Friday, September 19, 2008, 08.12 PM
NST Online » Frontpage2008/09/07
TEACHING OF MATHS AND SCIENCE IN
ENGLISH:By : Elizabeth John and Aniza Damis
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) put over 3,000 Year Five
pupils and about 2,800 Form Two students around the country through short
Mathematics, Science and English language tests between February last year
The schoolchildren were from a mix of urban, rural and vernacular
schools in Peninsular Malaysia.
The tests were made up of modified past-year examination questions.
Some were taken straight out of textbooks.
Some 1,700 Year Five pupils tested this January had a mean score of
7.89 out of a maximum 20 for Mathematics.
The results were not much better for Science: a mean of 4.08 out of 14.
English proficiency was not good either: a mean of 11.87 out of 31.
The mean scores of Malay and Orang Asli pupils were also much lower
than those of the Chinese and Indians, said study leader Professor
Emeritus Datuk Isahak Haron.
Isahak has called the policy a failure, particularly in terms of its impact on Malay students in national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan), and is asking for a return to the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Bahasa Malaysia.
In the survey, many Year Five pupils told researchers they found it
hard to learn Mathematics and Science in English, saying they did not
understand the lessons.
In one sample, less than a fifth of the Year Five Malay students
surveyed considered it easy to learn Science in English and only about a
third thought it was easy to learn Mathematics in English.
When a sample of 1,300 Malay students were asked how well they
understood the Mathematics and Science lessons when it was taught in
English, over 60 per cent said they only understood the lessons
The policy had even failed in its aim of improving the pupils' command
of English, said Isahak, a lecturer at the Faculty of Cognitive Science
and Human Development.
Students struggled to correctly complete even simple sentences, he
said, citing the following sentence in a passage taken out of a school
textbook: "He ..... to bed" (The answer is "went".)
An average of 14 per cent and 19 per cent (two different groups) got
the answer right.
Even the highest score according to racial breakdown -- 41 per cent of
Chinese students in one group answered correctly -- did not speak well of
the policy's aim of improving English.
Isahak suggested that it would do more good to allocate more time,
staff and money to the teaching of English at the primary school level.
He urged a change in how the language was taught in schools. He said
the standardised syllabus should be scrapped in favour of lessons tailored
to suit the abilities of different students.
The UPSI study also incorporated findings from other surveys of
secondary school students that pointed to similar problems.
Shortly after the policy was implemented in 2003, Associate Professor
Hashima Jalaluddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia interviewed 43
teachers and 971 Form One students from six schools in the central and
southern states of Peninsular Malaysia .
Most of the teachers said students had problems following Mathematics
and Science lessons in English, while 70 per cent of the students said
they would be more interested if the two subjects were taught in Bahasa
Only a quarter said they had no problem following the lessons in
In 2004, Zainuddin Bikum surveyed 229 students in two schools in Kuala
Kubu Baru, Selangor, for his dissertation at UPSI and found that more than
half of the group was facing difficulties.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Professor Juriah Long found that about
half the students in both urban and rural schools were worried because
they found it difficult to follow Mathematics and Science in English. This
was one of the results of her 2005 survey of over 7,000 Form Two students
Her study, which also looked at the location of schools and the
socio-economic background of students, found the concern was greater among
Malay students, those in rural schools, and poor students.
Isahak said Malay students in national schools, mostly in rural areas
and from lower socio-economic backgrounds, had lost out the most as a
result of the decision to teach Maths and Science in English.
The ones who gained from the policy were a small percentage of Malay
students from upper middle class families who went to good schools, he
However, UPSI's own test results showed Year Five Malay students from
rural schools scored highest in nine out of 10 Maths questions and two out
of seven Science questions compared with Malay students in big town and
Meanwhile, Malay students in city schools consistently fared the
Isahak believes the difference in the percentages is marginal and
because there are more Malay students in rural areas, it is these students
who will be most affected.
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Note that it not the fault of the subjects being taught in english that is the issue here. What contributes to the students lack of interest in Maths and Science being taught in English is the pure lack of effort made by most teachers. In most primary and secondary schools, once the language change for these two subjects were made 5 years ago, the teaching personal remained the same. Most of the teachers were good at what they taught, but only in Bahasa Malaysia. Yes, there were courses set up by the government for school teachers to attend. But how can one improve his or her language skills, especially to the level of TEACHING in just a week or two attending such courses? There should be more effort made by our teachers in adjusting to this change in order for any progress to be seen amongst our students.
