Government should respect PAGE and empower parents to decide whether to use English to teach/learn maths and science in primary/secondary schools

During the 2010 budget debate on the Education Ministry late this evening, I called on the government to respect the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) and to empower parents to decide whether they want their children to use English to teach/learn mathematics and science in primary and secondary schools.

I reiterated the DAP stand that maths and science should be taught in the mother tongue or home language in Std. One and spoke on the decline in mastery of the English language by Malaysian students, all the way to the university level.

The government had been talking about the importance of ensuring fluency and proficiency of English students, especially university students, but little had been achieved going by the employers’ complaints about the poor English command of graduates.

This has undermined Malaysia’s international competitiveness as English is an international language and a language of competition in the world arena.

As many parents in the country have expressed their wish that English be used as the medium for mathematics and science, I called on the Education Ministry to declare its stand on PAGE’s call to allow parents the choice of deciding whether their students in schools should use English to be taught mathematics and science.

I also called on the Education Ministry not only to allow Chinese and Tamil languages to used chosen as SPM subjects in a 10 + 2 formula, but to ensure that both subjects are recognized officially for scholarship and other official purposes.

  1. #1 by OrangRojak on Monday, 7 December 2009 - 10:58 pm

    to empower parents to decide
    What are you talking about? Surely if parents want their children to learn a subject in a foreign language they have the choice of sending them to a private school that teaches that way, don’t they? The same as we are all empowered to drive German cars if we decide to!

    Do you also have the option of home-schooling in Malaysia? Any other transfer of control over teaching policy from the schools to parents (or anybody other than teachers, for that matter) would be a disaster, it seems to me.

    As much as I believe Bahasa Malaysia may not be the ideal language for conversing with those from other countries, I cannot persuade myself that national schools should teach core subjects in anything other than the national language. If the nation was to back a foreign language as a second language that all school leavers should have a basic proficiency in, it seems preposterous to teach it as anything other than a language class.

  2. #2 by 5xmom on Monday, 7 December 2009 - 11:24 pm

    For urban areas like Penang, we can actually have this option. I asked CM Lim about his views on PPSMI and he also said schools can be segregated into English or BM medium as we have many schools in the same vicinity.

    My sons’ school, St. Xavier Institution actually called for a PTA EGM to vote. Here is the video how parents can be empowered to choose based on PAGE guidelines.

    Unfortunately, I think many parents are not taking up this opportunity to voice out their choices as only a small portion participated.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 12:07 am

    //I reiterated the DAP stand that maths and science should be taught in the mother tongue or home language in Std. One and spoke on the decline in mastery of the English language by Malaysian students, all the way to the university level.// – YB Kit

    This I don’t understand – “DAP stand that maths and science should be taught in the mother tongue or home language in Std. One.” How is it reconcilable with the other position that “English is”, according to you, “important an international language and a language of competition in the world arena” necessary for “international competitiveness”??

    If English is that important then I would have thought that byour position ought to be that all subjects – let alone maths and science – should be taught in English, just like the time up to the 1970s!

  4. #4 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 1:07 am

    I notice a story at TMI about 4 siblings drowning in a drain. My wife tells me it’s unusual for Malaysian kids to know how to swim properly – is that right? I was so shocked the first time we went to an indoor pool in the UK that my wife (we weren’t married then) couldn’t swim, that I practically forced her to attend lessons at the local adult college, like I was her dad!

    Is there a basic physical education syllabus in Malaysia? Should Malaysian kids be able to swim? Two of those who died in the article were 15 years old, practically young adults. Why did they not know how to swim?

  5. #5 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 3:31 am

    The United Kingdom and some states of the United States, such as Arkansas, will make swimming a compulsory physical education syllabus. Indeed, the compulsory swimming learning syllabus will provide the nation with adequate source of potential sailors in the Navy.

    However, Malaysia has never adopted such a policy of compulsory swimming learning in primary school, in secondary school or in the college or university!

  6. #6 by Onlooker Politics on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 3:46 am

    In the primary schools, most Malaysian students will learn fast to pick up some basic mathematical skill if the mathematical subject is being taught in the mother tongue or in the first language or in the native language of the students. The mathematical skill is important for livelihood purpose after graduating from the primary schools since some unprivileged students may have to quit school after reaching 13 years’ old in order to find job to earn a living by themselves when the parents refuse to continue the children’s livelihood support at the age of 13 due to the parents’ having too many children and having to live in poverty.

    Normally, the typical Malaysian students will be able to acquire a reasonable standard of verbal and language writing skills only after reaching the age of 15 years’ old. Therefore, it is best to teach the students to write eloquent essay in the second language such as English only when the children has reached the age of 15 years’ old!

    YB Kit has done no wrong when he wants the Malaysian students to learn their mother tongue as well as the National Language and the English Language as a second language. Most Chinese Malaysians are tri-lingual and this fact may be the good reason why many Chinese Malaysians are able to find a job in a foreign country when they can hardly find job in Malaysia during the economic recession. The tri-ligual language skills have greatly enhanced the capability of the Chinese Malaysians to survive in dignity with their bare hands and to compete effectively in the international business world!

