Something Sensible From UMNO Youth

by M. Bakri Musa

I am heartened that UMNO Youth supports the proposal that a pass in English be mandatory in securing the SPM certificate. I commend the organization in going further then merely supporting the proposition. Among others, UMNO Youth suggests increasing the number of English teachers in rural schools and hiring foreign native-speaking English teachers as well as those retired teachers trained under the old system and thus fluent in English.

I wish that UMNO Youth would be more daring and follow the example of its sister wing, UMNO Puteri, and support the continuation of the teaching of science and mathematics in English. I would also prefer that they would support the proposal making a pass in MUET be mandatory for university entrance. That notwithstanding, the stand taken by these two junior UMNO organizations is in stark contrast to that taken by Pakatan Rakyat partners.

Supporting or adopting a policy is one thing; effectively implementing it is entirely another. This is where our leaders and institutions have failed us miserably. And when they fail in executing a policy effectively, the blame would go not on these ineffective and incompetent officials but on the policy itself. This makes the later resurrection of an otherwise sound policy that much more difficult.

The policy of teaching of science and mathematics in English is a prime example of this. When Prime Minister Mahathir introduced it in 2003, I suggested that it be implemented in stages, beginning first with our residential schools. There the students are generally brighter, teachers more well trained, and facilities much superior. It would be much easier to work out the inevitable kinks like the availability of teachers and textbooks in such a controlled environment. When those issues are resolved, the program could then be extended.

As for textbooks, I suggested that instead of wasting time and effort at re-inventing the wheel, meaning retranslating existing texts in Malay into English, we should buy already available modern textbooks in English from established global publishers. With the ministry’s purchasing clout (we were looking at literally hundreds of thousands of copies) it should be able to secure substantial discounts.

Additionally we should convert some existing teachers’ training colleges into exclusively English-medium institutions. Recognizing that the language skills of new teacher trainees were highly deficient, I suggested that they be given a year of English-immersion classes combined with improving their science and mathematics before they enter teacher training.

As an added enticement, prepare the more talented students to take the American SAT examination and send the high scorers to top universities in America. With their now enhanced language skills as well superior proficiency in science and mathematics, they would be more than well-prepared for the SAT.

We all recognize that the teaching of science and mathematics is not the best way to enhance the English proficiency of our students. It would however ease their acquisition of new scientific knowledge; we cannot depend on translations because of the inevitable time lag.

Consequently, in addition to teaching science and mathematics in English I suggested also teaching one or two other subjects in English. My prime candidate would be Islamic Studies because of its high language content as well as the increasing number of literature now written in English. Next to Arabic, English is now the most important language in Islam. As an added bonus, it would also broaden our students’ understanding of our faith. It would also attract others whose mother tongue is not Malay to learn about Islam.

Similarly in making MUET mandatory for university admission, I would introduce the policy incrementally. To begin with, those currently qualified to enter sans a pass in MUET be given a year or two to make up their deficiency. Meaning they would have to defer their admission until they pass their MUET. They would be more likely to make up their deficiency if they were to concentrate only on improving their English.

Incidentally, taking a year or two off between high school and university is now fast becoming very popular with American students. They use that hiatus to travel, acquire specific skills, or just to earn some money for college.
Had our leaders and officials done these (and many others) our students today – particularly Malays – would have enhanced English language skills as well as superior proficiency in science and mathematics. That in turn would enhance their value in the market place, quite apart from making them more educated in the broadest sense of the word.

Most importantly, we would not again be distracted by yet another unneeded major controversy in our education policy.

All Is Not Lost

All is not lost, however; we could still recover from our initial fumble by being better prepared this time. Consider the proposal to hire retired and foreign teachers.

If we hire any Australian or British teacher without carefully scrutinizing their abilities then we would not advance the policy. Apart from having the necessary academic qualifications, these teachers must also demonstrate an ability to be free from what is euphemistically termed thick “mother tongue influence” (accent). This is a major problem with teachers and lecturers we recruited from India and Pakistan. Similarly, a teacher with a thick Cockney or outback accent would be equally incomprehensible in our classrooms.

