Continue Teaching Science and Mathematics in English


by M. Bakri Musa

In May 2003, five months after the government started the teaching of science and mathematics in English in our schools, the Ministry of Education produced a “study” with the incredulous findings of significant improvement in our students’ achievements! All in five months!

Now five years later, research from the Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) showed the very opposite results. What gives?

Both studies were prominently and uncritically reported in our mainstream media. That first study was presumably swallowed whole by our policymakers to justify continuing their policy. Rest assured that this second one too would be used for a similar purpose, as an excuse to jettison that same policy.

Despite many attempts I was unable to get a copy of that first study. Nor have I seen it published in any journal, or find any paper credited to its author, raising questions on the credibility of the “study” and competence of its “researcher.”

To the credit of its authors, this later paper is freely available on the Internet, all 153 pages of it. Its lead author is an emeritus professor, a title reserved for retired accomplished scholars, with a dean and deputy dean as his coauthors. Despite its impressive authorship, this study is deeply flawed in its design and conclusions. It does however, expose many weaknesses in the implementation of the policy, in particular the lack of teachers fluent in English.

Embarrassingly Flawed Study

The most glaring deficiency of this second study is its lack of any control group. This is basic in any research design. As the English language policy applies to all schools, you obviously cannot find a control group among current students. You can however find historical control groups by using the test scores of earlier comparable pupils who had been taught and tested in Malay.

With some ingenuity we could still have concurrent control groups, for example, Malaysian pupils attending English schools like Alice School and International School. Another would be adults fluent in English, or even the teachers. If those adults and students in English schools did equally poorly, then clearly the test is not reliable.

When I look at the test questions, it is not only the teachers who are deficient in English, so too are the test makers! Some of the questions are convoluted and would challenge even those fluent in English.

The second flaw is that there is minimal statistical analysis of the data. The pupils were tested and the results simply collated in pages and pages of raw data presented in dull, repetitive and uninformative tables. The authors must be graphically-challenged; they seem to have not heard of pie charts or bar diagrams.

There is also no attempt in delineating the roles of the many variables the researchers have included, like teachers’ English fluency, parents’ educational levels, and pupils’ geographic background (urban versus rural). To do that the data would have to be subjected to more sophisticated statistical analyses, beyond the simple analysis of variance used by the authors. Thus we do not know whether those students’ test scores could be correlated with their parents’ educational levels (a well-acknowledged factor) or teachers’ fluency in English.

There are numerous conclusions based on just simplistic summations of the data, with such statements as X percent of Malay students finding the study of science “easy” compared to Y percent of Chinese or Indians feeling likewise, or R percent of Malay students scoring high versus S percent of their Chinese counterparts. It seems that Malaysian academics, like their politicians, cannot escape the race trap.

These studies were conducted in January, February and July. Even the dumbest students knew that those were not the examination months. They knew those tests “don’t count;” thus skewing the results. The only way to make them take the test seriously would be to incorporate it into their regular examinations.

Besides, in January and February those students had just returned from their long end-of-year holidays during which considerable attrition of knowledge occurred. The difference between the racial groups may have nothing to do with academics but on such extraneous matters as how fast they settle down to their studies.

Of the 27 references cited, there is surprisingly no article from refereed journals. Most (14) are government-sponsored surveys, press releases, and newspaper articles, unusual for a scholarly paper. There are a few books cited, with the most recent published in 2002. There is considerable lag time between what is written in books versus the current state of knowledge. For that you would need journals and attend symposia.

Consequently the researchers’ review on bilingual education is dated. Contrary to their conclusion, it is now accepted that exposing children at a young age to bilingual education confers significant linguistic, cognitive and other advantages. The authors’ recommendation that pupils be taught only in their mother tongue and learn a second language later at a much older age is not supported by modern research.

Studies using functional MRIs (imaging studies) of the brain show that children who are bilingual at an earlier age use their brain more efficiently as compared to those who acquire those skills as adults. For example, when asked to translate between the two languages, “native” bilingual speakers use only one part of their brain while those who are bilingual as an adult use two.
Other cognitive advantages to “native” bilingual speakers include the ability to grasp abstract concepts faster, precisely the intellectual skill helpful in learning mathematics and higher-level science. The higher scores for non-Malays may well be the consequence of their earlier and more extensive exposure to bilingualism than Malays.

