level, the Malay-language curriculum would focus on the appreciation of the Malay literature as well as bolstering the students’ skills in grammar, reading, listening, writing, speaking and the overall command of the language.

On the teaching and learning of English, he said, the ministry would appoint additional 13,933 English teachers, comprising 1,000 teachers from abroad, 600 retired teachers who would be re-employed, and 12,333 additional teachers from the Malaysian Institute of Teachers’ Education as well as from private and public institutions of higher learning.

The English subject period for the lower primary school (Year One to Year Three) would be increased by 90 minutes a week, making it 330 minutes a week; while the upper primary school (Year Four to Year Six) would also be increased by 90 minutes to 300 minutes a week, he said.

The English subject period for national-type Chinese and Tamil primary schools would also be increased by 60 minutes to 120 minutes a week for the lower primary level, and by 30 minutes to 120 minutes a week for the upper primary level.

“The English subject period for Form One to Six will be increased by 80 minutes to 280 minutes a week, from 200 minutes at the moment.

“The time allocation for the Malaysian University English Test (Muet) for Form Six classes would be increased by 80 minutes to 400 minutes a week, from 320 minutes at the moment,” he added.

At matriculation level, the period would be increased from three to six hours a week.

In addition, an English contemporary literature programme for children would also be introduced for all upper primary pupils.

Other measures would include the setting up of English laboratories in schools. “Schools will also be utilising Information Technology in the teaching and learning of English,” Muhyiddin said.

To expose students to proper terminology, elements of science and technology would be incorporated into the teaching of English, he added. — Bernama

See also: Groups react to decision on maths and science

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20 Responses to “Maths and science to revert to BM (Updated 5.52pm)”

  1. Danesh says:

    Sigh … who are the parents thinking of? Looks like themselves more than their children. Bahasa is the mothertongue, keyword “mother”! Learn it at home … and during other subjects. English will bring a bright future.

    My English is not the best but with what I know I have a well-paying job, I get to travel, keep my family happy and also have a superb social life.

    Malaysians love going backwards. Why? Please put your racial differences aside for a change. Grow up!

  2. Nicholas.C says:

    For what it’s worth, I think this is a step in the right direction. After all, having two mediums of instruction in single medium schools without the infrastructure (tried speaking English to school teachers lately?) to support it simply makes no sense.

    What we should do now is bring back English medium schools and teach the language properly.

  3. steven says:

    Why 2012? Why not next year? 2013 is election year?

    2012 is three years time. Looks like playing safe. No foresight for the next generation.

  4. pete wu says:

    Playing politics with the future of our children! This beloved country of ours is being run by idiots.

  5. Nicholas Aw says:

    Finally, the nail has been driven into the coffin. Even before the announcement many (me included: in my comments in Nut Graph recently) have expected this political decision.

    It is a foregone conclusion, BN/Umno have to protect their political interest. Instead of finding ways to strengthen the teaching of Math and Science in English, the government has resorted to reverting the teaching of these two subjects to BM and the mother tongue to please a section of the political population.

    Tun M must be the most disappointed man as he was the one who initiated this programme but it does not matter anymore, does it? Tun M is no more the PM.

    I think this flip-flopping is not doing any good for the government. Then there were the millions spent on hardware, software and training but who cares anyway; it was just taxpayers’ money!

    Of course there would probably be hundreds of comments on this issue but one thing is for sure: it is to no avail. Period.

  6. PH says:

    DPM said, survey told only 20% of secondary school teachers have English teaching capacity!

    This is real alarming – that we are isolated from the outside world. So, DPM should promote English in Math and Science after primary school level.

    The right timing maybe is Form 2 or 3 upwards.

    As when enrolled to university level most social, commercial, science and technology subjects are in English.

    Starting early is better, isn’t it?

  7. M.K. says:

    Definitely a step backwards! The future looks bleak for future generations.