  7. #7 by monsterball on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 6:41 am

    Space Age with stone age minsters.
    They talk and do nothing and when they intend to do something.. .it is for the benefit of one race..the Malays.
    Right now..they are caught between the devil ad the deep blue sea.
    Promote English language..may put Malays as a clear disadvantage is scoring exams. That’s a fact. They do not care who made the Malays so poor in English……..none other than UMNO.
    Not promoting English….how to deal wit International companies…force them to converse in Bahasa…like before?
    China….Indonesia and Thailand have students who can speak and write English…far more better than Malays…when we were better…just three decades ago,
    I guess…who who wishes to be political students for UMNO are needed only to be excellent in the English language.
    As for the millions of Malays…the less educated or better understandings of world affairs with the abilities to read and right English language…the better.
    Politics…always line up with political decisions to stay at the advantage position…..are what UMNO buggers keep planning for Malaysians.
    Right now….they fear Malays will be at a disadvantage.
    That how “1Malaysia” will be…each race will take care of each race..and since UMNO controls..Bahasa must always be promoted to make Malays vote for UMNO…MCA can fight for more Chinese schools…so is MIC…same of pattern.
    UMNO can never unite the Malaysians..but Malaysians are so united without UMNO’s help…..and that is also UMNO’s problem agree to disagree…to confuse voters.

  8. #8 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 7:36 am

    I’m sure Onlooker Politics is right about the Navy. I think teaching your children basic life-saving skills will provide the nation with an adequate source of potential adults, even if fecundity is nationally lower.

    I can’t believe you teach children Moral and don’t teach them how to swim. How is that ‘Moral’?

  9. #9 by pgsilai on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 8:28 am

    Yes, all subjects should be taught in English like in the 70’s and perhaps only teach Moral in Bahasa. The rest of our neighbours are moving forward and we are moving backward, we really have stone age ministers, sigh! Anyway, go ahead and promote your bahasa , the Malays will continue to speak and write Manglish, what a shame. 1 Malaysia ? phooi…1 Bangsa maybe!

  10. #10 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 8:32 am

    There are not many public swimming pools maintained by the local authorities even in cities. Most pools are in clubs and it costs maybe RM5 for a session.
    Johor Bahru has a swimming pool that has been abandoned for years in Larkin on account of structural problems (apparently it leaks!)
    When you fall into a raging storm drain, even experienced swimmers can drown.
    I would really think very carefully before I jumped into such a torrent but I guess when the time came, one does not know what could happen.

  11. #11 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 9:05 am

    not many public swimming pools
    Oh! Interesting. I thought it was just here. As far as I can find out, the only swimming pool of any size is at a Club with a several-thousand ringgit entrance fee. Perhaps I should petition MPPD, though I wonder – would Malaysian parents even want a swimming pool? Perhaps I’m just being ‘foreign’.

    As for English – does Malaysia take part in school exchange programmes at all? I missed out, but some of my friends who went to stay with French or German families have an enviable level of confidence when they speak those languages now. I guess one problem is the distance to the next English-speaking country…

    What about TV? We don’t watch broadcast TV (my daughter didn’t want to go to school this morning because she was watching ‘霸王别姬’, for the umpteenth time), but is there much in the way of English-language programming on the terrestrial channels?

    I wish there was more choice in newspapers. I’m sure having a readable English-language daily newspaper about the house would help with acquisition of English. I think acquiring English skills at the moment only further exposes Malaysians to the awful prospect of understanding what the NST really is.

  12. #12 by taiking on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 9:31 am

    Dr Rojak,

    Allow me to respond to your most unfair and certainly irresponsible remark.

    And I am speaking on behalf of umno – in case you are in any doubt.

    Umno’s emphasis is not on swimming lessons for school kids. Umno’s frontier is the great universe beyond and not in the water within the four walls of the pool which really is “very small”.

    Conquering the space is our aim. Running swimming lessons is much too “frivolous”. Training and sending our Angkasawan into space are our first two steps in that direction. More steps will be taken in due course. Yes. Bolder and bigger steps. No offence intended to the great swimmer. But michael phelps you are merely entertaining and sad to say, you are actually “frivolous”.

    Umno will allocate 50billion ringgit to set up University of Umnospace to train NASA spacemen, engineers, scientists and techinicians. The highly qualified and competent ex-macc chief Tun (shet, apanama) will be the first V-C of the university. Kassim and friends will be professoring there.

    Enough said. Umno is neither “very small” nor “frivolous”. Umno in fact is the greatest!

  13. #13 by k1980 on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 10:03 am

    //50billion ringgit to set up University of Umnospace//

    Oh hell, yes! That’s why the GST is being implemented— to squeeze 50billion ringgit per annum from the masses.

