We might dream about creating a breed of Malaysian scientists and mathematicians but we’re losing hordes of children who don’t even have a decent grounding in Math and Science due to PPSMI (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris).
Prof Mohamad Tajuddin Rasdi commented that the move to teach Math and Science in English was made with “such rapidity that it boggles any management team to implement”. The public did not hear about any feasibility study nor were there any debates or concerns that built up to the radical switch. To overcome problems, he suggests couples of solutions.
Mathematics and science can be taught in the national language at the primary level but should begin to progressively incorporate English at the secondary level. In secondary schools, it should be bilingual, whereby terms and terminologies in English should be introduced systematically so that the connection and continuity into higher education levels will be smoother and more effective.
Referring to local newspaper two weeks ago, one of the politic party (Gerakan) suggest that the government should set up a national consultation council for a consensus on the issue and to prevent it turning into political fodder. The government was reconsidering the scrapping of PPSMI after getting plentiful feedback from pro-English parents.
Our teachers in Malaysia should always think of ways to improve themselves. After few months the implementation of the PPSMI our teachers have not improved their English at all. When our maths and science teachers are given a simple 100 words essay to write they will end up with grammar and spelling mistakes in every sentence.
The subject knowledge and the command of language should be treated as two different objectives, and not be lumped together in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. Science and Mathematics are rigorous technical disciplines, while English as a language is a linguistic discipline. No doubt there will not be the study of theories if not conveyed through languages. However, to combine both objectives together to achieve the best of both worlds is not the best approach, even though the objectives of PPSMI may be noble.
English language should be taught and learnt in school as a language subject itself. The PPSMI policy that seeks to improve students’ English through the study of Science and Mathematics appears to be an ambitious initiative, too daring and difficult to succeed in practice.
Some students’ grasp of the English language is not even proficient enough to study other subjects in that language. It would be ideal to provide parents a choice for their children to learn Science and Mathematics in whichever language they prefer.
The Ministry of Education cannot sweep the problems under the carpet if it believes in providing the best education for the future generation of this country. Lack of proper commitment and working policy will only result in never ending flip-flop policy changes in the future. As the problems and challenges have been identified and are foreseeable, there is no reason why we cannot improve the quality of our education system. The nation’s education policy has a tangible effect on the future of the children and thus the progress of our country. We cannot afford any further delays and be dogged by further uncertainties.
Some might argue that the disparity in language usage might affect the unity of the nation as the students do not learn in the same language. One of my ‘favourite quotes is from former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad: “It is true nationalists who want their people to possess more knowledge, not just be able to speak in Malay.”
Indeed, government using PPSMI should focus on providing excellent standards of knowledge, and not be dragged into an endless debate of superiority of one language. Dr. Mahathir later contradicted himself by stating that the existence of vernacular schools, such as Chinese education, poses a threat to national unity. Nonetheless, it is important to reflect upon that unity is not a matter of all the citizens speaking in the same language, but that everyone is speaking about a multitude of things in a plethora of languages, in harmony.
Furthermore, the government should allocate resources fairly to all schools, from primary to secondary. Then, parents have the right to decide with certainty that the choice of education for their children; supporting PPSMI or suggesting an alternative to PPSMI.
In order to improve PPSMI in schools, our policy makers must take the first step and set clear objectives that for the benefit of the country’s future. Is the Ministry doing enough in this regard? Parents have been calling for a choice of languages while it is a general sentiment that our nation’s education standard is not up to mark. by: Sitti Nor Azizah Talata