Revealing Findings

The study nonetheless reveals many useful findings. I fear however, that these nuggets of information would be lost by those who care only for the study’s unjustified conclusion to discontinue the present policy and revert to teaching science and mathematics in Malay. That would be a retrogressive step.

This study is only a snapshot; it does not enlighten us as to trend. It could be that the results would continue to improve. It is thus presumptuous for the authors to make a sweeping policy recommendation based only a limited snapshot study, and a poorly-designed one at that.

UPSI in its previous incarnation as Sultan Idris Teachers’ College was a hotbed of Malay nationalism. This study is less an academic research and more political polemic camouflaged as a pseudo-scientific study to justify its authors’ nationalist bias. Their data and methodology just do not support their conclusion.

The study found that fewer than 15 percent of the teachers were fluent in English, and that most teach using a combination of both languages. That is putting it politely. In reality they use bastardized or “pidgin” English. If those teachers lack English language skills, how could they teach any subject in that language? The fault here is not with the policy, rather its implementation. We should first train the teachers.

In its naivety the government spent over RM3 billion to equip these teachers with computers, LCDs and “teaching modules” to help them in the classroom. Many of those computers are now conveniently “stolen,” plugged with viruses, or simply left to gather dust as those teachers lack the skills to use them effectively.

The only beneficiaries of that program were UMNO operatives who secured those lucrative contracts. Had the government spent those precious funds to hire new teachers fluent in English, our students would have been better served, and the policy more effectively implemented.

This study missed a splendid opportunity to find out what those students, parents and teachers felt about the policy. It was as if those researchers and their field workers (undergraduates in education and thus our future teachers) were interested only in administering those tests, collecting their data, and then getting back to campus.

Surely those parents and teachers had something to say on the policy. What do the teachers feel about the billions spent on computers? Are they eager to learn and teach in English or do they harbor nationalist sentiments and resent the policy? Those surveys would have helped considerably towards implementing the policy better.

A Better Way

I support the teaching of science and mathematics in English. I go further and would have half the subjects in our national schools be taught in English, including Islamic Studies. The objective should be to produce thoroughly or “native” bilingual graduates, able to read, write and even dream in Malay and English. That is the only way to make our graduates competitive.

I put forth my ideas on achieving this in my earlier (2003) book, An Education System Worthy of Malaysia. I would start small, restricting the program to our residential schools where the students are smarter, teachers better, and facilities superior. Work out the kinks there first, only then expand the program.

I would also convert some teachers’ colleges into exclusively English-medium institutions to train future teachers of English, science, and mathematics.

In rural areas where the level of English in the schools and community is low, I would bring back the old English-medium schools, but modifying it significantly with pupils taught exclusively in English for the first four years (“total immersion”). Malay would be introduced only in Year V, and only as one subject.

Since Malay would not be taught in the first few years and only a limited subject later on, admission to such schools would be restricted only to those with already near-native fluency in Malay or whose habitual language is Malay. Further, such schools would be set up only where the background level of Malay in the community is high, essentially only in the kampongs.

If we were to do otherwise, as having such schools in the cities where the level of English in the community is high and Malay low, those graduates would not be fluent in our national language, as during colonial days. It would not be in the national interest to repeat that mistake. Besides, the problem of our students’ deficiency in English is most acute in rural areas. Thus it makes sense to establish English-medium schools there.

There are many challenges to the policy of teaching science and mathematics in English. One thing is certain. We will never resolve them if we listen to ambitious politicians playing to the gallery or rely on less-than-rigorous “researches.”

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  1. #1 by lhslhv on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 3:00 pm

    homeblogger, I have no slightest offend for your thought. Don’t worry, I won’t ISA you for this “seditious” comment.

    We have been democratised by civilised society, NOT the rules of the jungle or caveman.

    You have the right to say it even though it may offend others that are less civilised.

  2. #2 by wahai kawan on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 3:01 pm

    Tapa lah!
    Masuk kandang lembu, muuuuuuuuu….
    Masuk kandang kambing, meeeeeekkkkkk….
    Itu buah tanam sudah keluar hasil……………..
    Otak Graduate pun kurang lebih barang!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Tahniah!

