Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaching of Science and Maths in English/ 英文教数理的争议

There has been endless polemic since the government introduced the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.

In 2002, I remembered clearly how MCA was deeply involved in objecting to this policy change. The party stand was firm.

MCA feels that with Maths and Science in English, then Mandarin, as the medium of instruction in Chinese primary schools will be severely curtailed since it would be used only for Moral studies and Bahasa Mandarin only.

We felt there are better ways to learn English rather than through 2 rather technical subjects.

There is also the argument that children learn faster and are more competent in learning by using their own mother tongue.

The government strikes a compromise by allowing students the alternative of using English or the mother tongue in learning Maths and Science.

It was obviously a political decision. Now that Tun Dr. Mahathir is not around to push this policy, we are hearing more and more dissenting voices.

Some from the “Gerakan Mansuh PPSMI” again said that the move of teaching Maths and Science is English has challenged the status of Bahasa Melayu as the national language as stated in the constitution.

It is surprising they are singing this tune strongly only 6 years after implementation of the policy. Some speculated that some Pakatan politicians have a hand in it including the demonstration on Saturday, 7th March 2009. Some even suggested that if Dr. Mahathir was still the Prime Minister, then they would have not dare to take the matter to the street.

Some well-known Malay literary figures were involved in the demonstration. They fear the decline of the status and standard of BM in the Malay community with the continuous implementation of PPSMI.

It must be a surprise to a lot of us, that some of the most outstanding Malay literatures were written during the 50, 60 and 70s, when English was the Lingua Franca in the country then.

Since the compulsory implementation of BM as the medium of instruction after May 13th, there is hardly any outstanding modern Malay Literature.

After BM becomes the Lingua Franca from the 80s, there is a lack of efficiency and command of English to an extend where graduates are unable to string a proper sentence in English – what we call Rojak English.

The education system is highly politicized by both the political divide. We talk of scoring points and winning the emotional support of the rakyat. We forget we are talking about education of our children.

While we continue to argue, the standard of education in this country continues to decline. Any senior HR manager and civil servant will share with you the story about the low standard of communication skills and general knowledge that they have encountered with our graduates.

As a Malaysian, we have to equip ourselves minimal with skills in BM, Mandarin and English.

I pick up my Mandarin and BM after I become a Wakil Rakyat in 1986. I am still on the learning curve. Anyway, we never stop learning if we have an inquisitive mind.

English and Mandarin will become equally important, especially with IT revolution and China becoming a global economic power. Mandarin becomes the most popular and fastest growing foreign language in a lot of developed and developing countries.

A lot of business studies undergraduate from European and American universities have exposure of at least 1 semester in China to understand Chinese culture, Chinese language and the dos and don’ts when dealing with China. This has definitely boosts the importance of Mandarin.

When I was visiting the Suzhou Education Centre, I met quite a number of foreign students and lecturers, mostly business studies undergraduate and MBA students, studying in Suzhou for the “Mandarin and Chinese experience”.

Universities from Malaysia should be looking into this. We should depoliticize the learning of English and Mandarin in this country.

The bigger picture is about education for the rakyat. Language, in order to survive the test of time must have commercial value.



















Unknown said...

Dear CSL

I have a little poll at my blog and 88% want the medium of instruction from Secondary onward IN ENGLISH!

take a vote:

Shiok Guy

Pearls said...

From the start, our Education Ministry has no consistent policy!! It has always been at the whims and fancies of whoever sits on that Education Minister chair!! It is no wonder, the younger generation of Malaysians today are so screwed up in terms of education, attitude and skills.

For crying out loud la.. can someone tell whoever who is going to plan all this Ministral post to at least put someone with brains and guts on that Education Minister chair!! Not some whimpsy, malay fanatic, power crazy, money hungry piece of shit that we have been having all these years who does nothing, cannot decide on anything except waving his Keris and demand Ketuanan Melayu!!!

Please!! enough of screwing up and around. Is time to get down to making things work for the young ones..

Unknown said...

If parents spend some attention to the education of their children and create the environment for them to learn, the capacity of an inquisitive brain to learn will alarm the parents.

In order to masterpry a language, the constant exposure and the opportunity to use it at an early age is important.

Thus, I support the continued use of English in the teaching of Science and Mathematics in our schools. The environment of a SJRK is very conducive to the learning of Mandarin. However, unless we give more time and space to English, most of those kids will not have the confidence to use the language after they leave school.

CP Waterman said...

What was the motive behind the switching of English to BM in the secondary schools back in the early 70's under TDM ?????

There is no denying that students from the Chinese medium schools back in the 60's & 70's were most feared for their superior command in Maths & Science, in particular Maths. So was it part of the NEP plan to stun/ knock out that advantage from the Chinese over the Malays ?(no offence meant to all Malay friends,they were superior in Arts & literature!!!).

Obviously it was an evil plan that has back fired like an educational time bomb now exploded in front of everybody.

Perhaps we can humble ourselves and take a leaf from our S'porean neighbour. I'm told that they make English as their primary medium of learning and the students' mother tongue as second language. Any student hoping to get admission into good secondary school or University must also show good standard in their mother language. This way every ethnic group is ensured that they don't lose their ethnic & cultural identity. And because of their better over all command in English, they are now enjoying far greater international competitiveness than Malaysia.