  8. Joon says:

    Because they found that only a certain percentage of teachers thought Maths and Science fully in English. So that is one of the reasons. Well, if you are serious about implementing the policy, you will pay better wages to attract qualified teachers to teach in English. Just because the teachers are not qualified does not mean that we have to do away with English in Maths and Science. So what will happen if you cannot find good teachers for the English Language, for grammar and composition? Do you do away with the whole English Language subject?

  9. Azizi Khan says:

    Congratulations! We can finally rest assured that an entire generation of Malaysians will not be able to string a proper sentence in English!

    But thats OK. We have local diploma mills pushing out certificates and degrees so our graduates can continually be unemployed.

    Oh yes, we can still complain about the British colonists after fifty years of independence. After all, they did force the language down our throat, right ?

    But wait, we still need to communicate with those former colonial masters for business purposes. Perhaps we can give those Mat Salleh free BM courses.

    This is the stupidest move ever. As it is, our ministers speak crappy English. Now we can safely be the laughing stock of the world, if we are not there already.

  10. D Evil says:

    This is the most pragmatic solution, not the best, but just workable. After all, we have a generation of bad, uncommitted and undedicated teachers. What can you do with such a small number of teachers who can teach in English? What can Muhyiddin do?

    The education system is so screwed up. Leave it lah. Do not have ambitious dreams for it. Be practical. Go back to basics. Forget about science and maths.

  11. tkwah says:

    Wow! Malaysia is one the world’s economic superpowers that dominates trade and FDIs. All other countries have conducted their business with Malaysia in Bahasa Malaysia: the most widely used lingua franca of the world…

    Pause to think. Is that true at all?

  12. Honestly, if the rakyat wills it this way, then I’m fine with it.

    However, for those who are not fine with it, my guess is you should now push for private schools to allow 100 percent local students.

  13. vp says:

    Why does Muhyiddin need to discuss with Mahathir? Who is Mahathir in Parliament? Why not discuss in Parliament? Our DPM should report to the Parliament and the rakyat, not Mahathir.

  14. kahseng says:

    This doesn’t solve the problem. A good compromise is go back to 1975 and reopen the English-medium schools.

    That is: Mother tongue in primary schools when children are cognitively groping around the world. Then English in technical and commerce subjects in high schools.

    Parents should be allowed to choose to raise their children in the culture of their choice.

    Although not widely recognised, Malaysia has a large section of society whose mother tongue is English. This group meekly accepted the destruction of English-medium schools in the late 1970s.

    Many of these are now taking their frustration out on the Chinese vernacular schools. Subconsciously, they are subverting the vernacular schools to make them de facto English schools. But this can never solve their problem.

    Unity (one of the original rationale now almost forgotten) should never have been an issue. No English proficiency can whitewash the unity-destroying NEP and biased policies.

    English-medium schools will put vernacular schools to real competitive test, and weaken whoever does not produce successful students.

    Meanwhile, Chinese vernacular schools will provide the benchmark for the English and Malay medium schools to find the best governing structure.

    Some pro-English parents are confusing quality with English education. It’s the governing structure and independence from political manipulation by the Ministry of Education that will improve quality of education.

    I suspect a PTA-driven system will be unstable, weak, error-prone and short-sighted. I suspect a Board of Governor/Directors-driven system will be more independent and provide better quality (a la Chinese vernacular system). But the BOG system also has its problem with egos and some weak BOG.

    The assumption that just teaching math and science in English will improve English is a fallacy.

    Some elite pro-English parents are ignoring the needs of rural, lower-class students, as well as commerce students, who will face even more challenge in international English usage (financial and marketing English is even tougher to master than scientific English).

    Take a cue from the March 2008 elections and start demanding choices in a liberal education environment, including English-medium schools.

    Or else, more parents will switch from SK to SJKC, causing undue pressure there. Some will switch to international schools.