David Ng, Petaling Jaya:
Patience, hard work and sacrifice are the main ingredients to allow the young minds of our children to expand and excel. My son will be sitting for his UPSR exams starting tomorrow. When he was enrolled into a national school which he is still in since Year 1, he could hardly utter a word in Malay, let alone form simple sentences, speak nor understand properly. His exam results were poor and carried red ink in almost anything in the national language. He struggled in school without private tuition. My family and I endured a frustrating yet satisfying journey in guiding him on the right track. Right now he is on his own. By all means, he is no "A" student but he is finally scoring decent marks in his Bahasa Malaysia subjects at par with his peers in his term exams and UPSR trials. I wish him well in his UPSR and regardless of the end result, I will still be proud of him as he has come a long way. What we need are more educators who are proficient in both the Malay and English languages to help our young ones master this shotcoming of unsatisfactory results in Science and Mathematics. As it is, a large number of our primary school teachers themselves cannot confidently nor proficiently teach in the English language. It is not a problem with our children. They can be taught to master almost anything. The problem stems from the educators, or rather the system that created our educators. Reverting Science and Mathematics back to our national language is definitely not the solution.
Farhan, Kuala Lumpur:
When teaching Maths, the objective is to increase the student's proficiency in Maths. Likewise for Science. The teaching of the subjects should not have anything to do with the language. Let the teachers use whatever language would better serve the students, whether it be Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin or Tamil. As long as the objective of imparting knowledge of Maths and Science is met, then language shouldn't be a barrier. To improve English, improvement should be made to the English syllabus, not making other subjects as scapegoats.
Bahasa Malaysia has been the national language but for Malaysian to be able to compete internationally, they must be able to communicate in English and soon Mandarin. It not enough just to teach Maths and Science in English but other subjects as well. Further, the use of English must be taught early in the primary schools. Many dropped out due to the weak command in English (poor effort to improve due to lack of motivation), poor attitude of the students and incompetent teachers. ENGLISH IN MATHS AND SCIENCE MUST STAY. I am sure the Ministry would have to put in more effort to ensure the competitiveness of the future of our children globally rather to be complacent of "Malaysia" scenerio only. The malay saying, "Katak di bawah tempurung" - shameful.
Geraint, Johor Baru:
We will see just how much the education ministry values the opinion of the people when a decision is made on this issue. I am sure if a survey is made, find out whether the majority wants the current policy to stay or not, most of us would say yes. If we persist long enough, I am sure we will see improvements. Common sense should prevail over idealistic nationalism.
Look at the results of the above study positively. Analyze it properly, find out where the problems are and figure out good corrective measures. Don't just scrap the whole policy! For example, if some teachers are not good at teaching Math & Science in English, send them for more training (only the problematic teachers). Another example, if students at rural areas are not able to catch up, send to them better teachers (probably more incentives should be given to these teachers for their willingness to be sent to rural areas). Anyway, some students are still failing Bahasa Melayu subject even though it is taught in Malay language! My point is we should use the results of the study to IMPROVISE THE POLICY and not to decide whether to continue with it or scrap it totally.
Amran, Pulau Indah:
My answer is simple. The "culture" of learning Math & Science in English is NOT there!
Paul, Petaling Jaya:
It's not the language that is the problem. So stop blaming the language. My elder brother and sisters studied in the MCE and LCE days and I the SRP and SPM era. We still did well without tution. My teachers were very dedicated to teach. They take the pain to ensure we do well and so did my parents. Let's face it, the real problems are 1) The teachers are not interested in teaching the students and in the students' future, 2) The focus is on students going for tution where the teacher teaches; 3) Parents don't spend time with their children to encourage them and help them in their studies. My children have challenges in BM based subjects does that mean all subject must be thought in English. Please go to the root cause and admit the failures and work to improve the quality of our teaching staff rather then fault the policies. The teachers also can't speak proper English and so communication is really bad. Teachers and Parents should desire to want the best for the children and work towards ensuring that they know how to teach and do it effectively.