I suggest that we recruit teachers from English Canada or Midwestern United States because they speak as close as possible to what is termed standard or international English. Another equally good and much cheaper source would be Eastern Europe. Learning another language is tough; there is no need to burden our young in trying to decipher a thick Cockney, Australian, or for that matter, a heavy Southern accent.

Having Polish teachers serves another advantage; I am amazed how well Polish students could speak English even though that is not their mother tongue. They do not even have an accent. Their success and experience could help our students overcome their own problems of learning a second language.

Recruiting retired teachers too presents its own sets of problems. As they speak English well, their presence would only expose the glaring inadequacies of current teachers. This would not sit well with them, especially the headmasters. When talking to these retired teachers, the greatest obstacle they face (apart from the bureaucratic hoops the have to undergo) is the unwelcome attitude of their current colleagues. To overcome this we need to give financial incentives for headmasters to recruit these retired teachers or find ways to overcome the resistance of the current teaching personnel.

Regardless, when we do recruit these retired and foreign teachers, we must ensure that they are not assigned alone to a particular school. We must have at least five or six of them at any one school. In that way they could find mutual support for each other and because of their “critical mass,” they could influence the students and the rest of the teachers.

Attention to these details is important to a policy’s success. If our officials ignore them or are not diligent when implementing the policy, it would surely fail. Then we would end up again with never-ending controversies and divisiveness.

The current controversy over the teaching of science and mathematics in English is not due to the inherent defect of the policy (on the contrary it is a sound policy) rather its implementation had been botched by our incompetent officials. Let us ensure that we do a better job in trying to enhance the English skills of our students.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 6:51 pm

    When Banglas, Nepalese and Myanmarese can speak BM after just a couple weeks here, why can’t students speak English after 11 years in school?

  2. #2 by monsterball on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 7:32 pm

    If they keep on rejecting this or that…they will loose more votes.
    If Youth fights for english not so important…kampong guys love it..and votes are assured.
    Must have weight the pros and cons…. before speaking.
    UMNO speaks only to win votes.
    But some are idiots that spoke.. to let the cat…out of the bag.
    So much cover ups.
    How to keep all secrets?
    So got dumbells to show off and reveal all…like schools do not teach vowels in learning English.
    So all the timeis for show only?
    No wonder Malays graduates speak lousy English.
    UMNO sons and daughters speak excellent english. ..I wonder why.

  3. #3 by Ramesh Laxman on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 8:17 pm

    I do not think that we should make a pass in english a condition for SPM certificate. The medium of instruction is Bahasa Malaysia so how can you mke english compulsory.

    If we are serious this must only apply to those wno went into Standard one in January this year. It takes nine months to produce a child and there must be a lead time of 11 years before you make english compulsory

  4. #4 by Loh on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 8:21 pm

    ///The current controversy over the teaching of science and mathematics in English is not due to the inherent defect of the policy (on the contrary it is a sound policy) rather its implementation had been botched by our incompetent officials. Let us ensure that we do a better job in trying to enhance the English skills of our students///– Bakri Musa

    The above statement was not clear whether it refers to the teaching of mathematics and science in English in primary school or in secondary schools. The objection by the Chinese schools and the parents was that the policy applies to primary school.

    People who had English as the medium of instruction, such as TDM and Musa think that if they could do it in English for math and science in English, why cannot the others. They did not have the experience of studying in the vernacular school, and they prescribe something using only common sense. Logics need facts to complete the argument.

    The ideas that brought about the teaching in English of science and mathematic was to help the students improve in their English. But the approach was wrong. It was doing the wrong thing. If the argument had been to make the students capable of learning the latest advance in the subject matters which are more often written in English, then one has to note also that until one has completed at least pre-university level in the subject matters concerned, there was no requirement to resort to research articles. To make high school leavers to understand and be familiar with the terms used for science and mathematics in English, the students should study these subjects in English beginning from secondary school. The objection was the teaching in English of these subjects in primary schools.

  5. #5 by tsn on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 8:29 pm

    In any case this English havoc is only applicable to national schools, Chinese schools should revert back to pre-2003.