  3. #3 by homeblogger on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 3:17 pm

    max2811 said :

    I feel more English periods should be given instead of only 2 per week for level 1 and 3 periods for level 2. Maths and Science should be taught only in English or Chinese instead of using two languages.

    =========================

    And what do they do? They now have Arabic classes which take up one hour per week. When my daughter started year one, they introduced Arabic classes. The parents were told that this was NOT compulsory for non-Malays, BUT if you wanted to opt out, you had to write a letter informing of your wish NOT to have your child participate. In other words, ALL children are opted in unless parents state otherwise.

    Anyway, after lots of parents voiced their concern, the non Malay children were segregated (usually to the school library) when Arabic classes went on. However, this was not consistently observed. Often, my daughter would come home and say that they had to sit in with the Malay children for Arabic. They are not allowed to read any books or talk. If they wanted to, they were allowed to rest their heads on the table. Any fool will tell you that all this while, their young little minds would be absorbing Arabic and all the Islamic teaching that goes along with the Arabic lessons.

    So you see, Arabic is more important than English. They anticipate that in the future, all business communication and scientific research will be conducted in Arabic. Much like they anticipate that Malaysia’s future is in Agriculture.

    Another thing I am displease with is the fact that the English exam papers are split into 2, but their marks are combined into one average mark, whereas the Malay paper is split into 2 individual papers carrying individual marks. Surely this is to level the playing field for the Malays who will fare poorly in Maths and Science.

    Rest assured that if by some miracle we do NOT revert to Malay for the teaching of Maths and Science, the Malay papers will be split into 4, maybe individual marks while the English paper will also be split into 4 or 5 papers with only one combined average mark.

    God bless Bahasa Malaysia and Arabic Language for they will be at the chosen medium of instruction for all the worlds’ best universities!

  4. #4 by badak on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 3:40 pm

    By teaching MATHS and SCIENCE in english is a wrong way to promote the language.Students who are poor in english will not only do badly in this two subjects.But will also do badly in ENGLISH as a subject.
    The best way is to bring back ENGLISH MEDIUM SCHOOLS from standard one onwards.Let the parents have the choise of picking which MEDIUM SCHOOLS they want to sent their children to.
    We MALAYSIANS must be proud of our own language, but at the same time we must understand that the ENGLISH LANGUAGE is very important in the business world.

  5. #5 by cheng on on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 3:57 pm

    Msia unique educ. policy, change medium of instruction for maths & science every 7 years or so ?
    2002 BM to English, 2009 English to BM
    2016 BM to English?? and so on ?? so that Msia can produce maths n science experts well versed in BM n English??

  6. #6 by homeblogger on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 4:08 pm

    badak, your suggestion is the same as reverting back to Malay except on a bigger scale. The end result is still the same – the Malays in the Malay medium schools (this time maybe numbering in the milliions) will be at a total loss when the face the real world of English speaking businessmen and scientists.

  7. #7 by shadow on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 4:35 pm

    Policy makers of education department listen:
    DON’T YOU CHANGE THE PRESENT SYSTEM. WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO IS CHANGE ALL THOSE TEACHERS CAN’T TEACH THESE SUBJECTS IN ENGLISH. BRING IN BETTER QUALIFIED TEACHERS WHO ARE EXPERT IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TO TEACH THESE KIDS. MY CHILDREN STUDY IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (KBSR PRIMARY) AND THEY COULD TELL ME WHO ARE THEIR BEST TEACHERS.
    SO THERE ARE LOTS OF TEACHERS OUT THERE IN THE MARKET, GO AND HUNT THEM. DON’T LOOK AT THE SKIN COLORS. MALAYSIA WILL ACHIEVE ITS GOAL.

  8. #8 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 4:37 pm

    There will no end to all these arguments of what is best for millions of children. Of course, maths and language/s are the fundamental subjects to be mastered for any progress in any medium. The bone of contention seems to be the isue of media. How true this is has not been ascertained by any good and respectable research. Being an ex-teacher teaching such subjects, I would certainly agree that the mind of the child is moulded from a very young age which can handle more ‘input’ then many adults like to think.
    I think the mental obstacle to learning ‘others’ languages and ideas could be affected by indoctrination of fearing to know about others
    in every respects of life! This etched indoctrination will continue to prevent the brain from accepting any thing new. Hence do not explore! do not ask! Of course after a while, the brain simply refuses to think and the course is opened to following the route of lest resistance! The inability to learn a language or maths is essentially related to this basic issue.