Malaysia is neither here nor there. What a pity!

The world is getting smaller by the day,like it or not English WILL BE the COMMON language for all. Even the head strong French are turning to promote English in their schools today (This would be absurd back in the 80's!!!. They don't change their Maths & science to English, they just add more English study hours & organise special English classes during term & summer holidays.

Do you think our BN government can humble & take remedial action for the future good of all Malaysians instead of fearing the Malays will lose their identity/advantage?

呉 和豪 said...

YB Dato Seri Dr.Chua Soi Lek

Honestly I can not totaly rule out the advantages of using English as a medium of instruction for science and maths.

As a techer teching at certificate and diploma level I notice a significant improvement ,this year the freshy perform better than previous batch of students , mainly they have been taught in these subjects since primary school.
Previosly when I taught technical subjects quite often I had to explain Bahasa Melayu.

Nevetheless It does not means that
we should forget about our mother tongue.

I also insist that Bahasa Melayu should be used as Bahasa Perpaduan.

Teaching Science and Maths in English is not something news and should not be politicised.The independent school has used three languages for teaching many subjects.

However I still think more options to be given, especially we should be considerate to those from rular area.

Also the government must ensure that there are enough qualified teachers being trained in the teaching of science and maths in english.

We have to be realistic we are now living in globalization age.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...


Fuss not so much now
For the sake of future kids
When they don't know how

(C)Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 110309
Wed. 11th Mar. 2009.

Mike said...

The 60 B mini budget announced yesterday is a real disappointment.

This supplementary budget has not direct and immediate impact to the average working family of Malaysia as well as the surviving SMI and alike.

First it never addresses the fundamental issue of consumer confidence and provides real incentive to support and help the average working family to face the harsh economy tsunami.

The budget is full of rhetoric crap like continue education relief, trade in old proton for Rm 5000 cash rebate, purchase a house from Mar 09 to Dec 10 get 10k tax relief…. Etc. It is drafted up and compiled by a bunch of ideological economists who has not real working experience and expertise.

What about tax reduction both personal and cooperate, Nil,…
increase in personal deduction, exemption, nil…
Reduction in petrol price, .. Nil…
Take over Plus / NS Highway with such a flat allocation in the mini budget . nil….
Reduce electrical tarrif … Nil….

So what kind of stimulus packages it is? Another budget with lot of hidden agenda …

Just to put thing in prospective, for 60 billion, the government can afford to give each household in Malaysia a fat Rm 6,000 cash rebate in whatever form (food voucher, spending voucher like in Taiwan). I bet you the economic impact and multiplication factor will be immediate.

You see thing can be very simple and yet complicated people make things even more complicated so to confuse people.

I have no great hope nor respect for these type of leadership. Period.

呉 和豪 said...

Dato Seri Dr.Chua Soi Lek

Lu Xhun the great scholar of CHINA

was excel in classic Chinese yet

he advocated the use of Modern

Chinese as medium of teaching

instruction , he was also excelled

in the study of Confucius , yet he

prefered the Soviet Way for China.

He was a doctor yet he devoted

much of his life to change the

thinking of Chinese people. He

might be a controversial people

at that time , yet he had contributed a lot to the formation of stong china.

Malaysia must also learned from the history of china, If we want to improve we must be brave for the change.

The ideal of using English as medium of instruction should be welcomed , but we must look at other important aspects , how are we going to ensure that there are enough qualified teachers and how to ensure rural area are not lacking out.

呉 和豪 said...

YB Dato Seri Dr Chua

英语教数理造就了伟大的孙中山, 新中国,2008年北京奥运会。[恨铁不成钢]是对大文豪鲁迅的

maverick said...

Dr Chua,

Just to digress a little from the subject under discussion.

Why, on one hand, the number of our students scoring straight-As in our STPM, SPM, SRP and UPSR has been on the rise year by year while, on the other, the world rankings of our universities have been on the decline year by year?

Do you think our education system where so many students can score straight-As in our examinations is fair to our real top students in our country?

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Chua,
Remember when there was a time when certain doctors in Malaysia do not speak English ? Not sure if this problem is still around. If we look at people's outer appearance and we judge their skill of communication, somehow we think that a doctor is inferior in many ways if he or she does not know how to speak English. Then for us, we think that a graduate is a very clever person. How come a clever person cannot command a language that is not foreign ? A professional serving the public is a great asset if he or she knows more than just his or her own mother tongue. Going back to the issue MOH raised recently about poor communication skill. It is not just whether a doctor is polite or not. If he cannot speak in another language, he would feel bored trying to get his message across and then he might get rude. As for the standard of education in Malaysia. The government makes things too easy for the school children to pass. Memorization. Workbooks. Same questions year in and year out. It is no wonder they can score a hundred A. That is just scoring. It is doubtful whether many people bother if the children actually have learned something. So in a way, they are spoiled. And when they come to the university level, they could not cope and once again help comes their way. They are not used to studying hard on their own. So instead of seeing all red, the government decides to help them at the expense of the quality of university education. School children in Japan, Korea, Singapore have to study and they have a standard to achieve. They are used to hard work. So can Malaysians really look East ? Some Malaysians are not only spoiled but they are plain lazy.

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