KUALA LUMPUR, 23 June 2009: The potential benefits from the English Teaching of Mathematics and Science (ETeMS) policy has been “nominal” up to now, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.
Muhyiddin (File pic) Muhyiddin, who is also deputy prime minister, told Parliament today that the there was only a small difference in students’ command of the three subjects before 2003, when maths and science were taught in Bahasa Malaysia, and after.
“[The change] has only been about 2-3%,” Muhyiddin said.
He also said the command of the English language among teachers was merely “moderate”.
Muhyiddin was answering a question by the DAP’s Dr Tan Seng Giaw, who asked the minister to state the steps that have been taken to improve education standards, including the teaching of maths and science in English.
The Kepong Member of Parliament (MP) said that the ETeMS policy was six-years-old, and asked that the reports on its effectiveness be made public.
Since its implementation in 2003, the ETeMS (or PPSMI in its Malay acronym) policy has been criticised by various quarters, including Opposition political parties, students groups, and language stakeholders.
On 7 March, the Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI (GMP) held a peaceful march to Istana Negara to protest the policy. They were met with police action.
Decision by July
Muhyiddin said that the government would make a “comprehensive announcement” on the status of the ETeMS policy by early July.
“I give my word, we will do this at the soonest possible date,” he said.
He added that a full analysis of the policy had already been carried out, and that the report would be submitted to cabinet.
Muhyiddin revealed several measures that the government would be taking to improve the command of English among teachers and students. These included upgrading of computer labs in schools into “language labs”, and the emphasis on the teaching of English grammar and literature.
“We are also considering hiring English-language teachers from overseas,” Muhyiddin added.
At a press conference later, PAS MP for Shah Alam, Khalid Samad, said that Muhyiddin’s statement was proof that the government had carried out the ETeMS policy without sufficient preparation.
Khalid Samad (right) at the press conference with Yusmadi Yusoff (PKR-Balik Pulau, left)
and PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar
“They should have made sure everything is ready. Don’t make our children guinea pigs,” Khalid said.
Khalid called on the government to “do the responsible thing” and to suspend the policy immediately.
For more productive debate, we should first recognize that there EXISTS in Malaysia a group of English-educated parents who want their children to grow up with the same cultural upbringing and lifestyle. For them, there is a need for English medium primary and secondary schools.
At the same time, these frustrated English-educated families should not destroy the Chinese-vernacular schools in which the Chinese-educated families can more effectively educate their kids, and bring them up in a lifestyle that they aspire to do.
Consciously or unconsciously, these English-educated parents are transferring their frustration onto Chinese vernacular schools, unknowingly lending their political weight to the nationalists in Umno to destroy the remaining mother-tongue education (Malay, Tamil and Chinese language).
A key issue often ignored by non-linguists is that children grope and learn the world and logic better in their mother tongue. They need that early cognitive clarity and we need to help them avoid linguistic confusion at an early stage. When language becomes just another logical tool at a later stage, then they can begin to absorb additional science and business in English as a second language.
Then there are the below-middle-income families, whatever their mother tongue is, who will learn best if tutored by parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, neighborhood volunteers, and neighborhood tutors at a lower cost, who are most conversant in the mother tongues.
Then there are the commerce students: Remember that teaching math and science in English is sacrificing a large group of Malay-language graduates (of all ethnic backgrounds) in business, commerce and finance, where English is an even more important and challenging international tool.
Solution? No solution. Just a compromise. Go back to pre-1975 system of multi-medium primary school, and English in technical/commerce subjects in high school.
Actually, there is a solution. Privatize education. This is heresy in the minds of our “liberals.” But what do you think makes education a perennial problem even in the most affluent societies in the world? Privatization can be done gradually.
The more independent the schools are, the more effective they will be. Many parents envy Chinese-vernacular schools for their general achievement, but do not realize that it is the spirit of independence that is the root of excellence.
One good beginning is to liberalize the international school segment to make for a partial solution.
Nicholas Aw says
If we were to read in between the lines of the reply by the Education Minister in Parliament, we can be assured that come July there will be some drastic policy changes to the teaching of Math and Science in English.
I am willing to bet my last bottom dollar that the existing policy will not stay in toto and that the government will resort to major modifications to appease those who want the teaching of Math and Science to be reverted to Malay.
Another step that will definitely be taken is “importing” native speakers of English from abroad to help improve the standard of English (as if our home-grown retired teachers who belong to the old school – Senior Cambridge – are not good enough!).
The declining standard of English is due to government policies through the years. On realizing the worrying situation, the government resorted to importing native speakers to teach English and also introducing twinning programmes for both in-service teachers and Form 5 students. Although the latter is a good move, unfortunately politics and the quota system reared their ugly heads which resulted in “unqualified” people being sent to England and New Zealand.
To add to the woes, some of these UK-trained teachers have been sidelined and are no longer teaching English which means tens of thousands of ringgit have been washed down the drain. I know for sure of one case where this English teacher no longer teaches English but Math. Obviously, the fault lies in the Education Ministry, well-known for its haphazard planning and made worse by political pressure.
Had the Education Ministry been able to implement policies with no political interference and a quota system, it would be able to pick the best candidates to be trained as English teachers for the benefit of the rakyat. It is still not too late to correct itself. Dare the Education Ministry take up the challenge?
Do we realise what he just said? He said *benefits* nominal which also translates to *no disadvantage*! Pupils still doing as well in the subjects. Not worse. At best it will ensure a better future. At worst just nominal *advantage/benefit*.So all the reason to continue. Let’s see him try to flip-flop out of this one!