Why we need English-medium national-type schools

— Lan Boon Leong
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 25, 2011

SEPT 25 — It was reported in the press last month that the Education Ministry is sticking by its decision to abolish the PPSMI policy of teaching and learning Science and Mathematics in English.

The abolishment of the policy means that the two subjects will be taught solely in Bahasa Malaysia in the national schools, and solely in Mandarin or Tamil in the national-type schools.

Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi, the Deputy Education Minister, said he and many other academics believe the two subjects need to be taught in the students’ mother tongues.

UNESCO, in fact, advocates mother-tongue education for all subjects because children learn better in their mother tongue. However, mother-tongue education, although desirable, will make the national and national-type schools even more ethnically polarised.

Moreover, there are many Malaysian children of diverse ethnic background — Malays included — whose mother tongue or first language is English. But there are presently no English-medium national-type schools to accommodate them. Aren’t these students disadvantaged compared to their peers whose mother tongue is Bahasa Malaysia or Mandarin or Tamil?

The solution to these two problems — ethnic segregation and linguistic inequity — is obvious: the government needs to add English-medium national-type schools to our national school system.

These schools will not be attended solely by English-speaking Malaysian children. Many parents of children whose mother tongue is not English would also send their children to such schools because they understand the importance of English for their children’s future.

English-medium national-type schools will therefore have a much better ethnic mix of students than the Mandarin or Tamil counterparts and the national schools, and thus able to foster ethnic harmony unlike our present schools.

Furthermore, children whose mother tongue is not English who attend these schools should be more proficient in English. These benefits of English-medium national-type schools, which are vital to our country’s future, are crystal clear. So what is stopping the government from establishing such schools? It is not difficult to do so — we could start simply by converting some national schools to English-medium ones.

If you are a Malaysian parent who is in favor of the establishment of English-medium national-type schools, please vote for them at www.surveymonkey.com/s/NKRJVDH and join PENS (Parents for English-medium National-type Schools) at www.facebook.com/#!/groups/PENSmember/ to help recruit more members for the campaign.

Vote and campaign for your children’s future!

* Lan Boon Leong is an Associate Professor at Monash University Sunway Campus.

  1. #1 by chengho on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 7:27 pm

    no more vernacular school and religion type of school; ONE School for everyONE

  2. #2 by AnthonyEr on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 7:57 pm

    While it is not impossible to achieve high standards of education taught in the national language (consider Korea and Japan), the most important factors are:
    a) quality teachers (accepted based on meritocracy and trained in colleges/university to the highest standard)
    b) quality teaching (school administrators must be impartial where quality is concerned)
    c) rigorous curriculum that has relevance to the present world needs.
    d) wide use of multimedia and internet technologies
    e) stringent assessment (most students’ projects are merely show without substance, most are copy-and-paste submissions)
    f) what did I miss? Let me know, please.

    Teaching of English and other subjects taught in English would be a good thing. But let’s not forget as Malaysians, we mustn’t neglect the National Language. Added, there must also be a desire to master a third language, in the spirit of Malaysianess, to enable us to conduct useful and purposeful communication with business and/or trading partners.

    In the European and North American universities, students take foreign languages as a required credit fulfillment. Because it is Malaysia, we need to encourage students to take up a third, maybe fourth language, e.g. (Japanese/Korean/Chinese and French/German). The languages in parentheses are nothing but working languages.

    While English is the lingua franca of international business, not many speak English fluently, hence my suggestion for the third and fourth language acquisition. The emphasis has to be on correct use of English, not pronunciation to sound like American or Queen’s English.

    My 2 cts.

  3. #3 by limkamput on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 8:44 pm

    If indeed English medium school is reintroduced, all other schools – Malay, Chinese and Tamil – will die a natural death and this country will be on its way to stardom again.

  4. #4 by stevencbs1 on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 8:47 pm

    It is common sense to have everything in English as it is the world’s common language and everything is taught in english when u go overseas or international colleges. Malay medium is not recognized. Plain n simple

  5. #5 by monsterball on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 9:12 pm

    They can talk as much as they like to make Malays Chinese and Indians become race citizens and not world citizens.
    Come 13th GE…they can continue talking to the wall.

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 9:33 pm

    Don’t be surprised that Umno ministers/leaders, who said no to English-medium schools, actually send their sons and daughters to international schools or overseas for English-medium education. These are the real hypocrites!

  7. #7 by Loh on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 10:48 pm

    ///English-medium national-type schools will therefore have a much better ethnic mix of students than the Mandarin or Tamil counterparts and the national schools, and thus able to foster ethnic harmony unlike our present schools.///–LBK

    Ethnic harmony is not fostered by ethnic mix of students. It is government policies which discriminate that brought about disharmony, at least at heart if not shown openly.

