08 July, 2009

Teaching of Maths and Science in English - One step forward and two steps back

When Dr Mahathir realises that English is the key to Malaysia's future competitiveness in world markets and so 30 years of education policy is put into reverse.

The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, was spearheading a drive to improve the standard of English among the country's citizens.

The move, which involves a switch to teaching maths and science in English from an early age.

And after more than two decades in power his last great project before he retired was to once again make English the language of education.

One of the endearing things about Dr Mahathir is that while most politicians of even junior rank learn to quell their quirks and foibles, he gives his full rein.


Whether Science and Maths should be taught in English should be decided solely by considering the welfare of the students and the country.

Our people should know how to read, write and speak the national language but, at the same time, to gain knowledge, they should learn and use English

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Six years later, a generation of students have passed through the system and the vast majority of them have preferred to answer questions in English even though they were given options to answer in other languages.


But today, a sad day indeed, deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin said that from 2012, MATHS and SCIENCE WILL be taught in Bahasa Malaysia, under a government policy reversal that will affect tens of thousands of school children, and their parents, of course.

Critics of the six-year policy of using English to teach the subjects argue that it has dragged down students' performance and is particularly unfair on children who are not proficient in the language.

"I wouldn't say it's a complete failure but it has not achieved the desired objectives that it was supposed to achieve," Muhyiddin said.

"The government is convinced that science and maths need to be taught in a language that will be easily understood by students, which is Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, Mandarin in Chinese schools and Tamil in Tamil schools."

He said the government would boost the teaching of English in schools, with more time given to the subject and the recruitment of nearly 14,000 extra teachers nationwide to teach the subject.

Muhyiddin cited a 2008 survey which found that students' performance in maths and science had fallen since it had been taught in English, and that rural children were hit particularly hard.

“The gap between rural and urban students has widened since PPSMI started.

“Only 19.2% of secondary teachers and 9.96% of primary teachers were sufficiently proficient in English,” he said, explaining the Government’s decision to revert to the old system.

It is learnt that Muyhiddin briefed former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of the government's decision a few days ago as a matter of courtesy, as the teaching of maths and science in English was a policy initiated by Dr Mahathir.

Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and officials from his Ministry had met me to brief me on what the Government had already decided to do , said Dr Mahathir.

The reversal is going to affect tens of thousands, but Muhyiddin is also expected to announce plans by the Ministry to strengthen English as a subject in schools.

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