I strongly believe that Maths and Science should be taught in English. I have a few reasons for this. I am now living in New Zealand and I am one of the pioneer students who sat for PMR, SPM and STPM in BM. My BM is no doubt very strong and powerful. However, now I am associating with people of the globe who mostly speak English. I am sad to say that I am not able to put across my opinion nor thoughts to them confidently and thus, hinders my performance and confidence. Learning only one period of English is insufficient. Therefore, in order to prepare our citizens to face the world and voice out opinions confidently the use of English is definitely paramount. So by learning the two most important subjects in English, students are given additional opportunity to use the language. Moreover, the scientific terms used in both the subjects are universally accepted. As such when we further our education to foreign country we are able to stand on par with the rest of the world. Currently, when our local university degree is used overseas very often, our certificate is assessed and not equivalent to foreign degree. Therefore, we are asked to spend money to sit for special English Test. It is so stressful on the student and on the parents when their child is not competent in using English. Why put the the candidate in such predicament? Why can't we have a paper qualification that is compatible worldwide? The people of Malaysia just have to be open minded and see the truth. Please give our students to use English in Maths and Science. Children when are supported and given the right environment they can master most everthing. Our teachers too are not confident in using English in the classroom, so select and train teachers who are competent.
We have to remember that 1 generation of good spoken Engish has gone. The parents of the present group of children also can't speak, read and write English well (inlcuding myself), so it's natural that they find it difficult. We might need 2 generations before we can be succesful in the implementation. Please be patient and realistic. Everybody knew that we can't survive outside Malaysia without English.
I come from Malay School, later joined English medium school thru Special Malay Class.
Two main benefits of this school: 1.Racial integration, 2.Learned English, plus Bahasa Melayu thru subjects Bahasa Malaysia(compulsory),Sastera and Pendidikan Agama Islam.
I noticed those who come from this school were better off than
those who came from Malay school, Chinese or Tamil schools. We had
good command of English and Bahasa Malaysia, and least chauvinist.
Government should re-introduce English medium school like those
If the problem is with the attitude, do something to change the
attitude. Dont blame Bahasa Malaysia as our main teaching language.
My worry is how this cohort of guinea pigs will fare at the university level(even in the local IPTAs)?
The dearth of technical academic books in Bahasa Malaysia points
to a similar policy option at the university level - usage of
English for science and mathematical subjects. In this regard, Dewan
Bahasa (DBP) and local publishers should accelerate the publication
of such books in Bahasa Melayu, possibly through government support
in the form of better incentives to the writers/translators.Learn
from the Japanese experience - look east policy?
In order to appreciate and understand the cartoon, the children must master (and learn) english.
That how i improved my english during the "growing years".
i try to read english newspaper, watch english news, listen to english channel and use english dictionary.
In schooling days (primary and secondary school), students TOLD to concentrate on BM. When they in the Universities and working environment, english is mainly used.
Some local IPTA still use BM as medium to complete final year
we blame the students.bet you 85% of the teachers will fail the subject.
Quote:catch the bull by the horn not by the
Students must be encouraged by their parents to speak & read more on English, I believe that is a good way to boost English usage.
At times, the teachers themselves have difficulty teaching in English. They tend to use both Bahasa Malaysia & English in class and confuse the students. Thus, teachers should also play a crucial role to teach Maths & Science in English to their students. Of course, there are some who are really dedicated in delivering their lessons well to the students.
But, if every teachers put extra effort, I am sure the students won't have much problem. It is easy to create and implement a policy, but the pain comes when practising it.
Just because some students don't do well, we should not 'encourage' them by switching to Bahasa Malaysia.
Instead, we should look forward and take actions on how to improve the students' performance further. Why should we give an 'easy' option for students?
If we make it easy for them, will their flying colors reflect a better quality? No, their standard will be lower compared to international students. Everyone should play their role in making this policy a successful one.
Students and teachers should put more effort, and parents should
encourage and motivate their children always.
The teaching of math and science in english was a good start.
Any policy to be success takes time.
Govt cannot judge or change the policy just bcos there was not much improvement in just 5yrs.
It is not just the failure of students but actually the teachers who are not taking initiative to learn.
If teachers dont encourage then why will children be interested.Govt should be strict only then teachers and students will start to take it seriously.
If given choice they will always take a easy route.So just make it compulsary.Instead of wasting time fighting for change of language,they should become serious in teaching and learning in english language.
How can you tell some thing is bad when you cannot compare it with others???
Pls give as time as teachers to do our job, we will improve it
Teachers play an important factor here.
Majority science and maths teachers are not competent in the language and they also do not upgrade themselves with language skills.
Please conduct a survey on this and I think we,ll know how many maths and science teachers read english materials other than the provided textbook and a couple of revision books filled with severe language mistakes.
Children can grasp languages quickly and and it's proven with english medium schools long time ago where students from non- English speaking background can easily converse within months of schooling.
WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
Employ proper english teachers to teach proper english... not the
ones who cant even pronounce words correctly.
It's just a lot of students are lazier.