  15. cluckcluck says:

    For all the talk of empowering the Malay language, let’s be honest….they chickened out. Only Mahathir was prepared for the difficulties and had the vision for the future. How can one abandon something that has not really been implemented effectively yet? Fear, that’s why. Fear of challenges. Fear of struggles. NO VISION.

    We all know we sometimes have to take a step back to go forward. What type of mentality do our leaders have…wanting instant results? No such thing in this world. What short-sightedness. Looking good in primary/secondary school isn’t going to get us anywhere. Especially if they have to go out into the REAL world where children of a similar age have access to MILLIONS of books rather than just BUKU TEKS KURIKULUM MALAYSIA. You are what you eat/feed on …for Malaysian students….BUKU TEKS KURIKULUM MALAYSIA….How sad…Malaysia Sudah Tak Boleh…

  16. Right2Choose says:

    Maths and science sounds real funny in Malay. At the most, it can be said to be half Malay. The people who are facing difficulties in understanding these subjects are the very ones who should be doubling their [effort] to comprehend these subjects in English.

    The non-Malay [Malaysian] students have already made great strides in their command of the Malay language. Dr M was a great visionary who wanted to bring up the standard of maths and science in Malaysia. And I think it was achieved to a certain level.

    In the years that it was implemented, the authorities should have introduced quality teachers and phased out the use of dual languages. Then the students would have been forced to master the English language and [this would have brought] us up to international standards. Maths and science terms sure sound funny in the Malay language, and once they leave school, [these students] will have extreme difficulties in furthering their studies or even self-studies for that matter. I hope the government will not go through with this. There is still time.

  17. Azizi Khan says:

    Hey, I have been thinking about this. And it’s not a bad idea.

    Think about it. The ones who speak English are going to go on and be successful with their corporate jobs and high-paying international ventures. The ones who don’t speak English — government jobs, low paying jobs; Umno and PKR politicians.

    Don’t you see what this gives people like you and me who go head-to-head with all the Mat Sallehs? We are superior! We are better! We are intellectually mature!

    The rest? Well, they can be our servants! So, we solve our maid problem as well.

    Think about it. The next time an ITM graduate writes to me a crappy resume asking for a job, I can get him [or her] to work at my mother’s house. I can “retrain” him [or her] by providing him [or her] benefits on the job like cooking or cleaning.

    So by reverting back to BM, our politicians are doing us a favour and helping:

    1. Solve the maid problem.
    2. Solve the unemployed graduate problem.
    3. Creating a distinct class where I get to lord over these people who “dun speak Ingerissss”.
    4. Reduce the competition in the international arena. I mean look at me: I live and work overseas, I come back to Malaysia and pretty much can walk into a high paying MNC job. Why would I want local competition? If they want they can work for me fetching files and washing my BMW….

    In short, this is a good thing for current English speakers!

  18. Yokky K. says:

    Changing Maths and Science back to BM is a waste of money and time. First of all, the parents have to re-purchase all books: the younger brother and sister cannot use the reference books from the elder brother or sister.

    Just like what happened when the government changed the two subjects from BM to English. That was for the better, so people paid for a better future for their kids. This time, people have to waste money again, but for the political tricks.

    What is the use of increasing hours for English lessons, when the teacher [...] does not go into class? Ask any of the kids, how often does their teacher actually go into the class and teach? Perhaps two or three lessons in a whole week? Most of them will tell you: “Today, no lesson at all.” Changing back to BM is like a move to change from using a car to a trishaw, so that the rural area people can handle it well.

  19. sobodoh one says:

    Empower the language, impoverish the people.

    1Malaysia. 1Language. 1Handicap.

  20. a malaysian says:

    When I heard bout this sensitive issue I really felt irritated because it’s not unfair for students living in the city. This is because they have learnt these two subjects in English for 6 years. Just imagine and see how they would feel and it’s really wasting their effort time and obviously their money as well. We as human beings should think wisely when we take any decision so it will not affect them. I feel that the government should be more serious in this matter and not to be sarcastic.


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