  6. #6 by rubini on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 9:00 pm

    Attitude rather than aptitude is key problem. I regret that one the many failures is both the policy & policy planners. You failed to mentioned the MARA / UiTM situation.
    How on earth does birds of feathers communicate after classes in Hebrew? I think not. All the Malay / Bumiputera students will stick togather and speak in local “loghat”.
    It does not matter if tyhe best English teacher is brought in Malaysia. Speaking the language is not the issue. the main issue the lack of ability of communicating effectively.
    I also disagree with the staement that English teachers from India, Pakistan, Cockney accent or Aussie accent should be hired. If you can only understand English in “standard” English then you are furtger handicapping yourself.
    I work in Britain for an international company with English, American, Polish, Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Italian who speak in their own English dialect, yet i can understand what they intend to communicate.
    You seemed to have left out the fact there’s no such thing as native English speaker. English is a globalised language, therefor it is important to understand how people communicate thru the English language.
    By the way I am a Malaysian.

  7. #7 by limkamput on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 9:19 pm

    A must “pass” in English at SPM level, may I know what is the issue? Bolehland is ingenious in this kind of thing. So long as students are able to write their names at the answer scripts, a P8 will be given.
    If they are able to write their names and construct one sentence like, “I laugh at Mosterball” they will be given P7. If they are able to write one more sentence like, “I like to play ball with mosterball”, they will get a credit. They will get a distinction if they are able to write like monsterball here. Of course to get A1, the incomplete and the incorrigible sentences must be separated by …. and more ….

  8. #8 by katdog on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 9:26 pm

    Teaching of Science and Maths in English to help students improve their English is a backwards way of doing things. Its like trying to get your head into you a**.

    We already have an English subject that is supposed to focus on ensuring students have basic ability to read and converse in English. What has happened to the subject? Why is it not enough?

    Is it because our standards of our English examination has been lowered to the level equivalent of dirt? Where even grammar is no longer required to be taught (i doubt even the english teachers of today know what is grammar)?

    So if a dedicated subject like English subject has failed to foster the most basic English language comprehension among students, how is teaching of science and maths supposed to do that?

  9. #9 by monsterball on Monday, 15 June 2009 - 11:54 pm

    Bravo Limkamput.
    You plenty smart la.
    Besides better English than me…what do you think you have anything else….better than me?


    You have a mission in this blog…everyone knows that.
    So you area idiot…..correct?

    [Time for moratorium for the spat involving monsterball, ekin, kontiki, tom thumb, limkamput etc or all will be placed on the moderation list without further notice. – Adm]

  10. #10 by kontiki on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 12:35 am



  11. #11 by ekompute on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 1:23 am

    Something Sensible From UMNO Youth? Could it be because Kerishamuddin is no more in charge?

  12. #12 by monsterball on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 1:48 am


  13. #13 by ekin on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 1:52 am


  14. #14 by ekin on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 1:56 am

    I sensed the dumbbell making another character in diversion of our order so to show more than one dumbbell joined him in agreement. Well who cares? He thought he could fool us…A Dumb trying to be less Dumb is nothing but the same old Dumb and always be Dumb. HA HA HA

  15. #15 by ekin on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 2:05 am

    I don’t care whether its English or not to be made as important to pass SPM. What most important is the world uses English and our young children should start learning them the meaningful way as how in the 1950’s where every good doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountant and etc came from. If the generation before us are great English commander, we should be too. It was the greatest mistake that the previous method abolished and what we have today, ‘half pass six!’

    When this topic was on the run, I told you guys before that when I was in Hong Kong, I managed to meet up with some friends of my niece. They were just 15 years of age and they could speak way better English than our U Grads!

    The only way to advance in coping with the world especially technologies, English is the only way.

  16. #16 by monsterball on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 2:21 am


  17. #17 by monsterball on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 2:28 am


  18. #18 by monsterball on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 2:32 am


  19. #19 by disapointed86 on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 6:19 am

    hm..what’s the point teaching maths and science in English but the students do not even posses a satisfactory level in the language?.. and more than 100,000 students would fail to attain SPM certificate due to failing in this subject..I think those who are aware of the importance of English will take it seriously and take up IELTS, TOFEL as to determine their competency in this language..