Try teaching those subjects from that grassroot level than to try to prune the tree at midlevel.
Foundation is very important and start from primary
Let us, Malaysians be known to be a people that does not change our policies based merely on some 'findings'.
We need to think further ahead in the future if we want to progress as a nation, to go further beyond Asia.
Our children needs a vision from those who are supposed to be in authoritive to bring about a better future for them.
For once, please stop debating whether English or Malay. Let's
see things in proper perspective.
Educationist should realise that the tree of any system will bear good and bad fruits.
It is all about how one cultivates the process to bring good
Those days before KBSM and KBSR being introduce we learn most of the subject in English.
The issues is not about the policy, but how does the policy been implement.
Most teachers today just concentrate in their language since those who observe them just evaluate their capability to speak english and in the end, the skill of the subject being taught is neclected.
However, my cousin which is also a teacher told me that they are going to implement other ways of student-centered and result oriented teaching methods.
I hope also for examinations to not just evaluate what students
can memorise but how they apply what they have learnt in Maths and
It will certainly not do to revert to teaching Mathematics and Science in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin or whatever. The subjects need to be continued to be taught in English. English has been accepted by all, Indians in India, Chinese in China, and Indonesians in Indonesia, as the global lingua franca, and having cognizance of this fact, must we pander to the desires of narrow minded communalistic peoples whose only desire is to strengthen their mother tongue at the expense of a good education for our children?
Surely the most obvious solution is to bring back English medium schools, and not alongside Malay and Chinese ones either as that would be impractical. We can expect the State to support such a broad range of schools.
No, we need to have the political will to, as did Lee Kuan Yew of
Singapore a long time ago, abolish all other schools and replace
them with one single language as a medium of instruction, English.
It is not only Math and science that should be taught in English but all the other subjects as well.
I went to an international school and I realize how much I would
have missed had I studies any of the subjects in a language
understood only by a tiny fraction of the world
Science and Matth should be taught in the mother tongue so that
the children can grasp the concept.
A student should master the English language first before he can read, write and understand the other subjects in English.
It will be difficult to master the English language if insufficient time is allowed for practice.
By this I mean the students will need to speak English most of the time in their schools.
Hence, the only practical solution is to change the medium of instruction to English.
I was from an English medium school right from primary to secondary school.
During those days, I believe almost all Malaysians speak English in schools except for rural schools.
My Malay, Indian and Sikh friends, they all speak English naturally, albeit sometimes Malaysian-style English if you know what I mean. Language learning is the most difficult task.
I believe it may take a decade or so to master a language. Who
are our present Malay ministers, past ministers, politicians and
other professionals who can speak and write good English today? They
are non-other than Anwar Ibrahim, ex-PM Tun Mahathir, Syed Husin
Ali, Bakri Musa, Din Merican, Farish Noor and many more who are also
bloggers. These are the ones who were mainly educated in the English
medium schools where English was spoken 90% of the time. Yes,
practice makes perfect. In the rural areas, there is hardly any
opportunity for these children to speak English, least of all to
have any practice in speaking the language. The Malays speak Malay
amongst themselves, the Chinese speak Mandarin or their dialects,
the Indians speak Tamil and so on. How then can we expect these
rural children to read and write in good English? Speaking and
listening skills come first before reading and writing. For a start,
the government should allow for the setting up of English-medium
schools. There are in fact such schools already called international
schools like Alice Smith ( where Raja Petra Kamaruddin came from),
ELC, Mont Kiara etc... but these schools are meant for the rich who
are affordable. Let the parents decide on whether they want to send
their children to English- medium, national-medium or the other
vernacular schools. In this way, Malaysia can allow for her people
to master the language of their choice. After all, our constitution
guarantees the freedom of our peoples to decide on their choice of
schools. We cannot have a "one-solution" for all schools as far as
the English language is concerned. We had better opt for diversity
in the languages. Let our peoples be made up of different language
experts - Malay, Chinese or Tamil.
Worse still, most of the teachers aren't proficient in their
command of English too. Therefore, it is no wonder the outcome of
the implementation is disappointing. Since it has already been
implemented, hold on to it but of course with some ammendments.
Referencing to Q&A question No.1 and No. 9 of similar type of question structure shows that the English format scores better than the Bahasa Malaysia language except for Orang Asli children as indicated with the total percentage score of 40.5% for questions in English compared to 38.7% for questions in BM. Even the Malay student scored better in English than in BM for Maths.
Based on the above studies, it does not show the percentage of
Maths & Science results if it was conducted in Bahasa Malaysia.