  9. #9 by mybangsamalaysia on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 4:39 pm

    Language is not corelated with success in technology. Look at Japan, German, Russia and in some case China, English is not a factor to be successful in technology and science.

    The problem in Malaysia is admitting non qualified professional in teaching arena. Simple garbage in garbage out methodology. As such, i propose we look into the root of the problem. Revamp the intake policy of teachers and lecturers, seriously re-train all exisiting teachers and lecturers limited within 2 years (if still not up to par, sack them or transfer to other departments that they may be good at), period.

  10. #10 by mybangsamalaysia on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 4:46 pm

    Dear shadow

    The term to use is Kulitfication.

    shadow Says:

    Today at 16: 35.11 (4 minutes ago)
    Policy makers of education department listen:
    DON’T YOU CHANGE THE PRESENT SYSTEM. WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO IS CHANGE ALL THOSE TEACHERS CAN’T TEACH THESE SUBJECTS IN ENGLISH. BRING IN BETTER QUALIFIED TEACHERS WHO ARE EXPERT IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TO TEACH THESE KIDS. MY CHILDREN STUDY IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (KBSR PRIMARY) AND THEY COULD TELL ME WHO ARE THEIR BEST TEACHERS.
    SO THERE ARE LOTS OF TEACHERS OUT THERE IN THE MARKET, GO AND HUNT THEM. DON’T LOOK AT THE SKIN COLORS. MALAYSIA WILL ACHIEVE ITS GOAL.

  11. #11 by cactus of sarawak on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 5:49 pm

    Why they send their children over? Well, so that their children are smarter than the children of the average people in Malaysia under this flip-flop type policies. Who gain? Well, again the politician. Ever heard of the “Smart Leads the Dumb”. We the rakyat is the losers if we keep on supporting those policies. Want to compare? No need to go that far, no need US, no need Europe. Just go to Singapore and Brunei, look at how their children speak in English. If not par, it will be better than some of the teachers in school or even some of the lecturers in our glorified UNIVERSITIES. For any understand science, I remember a joke about Tokamak given by someone long ago in the campus. It says this, the Russian is very good in twisting the magnetic field chamber, the American is good in twisting the magnetic field and finally come the champion, Malaysia is very good in twisting the fact.

    I quote this from some way:(Just for fun)

    Three archeologists are sitting and discussing their finding(Show off finding). The American archeologist said that he found a piece of copper wire at a depth of 50 meter behind his house, he concluded that the American already know how to use copper wire 500 years ago. Then the British archeologist said that he found a piece of fishing line at a depth of 50 meter also and jump to the conclusion that the Briton know how to use optical fibre 500 years ago. Finally the Malaysian archeologist paused for a while and gave his side of the story. He said he couldn’t find any artifact even at a depth of 100 meter. This concluded according to him was that Malaysian already know how to use wireless system 1000 years ago. Cheerio..

  12. #12 by k1980 on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 6:32 pm

    No wonder Malaysian “broadband” is so slow— it is depending on the wireless system developed by the Chinese pendatang 1000 years ago

  13. #13 by Loyal Malaysian on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 8:42 pm

    I’m afraid unless the PR is able to wrest control of the federal government, the policy of teaching science and mathematics in English will be reversed.
    In what form will the reversal be undertaken is the only question left to be answered.
    The way the policy was implemented was a political decision, this reversal is also a political decision.
    The children, the future of our nation shall be the victims.!!

  14. #14 by tourman53 on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 9:02 pm

    Get back to those day where we can find English, malay , Chinese and same goes with Tamil medium. Those parents can send their childrens to any school they like and can even enjoy with multi racial with multi language .

  15. #15 by HJ Angus on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 9:02 pm

    Since the subject is on the standard of English, here is an example
    of how English can be used to call someone “stupid”.

    http://malaysiawatch4.blogspot.com/2008/09/malaysiakini-shows-how-to-call-someone.html

  16. #16 by lopez on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 9:39 pm

    Tis is enteresting, i speak and write english , i passed the english 199
    the 1119 and 1999 is tough lah.

    so Instead i go pass my self the 199….how am i doing?