  20. #20 by k1980 on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 7:59 am

    Just lower the SPM mark to pass in English to 5/100 and every Ali, Bala and Chong will get through the SPM.

  21. #21 by hkh on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 8:45 am

    Read the first paragraph slowly: “…hiring foreign native-speaking English teachers”. I $ee and $mell money (business opportunity) here; just like “nasional service” where it costs @RM5000 per head. Perhaps, all future english teachers: local, retired or foreigners, must be branded “approved” by my private outfit. How much does it cost to bring in a maid? And all these English teachers must get a licence from me…$$$$$$$$

  22. #22 by taiking on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 9:12 am

    Yeah bloody good idea. And let us work out the maths. How many english language teachers can we engage and for how long using

    1) the 300m collapsed stadium and the 200m rusting pool complex in terengganu?


    2) the 70m parliament roof repair and the 70m mrr2 bridge repair costs?


    3) the 500m consultancy fees paid to baginda?


    4) the 12.5b pkfz?

    The list is a lot longer than this but I shall just confine myself to these items. See with these money available all young malaysians could be speaking and writing proper english after the 6 formative years in primary school. There will be no necessity at all to impose any sort of quota. Quota is needed only in circumstances of scarcity. In malaysia we are not facing scacity of resources in any way. But we have an artificial scarcity. It is created by umnoputras through their abuse and corrupt ways. And because of this artitificial scarcity, the umno government had to impose the silly quota system and had to justify the system with impossible to accept arguments like ketuanan this and that and special rights and so on. Malays need not degrade themselves by making such claims and non-malays need not degrade themselves by begging for scholarship money year after year.

    Vote umno out. We have enough of their failures.

  23. #23 by tsn on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 10:33 am

    What is going on? Instead of churning out some constructive ideas, we are having an obscene language crossfire here. Perhaps this is a sign of hopelessness. Mind your language gentlemen.

  24. #24 by iStupid on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 12:27 pm

    The present debate misses one thing: some people cannot do science and mathematics in ANY language.

    I cannot sing in Japanese. Why? Because I don’t know Japanese? No. It is because I can’t sing. In any language.

    I wish I could sing. If I did, the natural language for me to sing in would of course be English, Mandarin or Malay.

    Some people cannot do science and mathematics in any language. And their voices must be silenced, or at least not allowed to influence the English-for-science&mathematics policy.

    I say: let people who have inert mathematical ability decide which language they want to learn mathematics in (I deliberately leave out science here because if you can do maths you can do science). I am sure they will choose the natural language of mathematics and science which happens to be English.

    I am not a particularly great admirer of the Chinese but there is one trait of the Chinese I admire: they are good losers. They try their best, if they fail, they blame the failure on themselves, never others.

    Try your best to learn mathematics and science in English. If you do not make it, it has nothing do with English. Blaming it on English would be equal to me saying I can’t sing in Japanese because I don’t know Japanese.

  25. #25 by ekin on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 6:46 pm

    Opps…Sorry Admin. I’ll start to ignore those dumb stooges from now onwards. (^^)

  26. #26 by monsterball on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 9:17 pm

    hahahahaha ..ekin…you read the warning too?
    Try to change style with diplomacy…but same message.
    Yes ..ignore is best….but sometime hard to do it….when the are twisting to confuse young readers..even insults DAP great politicians.
    Let them come..and we will deal all with wits and diplomacy.

  27. #27 by lesliefkh on Wednesday, 17 June 2009 - 12:00 pm

    as long the education dept. dont employ people like Phua Chu Kang to teach english (manglsih/singlish) to students!!
    We need to have the good foundations of english like in 50-70’s.
    Retired english teachers with good command is a good assets for us.
    Encourage each other to speak english not manglish in the family is the first steps..take it slowly..
    don be surprise if a bangla worker can speaks english but we still in cherish our past glories..who to blame but ourselves.

  28. #28 by Lee HS on Wednesday, 17 June 2009 - 12:48 pm

    If someone does not read, write, listen and speak in English, then don’t talk about English skills.

    It is useless!

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