I suspect that the result tested in BM would not be much different
from question tested in Englsh but atleast they have acquired the
command of English as a tool to solve other
Please move forward, adopted English as a medium language in Math & Science is a right choice!
Teachers, please equip yourselves and do not blame the policy and
Reverting the learning of science and mathematic in BM will not
solve the problem.
I feel that present teachers are not froficient in the language and thats where the flaw lies.
Very often the teachers are unable to express themselves in
English and therefore resort to teaching in B.M.
Since they can't master English why not other languages.
I suggest Mandarin.. or better yet German.
Since the Germans are considered to be at the fore front of technology these days.Or maybe Bahasa Melayu..or Malaysia.
Oh no!.. I'm confused, now. What language again? To me, it is not
the language that is plaguing our students. It is just their
attitude. They are so used to being spoonfed and are living in a
world where there is practically does not require them to work hard
for anything.. not even to buy their textbooks, school fees,
uniforms for extra curricular activities, ..even the exam fees are
free. Do you know, some of them even say that to get a job is so
easy as long as you know the right person... What have we done to
our young ones today is very sad.. They have become the most
indulgent, narcissistic beings I have ever seen. They are not
interested in anything. This is because, if they fail their UPSR
they can still go to school, if they obtain all E's in PMR, they
still go to school, if they get all 9G's in the SPM hey as long as
their Bahasa Melayu is a pass, they still get a certificate. So,
everybody knows the olsd adage that says no pain, no gain.
Unfortunately this is something tha students today do not learn yet.
Thus the lackadaisacal attitude towards learning. Please... we do
not need another change of policy..even Rome is not build in a day.
To base our judgement on a 5 year term is definitely not fair to the
students, to the teachers, to the Ministry. Besides, this is
English, our supposedly second language. The students will do fine.
the maths symbols will not change, science facts will not change.
Besides the UPSR, PMR and SPM questions are in both BM and English.
Socan we say that it is the language that is the
Study whether the teachers themselves are qualified to teach.
Are the studnets given enough exposure to English speaking environment.
Students are preferably placed under those English speaking environment during their pre-school education followed by their primary education.
Therefore, emphasis in English education is important to begin right from the beginning.
Actions need to be taken to mould the children from the very
beginning with qualified teachers.
Although Malay language is the official language in Malaysia, but English language is everything in this world. For example,agreements etc.
We should not just change the policy just because Malay students
failed to cope with the policy.
You do not expect a policy to work overnight, and to make it work, why not pump in the rural schools with more English teachers?
Don't we have enough manpower to do so?
Choosing BM will probably another great downfall to the education system in Malaysia.
How long do we only want to be Jaguh Kampung? Don't the rural
folks also want to be on par with the town folks?
First of the Education Ministry should stop changing policies as and when it pleases.
Once a policy is made stick to it and keep going.
First of all are the teachers suitable for the job. Most of the Malay teachers can hardly speak English and if you engage them to teach in English what can you expect?
Its not the policy that is at fault - it's the attitude of some
teachers and students who just refuse to accept English, that's all
and they know they can get away with it as most likely next year the
policy would be scrapped. This is embarrasing and
English is always a second language to Malaysian. I came from an era where schooling is very straightforward with all subjects taught in Bahasa Malaysia and yet my command of the English language is perfect.
Bring back the good old education system, please.
These groups of people includes politicians, educationists and also sadly those championing sectarian causes who are masquerading as educationists are becoming increasingly vocal.
Some of the views put across are very detached from the reality in the classrooms and the tremendous effort and resources put in by the Education ministry to ensure its success because the future of the country in this very globalized world hinges very much on the proficiency level of her citizens. Any tinkering and call for reversion back from English should only and only be based on present reality and future needs and further progress of the country.
I am a mathematics and science teacher with many years of experience. I have gone through the medium change in the seventies as a student and now another change as a teacher. I believe I am an â€śinsiderâ€ť of some sort and is able to speak with some degree of authority and understanding based on years experience rather than some preconceived ideas or some fears based on unfounded grounds.
Lets go back to the objectives of using English as a medium in the teaching of mathematics and science and compare it with the reality of the classroom situation based on my last 6 years of experience in teaching the subjects completely in English from lower secondary and to form 6 level.