    Great it is beetter than singlish ..youthink so..thanks a lots

    Just because the politicians who also wants to play headmaster we have to play ball with him and what the heck he only play part time at every 4 or 5 years.

    Denial , denial and denial , these people are very predictable and do not have many reasons to defy use of the english language in our schools education.

    Just dont ever forget chinese among many things brought the idea of affordable education into bolihland and other started imitating and became jealous.

    The british also have their version too as in the parish and churches.

    So the others asked the british to help them set up their own.

    And then trouble struck, some idiot says we must have commonality and started to force changes in the schooling system.

    now they are still forcing the changes, with experiments after experiments but without any hypothesis being set, so they got wrong output and wrong output and they do and redo and repeat the same experiment until today,
    so how bloody more years are needed to complete the experiment.

    All ought to be very educated now considering the amount of time and resources being spent.
    Least not is the experience gain, and gained we got and alot of half baked academians being the products of a short changed $$$ system at the expense of the nation future and competitiveness.

  17. #17 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 15 September 2008 - 11:34 pm

    As I have indicated, a mind already etched with dogma at a tender age will find difficulty to change. A Bumi-friend with average result children is happy that his children have got E.I and I.S.I [ interactive social intelligence ] and they are all doing much better those those who had flying colours in SPM. This came about because of his ‘normal’ life style allowing his children to learn to be street smart. In their desire to gather political mileage. examinations are re-engineered to make the average Malaysian parents happy that their children have got so many As which could not be translated into useful indicators when competing in the market place! They react like parrots in life! hence all the complaints by the employers!
    The school system does not make the students think; they can omly garbage-in and garbage-out! As indicated elsewhere it is not the media of instruction. It is the mind set which is being moulded like cookies from the day the child begin to utter the sound!! There is no way,the situation can be changed unless this mind set of the majority of the Malaysians is CHANGED!!!

  18. #18 by passerby on Tuesday, 16 September 2008 - 3:57 am

    The use of bahasa melayu is part of the grand scheme of social engineering to make all malays into scientists, technocrats, professors, teachers to replace all non-malays. This was a short-sighted and brainless policy and to ensure success of this policy, they purposely reduce the standard to make it very easy for them to pass the exam.

    As a result, we now see all schools and universities are stuffed with these under qualified teachers, lecturers and professors who are struggling to teach something that they are not qualified to teach.

    To be fair, not all chinese or indians are smart and they too have their fair share of idiots. Definitely I don’t want them to be a teacher to teach our children. No one race can be so dynamic to be self-sufficient in every field and it stupid to deny those who are smart from other races.

    We must restore meritocracy and revamp the whole education system. We also have to bring back the teaching of english, since science and technologies are from the west. Malaysia is so far backward and have no choice but to study english to stay abreast with other advance countries.

    We still have a good pool of retired teachers and why not recruit them to start teaching a new generation of students to be the future teachers to replace all those unqualified ones.

  19. #19 by NewDAP on Tuesday, 16 September 2008 - 2:17 pm

    Should also stop the teaching on Science and Maths in Mandarin as it makes our chinese students become unemployable….

    those chinese fanatics only care about themselves and they couldn’t care about your children progress in english and whether your children are employable or not……

  20. #20 by Ramesh Laxman on Tuesday, 16 September 2008 - 9:19 pm

    Please go back and teach science and maths in Bahsa Malaysia. In Korea it is thought in Korean and in Japan it done in Japanese.In China it is done in chinese. What is wrong with those countries. They are all doing better than us.

    Language is only a tool. We have to sharpen it and use it to our advantage.

    I hope the Minister of Education is listening.

  21. #21 by lopez on Tuesday, 16 September 2008 - 10:06 pm

    Oh yes sir the MOE is listening but first a little introduction on how to compare and then draw conclusion

    When you compare , the parameters must be established
    essentially you can only compare an apple with another apple

    simply it means you cannot get a good understanding in comparing between an apple and a coconut.

    more intrinsically, nations have cultures and value system which differs and are unique.

    The nations mentioned have a commonality and that there have a relatively more mono race population than bolihland and we differs from them strongly .
    Whereas bolihland tends to be relatively more multi cultural with respect to her population. It is further made more complex by the composition and distribution of race throughout the nation in geographical sense.

