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.
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.
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