There are two main objectives, namely to get the scientific knowledge at the source language and to increase the contact hours with the source language so that general proficiency level of the language and the mastery of scientific terms can be improved in the process. Many have argued that Malay, Chinese or Tamil are also the source languages for mathematics and science. I do not intend to argue otherwise but suffice to say that from being a student once and a teacher now I have gone through two of the three mediums in the preceding sentence and each time I need to read up on something scientific, invariably and without fail I will lay my hands on English materials, the very source language that many seek to do away with. The reason for such automatic action is simple ; either I canâ€™t find any in Malay ormy mother tongue or they are hopelessly out of date or when I go to the net only English is shouting for my attention!
I too shared the fear many have expounded that students may not be able to master the subject matter of mathematics and science and neither can the students improve their English proficiency level. So the end results is that they are neither here nor there. These fears are legitimate, however it is not generally true across the board. This is because the determinant is not the subject matter nor the language but the ability, primarily, of the students themselves.
From my experience in the classroom situation, many have adapted well to the English medium in mathematics and science and are performing very well indeed. The mastery of subject matter did not suffer and the English proficiency level have improved tremendously. They are able to write reasonably well and able to converse and communicate meaningfully. This is a very marked departure from the same category of students who can master mathematics and science in Malay but usually lack ability in the English language before the introduction of English as the medium of instruction for the two subjects.
The amazing thing about this group of students is the fact that they do not come from English speaking middle or higher class homes but ordinary man on the street. This goes to show that the objectives set out above are achievable and success within reach. There is no need to change course midway and deprive the nation of vital human resource competent in the source language. Any change of course is rather premature at this stage. A major policy matter such as this must be given sufficient time to prove itself.
There is of course another group of students who are not able to master mathematics, science nor the English language. This is usually cited as the proof that the switch to English is a failure. Such a conclusion is simplistic. They have conveniently forgotten to mention the success of the other group cited above. As a teacher I can tell you, from experience, that this group of pupils is academically disinclined or challenged. They will be weak in almost all other subjects that use Malay as the medium. Some even fail the Malay Language itself. They will still not be able to master mathematics and science even if the medium is Malay. If the reader is a teacher he will understand the point I try to establish here. There is sufficient empirical evidence to support this point in every school if one cares to conduct a study. To put it in simple uncouched language, for the low ability students, the medium of instruction is immaterial. So is the subject matter. Every year there will be thousands who fail more subjects than they pass in the UPSR, PMR , SPM and STPM before this policy initiative. Please get hold of a copy of national result from the relevant authority and you will see my point .
At the higher end of the spectrum in terms of learning ability, I can see a very sharp improvement not only in the English Language itself but also the mastery of the subject matter. It will also be superfluous to mention their mastery of the scientific and mathematics terms in English.
Another fear factor is the proficiency level of the teachers themselves. Granted there are teething problem in this area at the beginning of the policy. This is simply because of the many lost generations in terms of the mastery of English when everything is taught in Malay. However this problem is largely overcome with tremendous resources poured in by government and the various programmes to help to uplift the standard of English among the science and mathematics teachers. Their level of proficiency is no longer a major impediment that should contribute to the reversion back from English, if at all.
A case in point here. At the beginning of the year, I was to a mathematics trainee teacher from a local university under my supervision. I was rather apprehensive about their English proficiency level. However all those apprehensions were put to rest after their first lesson. I was surprised by their level of mastery of the English language. The reason cited by them was that they learn the two subjects in English. This is an early indication of the success of the policy.
Moving away from the situation on the ground, let me focus on the debate on this policy. I note with regrets that the debate focuses on the either-or type of solution. It is either English or Malay. If the political situation is such that some sort of change is necessary , the solutions need not be a either - or type of solution.
I propose a two mediums solution. This is to take into consideration of those who can learn the two subjects effortlessly in English and those who might have difficulty coping. This solution can take various forms, for example :
1. all students in the science stream must be taught the subjects in English. This is applicable to students in the upper secondary.
2. all school must have a minimum number of classes teaching the subjects in English base on the enrolment. The rest of the classes be taught in Malay/mother tongue. This is applicable to all primary schools. This will be a win-win situation for all; for the parents who want their children to learn in their mother tongue and for the nationâ€™s future need for man power who are proficient in English and able to compete on the world stage.
Another and bolder and better alternative is to resurrect the
English Medium schools along side with the existing schools. This
can be done in a certain ratio, for example, for every three
existing schools, one English medium school be created in every
district. In short let us find solutions that are inclusive not
exclusive. Creative and inclusive solutions will silent all critics
without losing the competitive edge of the country. Finally, as a
teacher, I fully support the present policy of using English as a
medium of instruction in mathematics and science. And I pray for its
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