    On the other hand the history of education and their emphasis of importance and development of the mention nation was born earlier that bolihland.

    But if you compare those nations with respect of their strengths and weakness it is a different story all by it self.
    lets see…how
    Bolihlands history is unique too as we have been ruled by a nation which possess strong administrative capabilities in governing nations, in which the world has either directly or indirectly benefited and ….that.. is the rule of law and of english laws.

    It is a known fact that their language , sometimes referred as queens language has evolved to become the “international language” literally it means almost everyone speaks and uses it to comminicate and express themselves.
    International ..? why ..because the world has become smaller and reachable , it is referred as globalisation phenomena brought about by the marvel of the computers and internet and handphones.
    Do you use one too?

    It would a long lesson …so in a nutshell think about this paraphrase by a well known chinese who speak tamil,english, malay, hakka , hokkien , cantonese, and others

    he said “NO MAN IS AN ISLAND” and his nation is one of the most respected nation of todays.

    So before you become a steadfast believer of unilanguage idiot nation you might as well lock yourself up.

  22. #22 by Malar on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 - 1:42 am

    I was told that the government has quietly printed Year 1 maths and science text books in BM. Not too sure how far it is true. The chinese and indians need not worry because these 2 races have always been good in bi-lingual subjects or even more. When the medium was changed from english to malay in the 70′s we managed to excel and when in 2003 maths and science were taught in english we also had no problem. Learning extra languages has never been a problem for us. I think the malays are willing to learn maths and science in english but there is a group who gives negative views and for their own selfish gains, they are trying to blame the rural folks and children for the set back.

  23. #23 by onthestreets on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 - 11:12 am

    I have 4 kids – 3 in primary school, 1 in secondary. It makes no difference to them if they were to learn science & maths in either Bahasa or English. They can are good at both languages, regardless. So, you can be sure that I put forth my opinion without any bias.

    In the first place, have we ever stopped to analyze the real issues that lead to poor command of English amongst our children? How do you expect to cure high fever by taking aspirins or panadols? If we leave it 100% to the politicians, this is what we get. The wrong prescription to our ailments.

    For the state we’re currently in, I put the blame squarely on Dr. Mahathir’s shoulders:

    1) For giving us the wrong prescription,
    2) For implementing the policy in haste,
    3) For not listening and taking in advice from professionals on both sides, and
    4) For conducting a failed experiment on our children.

    Read onthestreets.wordpress.com if you’re interested.

  24. #24 by Malaysia For ALL Malaysians on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 - 11:36 am

    Even before we think about teaching Science, English and Maths in English or Bahasa Malaysia we should revisit our Education policies again.

    The double standards practiced by the Government in helping certain people to go into Universities via the Matriculation system as if they were handicap and needed spoon feeding should be revisited. Even if they needed such attention there is always a way of ensuring that only the deserving will be granted a place in the University. NO PAIN NO GAIN but for some all the way in their life they need crutches. This approach would only make them lazier but the irony is that they could become your bosses no matter what.

    The result a total deterioration of the country on the whole ….. It had started during TDM government, accelerated by him and his policies for political reasons and God knows when/where it will end! My prediction possibly when 2020 comes along we wont be a developed country, no not a developing country but and under developed country!!!, If nothing is done to address this issue. We have to start somewhere and I think where more befitting then in the Education Department. For a change our Kris waving Education Minister should think seriously of his current portfolio or opt to take over from our Minister of Home Affairs who I personally think should be sent to the cheapest government run old folks home where he can accelerate his eccentricity and apply the ISA on himself.

    So the down line is instead of confusing the poor students of all races by frequently changing the mode of education to suit certain sect the Government should identify ways of upgrading the education system for quality not quantity (theoretically), justices to all and not for interest of a certain race and most of all for starters to compete with our neighboring country (Singapore) who are far more advance then us in knowledge and skill.