    But what’s the use of training umnokasawan when there is still no umno technology available to build umno spacecraft? Put the umnokasawan into big cannons and fire them off into space, as HG Wells did in his book “The First Men on the Moon”?

  14. #14 by superstar48 on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 3:38 pm

    Nowadays talking about spending billions by BN govn esp UMNO is like ordering a bowl of cendoi to go along with a plate of pasembor. You guys are talking about swimming pools, Ankasawan projects and all this for what and who is going to benefit? You mean to say Kampong Ali Haji Mahathir or New village Wee Can Fatt kee kiat or Estate Virumandi Palani Samy is going to benefit? Please, guys the same goes to language,leave the education system as to what the British people left behind for us.Everybody was comfortable then,all this cropped up due to some racists esp.Apanama and his stupid cohots. Please somebody there find a solution,save Malaysia.

  15. #15 by katdog on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 8:51 pm

    Ha ha on the topic of swimming lessons.

    I recall my school didn’t even have a field and an assembly hall, let alone a swimming pool.

    Every monday morning, we would assemble on the tar road in front of the school to sing the national anthem. For physical ed, we would troop on over to the field of the neighbouring school.

    The closest swimming pool was many kilometres away, and no, it isn’t a public pool. The public one was even further away.

    Swimming lessons for schools? Are you crazy?

  16. #16 by katdog on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 8:59 pm

    Personally, i think trying to improve English language proficiency via the teaching of science and maths is the head in the ass backwards way of doing it.

    To improve English language proficiency, improve the teaching of said language. Why try to go through Science and Maths.

    Having said that, it is still important to learn science and maths in english because, many technical manuals and journals written in English. Knowing science in English does open up a greater wealth of information for students.

    At the very least, it is critical that Matriculation, Form 6 and Public Universities should teach technical subjects in English.

  17. #17 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 8 December 2009 - 10:36 pm

    Swimming lessons for schools? Are you crazy?
    Kids, teens and young adults dying because we saved a few sen or our modesty? Are you crazy?
    My infant/junior convent school (70s) had a small (6-8m?) swimming pool. It was unheated – that memory will never leave me. The nuns said it would feel warmer if we swam faster. At secondary school (70s/80s) there was no swimming pool, we were herded onto hired buses to go to an Olympic-size one run by the local council. It was something like 30 minutes away on a major road.

    Being unable to swim because of national policy is kind of embarrassing, lame and a missed opportunity for fun, exercise and personal development. A failure to teach something as basic as swimming is not going to endear Malaysia to prospective new ‘brains’. Who is going to bring their brain and their children here from a country where at school you learn all sorts of things which are fun, will enhance, prolong and possibly save your life, you’re at a vanishingly low risk of being kidnapped en route, and there are no Moral classes?

    Education is not just a means towards bigger and more lucrative poured concrete development projects. There is a huge quality-of-life factor to education that may not be apparent amongst all the rhetoric about ‘meritocracy’ and ‘competitiveness’.

    The prospect of my children receiving a lower all-round standard of education in Malaysia than they would elsewhere is a major factor in our decision to stay here. Language hardly comes into the equation at all, for me. Perhaps that’s because I expect my children will pick up a little English from me, but still, I’d be surprised to learn that language is the only concern of other parents of school-age children in Malaysia. What about the balance between rote-learning and experimentation? Homework + exams against project / teamwork? Aren’t your hours spent in lessons also on the low side here?

    For kids (and their parents and teachers) who are currently in schools facing uncertainties about which language maths and science are to be taught in, I really do sympathise. It’s a huge change and doesn’t seem to be part of any coherent education strategy. If there are sticking-plaster techniques for getting the most out of a crap experience, I think you’re right to go for them. I just think it would be a shame to let one mega-issue overshadow all the other things that could be done to improve education for our children.

  18. #18 by taiking on Wednesday, 9 December 2009 - 2:20 pm

    Saw this translated article in MT. Decided to cop and paste a juicy part of article here:

    “In a country where the blacks constitute the majority of local population, the whites simply should not take control of the helm.

    But the problem was: after Mugabe took over the country, he implemented populist policies, marginalising the white residents and resorting to all sorts of means to usurp the social resources and completely sideline the whites.

    The whites, who lost their mines and farm, shops and lands, had to pack up and leave the country in droves.

    The Zimbabwean ecomomy collapsed and inflation rates soared as high as 230,000,000%, with unemployment at a mind-boggling 80%.

    The country was in tatters, with severe political turmoil and widespread systemic corruption. Public hygiene was in an appalling state, with average lifespan down to 37 years and 40% of all adult citizens infected with AIDS.

    Redistribution took the place of fair competition; assistance of meritocracy; and privileges of equality.”

    Whaoo. Whoa. Whooa. Hold your tongue a sec. You mean zimbawe’s economic pie did not well err failed to bake itself?

    Sheeet man. Now dat aint good man.

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