  25. #25 by matnook on Wednesday, 7 January 2009 - 8:41 am

    I am not an expert in English Language or Science. I was a lecturer with one of the prominent University in Malaysia. I had my basic education in Sekolah Melayu , up to Standard six. Then my father force switched me to Special Malay Class popularly known as SMC!, which mean I was relegated to standards four of English school then. I was hibernating for two years in SMC1 and SMC2 before I was absorbed into the main stream English School.. I received my B.SC, Master and Ph.D from England in engineering. I never had a proper education in Science or Mathematics being in a school deep in the upstream. The only English teacher I had was a mad Japanese Bastard ; a relic from Second World War.; by the name of Cardoza. He is very fat and tall; an expert in Sumo wrestling and boxing.
    In my personal opinion, English is not absolutely necessary to UNDERSTAND OR TO PURSUE science or mathematics. The language and logic of science and mathematic are universal. The subject can be deciphered easily; however with some efforts and hard works. It is akin to a single legged man riding a bicycle. Of course it can move. However in a very stiff environment and super speed pace, a candidate without high proficiency in English will lose out. At tertiary level and post graduate schools, without good command of at least one of an international languages; like English, German, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish it will be very serious defect.
    To embark into serious research in Science and Mathematics, a researcher needs to communicate based on a common lingo. In this era, one of the universal vocabulary being used is English, as opposed in the 12th century, maybe Arabic was the language of knowledge. It is futile to debate if English is an essential language to master or not.The next question is English necessary to study Science and Mathematics. at what level of study; primary, secondary, tertiary, research.?Why China, Japan, Russia, France, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Austria, Brazil, Chile, and Cuba, progressed in science and mathematics without adopting English as a medium of instruction?
    English is an essential tool of COMMUNICATION in Science and Commerce. If we can agree on this point alone we can proceed with the discussion. Otherwise, I have to rest my case at this juncture. If the language is a necessary tool, then Malaysians have to acquire the needed level of proficiency.
    In mathematics a researcher need to master basic mathematical vocabulary at university level of around 5,000 words and the science vocabulary of around 20,0000 words. Out of this perhaps 10,000 words are essential to a specific specialist level. Medicine perhaps has about 60,000 to 100,000 basic words. It is quite an effort to grasp them, without a good foundation in English. Realistically,it is difficult to excel in medicine without good command of English. This is essentially what is happening in the local hospitals. There exist a vast disparity in terms of competency in harmonizing into the current hospital system between students graduated from English medium education, compared to those graduates from Indonesia, Russian, Japan and Chinese universities. In business world, non English speaking graduates, are given the last consideration in job selection, and post allocation.
    The basic issue here is not the use of English in Science and Mathematics but the concern on the mediocre performance of Malay students in English, science and mathematics subject. Consequently they are deprived of opportunities to proceed to tertiary education. To me it appears that we are beating the wrong camel to move forward. If the poor performance is the issue, where have we gone astray? The minister of Education was very badly advice by the Government administrator, the conversion from Malay to English, was hastily implemented. Not much thought was given to the implementation of the program. The politicians were excited to beat drum of political drama and playing shadow screen pantomime, the Government administrators are busy trying to carve a name to themselves, The educationist I believe are too week to think of anything beneficial for the 1 million students. The program was so ill conceived, very poorly programmed and implemented. The administrators, PTD involved, Ketua Pengarah Pelajaran should be dismissed for making such a colossal mistake and ill advising the Government.
    There was complete chaos. which any administrators should have taken into consideration. There was no preparation in the recruitment of suitable teachers competence in English for rural schools in particular, the readiness and availability of teaching materials for the teachers to teach in English were not coordinated properly, textbooks were no available on time, there were no reading materials in English some remote schools, teachers were not given proper guidance to teach the subjects in English. Some schools in desperation resorted to using Islamic Religious teachers to teach the subjects. Parents were in the state of panic, as the related examinations were approaching and the situations were uncertain. Now another evolution is about to take place. What are all these?. Are they going to repeat the same calamity again ?
    This policy of not encouraging the Malays to be proficient in English language, is disastrous in the long run. Unlike the Chinese an Indian Students; The Malay students are not commanding even the Malay language it self. In the final analysis, the Malay students are not competent in any second language at all for that mater they have not commanded any languages at all. This is shocking. The Chinese students are poised in the best position; they have their mother tongue, Malay, English, many command Mandarin. The Indians generally have good command of English, their mother tongue (Tamil, Telegu, Panjabi, Hindi, or Urdu) , and Malay Language

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