    The teaching of maths and science in mother tongue should be preferred in primary schools. The English terms used in mathematics and science can be included in parenthesis in the non-English text books. The Thais have no problem progressing in science and mathematics and they did not teach these subjects in English; they have the English terms included in their textbooks.

  8. #8 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 25 September 2011 - 11:18 pm

    They just to serve the economic interests of the country only their narrow- blinkered objective of politics. If too many Malays become too smart, UMNO may not survive; they can only survive by ensuring a vast majority still read UM, BH and similar publications. Reading and understanding English will open up the horizon of the Malays who will question every action UMNO takes especially financial issues! With UM and BH, facts, half-truths are are blurred to confuse the mind; in a state of confusion, how would anyone ask a rational question?

  9. #9 by boh-liao on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 1:20 am

    Yes, we NEED, but then is it possible n practical 2 hv English-medium national-type schools when most teachers R NOT proficient in English, no speak England 1 leh
    Don’t forget, thanks 2 ppl like MMK, we hv now generations of teachers raised in BM n poor in English, even lots of uni lecturers too can’t teach properly in English (some of them tot public hair is pubic hair 1, same same); we reap what we sow what, poetic justice

  10. #10 by k1980 on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 7:23 am

    #2 by AnthonyEr
    //f) what did I miss? Let me know, please.//

    You want students to take up FOUR languages while in school when they can’t string a sentence in English after 11 years of learning only 2 languages (BM and English).

    If your suggestion is taken up by Moo Hee Din, you can see a steep rise in the number of students throwing in the towel and jumping off the roofs of school buildings.

  11. #11 by HJ Angus on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 9:16 am

    I believe that parents, NOT the education ministry(“I am Malay first…”) would be the best persons to decide on the education needs of their children.
    The MoE should then WORK to meet those needs or else stop imposing their wishes on Malaysians.
    Have they not already FAILED in their mission after so many years of experimenting?

  12. #12 by Godfather on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 11:32 am

    Thge biggest culprit in all this is none other than Mamakthir, who tried to experiment by getting rid of English in the first place, and then realised that the non-Malays end up being as proficient in Malay as the Malays themselves – hence no clear advantage to be gained. Now the Mamakthir is taking the prudent path by advocating the teaching of science and maths in English, but then there are others like the guy who said he is Malay first who wants Ketuanan Melayu to be propagated through teaching in schools.

  13. #13 by Godfather on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 11:33 am

    Just ask Kerismuddin where he sent his kids to school in Bolehland.

  14. #14 by trublumsian on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 11:54 am

    what we need is a bi-lingual immersion school system. yes, a good grasp of both english and chinese will take us far. china will be the 10-ton giant of the 21st century, there’s no denying it.

  15. #15 by tsng on Monday, 26 September 2011 - 12:41 pm

    When our PM said the government would look into ways to accomodate ppsmi option,the Deputy Ministry of Education Dr. Puad Zarkashi had said the opposite. Little napoleans such as this must be subdued if Najib’s administration is to succeed. Failure to act on issue such as education would anger many parents who are the silence majority. The government of the day will pay dearly during the next election for not listening to the plight of the majorities

  16. #16 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 - 12:04 am

    The problem is we have not gone out of the Mederka dreamland although we are 54 this year. Instead of preparing our children for the world-wide competition, we played on national emotion and fears through politicizing education. They thought that this is still the pre-WWII days when sufficient slogans in the printed media will sell their indoctrination programme just to maintain a grip on the majority of the rural population to continue the plundering. Malaysians could have built on her multilingo ability to connect the world. Instead the majority of them are cowed just to follow their ignorance! Today, we have reached a stage where monetary incentives are the rule of thumb. evry project is based on how much one can squeeze out of it! A change of policy to use English as one of the two main media will not produce the desired results overnight but it is still a step forward. China started with English way below us and today I think their Ministers and civil servants who dare to speak in English will take on any of our Minsters in their presentation. With children starting at kinder-garden; within 10 years of the policy change, we will get the result! But Atlas, we WILL NEVER have the political WILL to do it!

  17. #17 by dagen on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 - 9:07 am

    Korea and Japan, France and Germany. They all made it. And they did it with their own national language. Cant we follow their examples and repeat their experiences in malaysia?

    No we cant. At one point in the distant past, it was possible. But I think we missed that point already. You see up until the time before the Internet webbed its way into all computers of the world, countries (and their people) are kept relatively (compared to today) apart from each other – confined to their respective national borders. Today, the ease of communication and the convenience of travel have turned the world into one large village. English language being the most widely spoken language will become (actually, already a reality) the preferred language for communication in this global village. A country that still insist on learning its own national language risk definite isolation. Koreans, Japanese and Chinese today are learning english ardently. We too should.

    And mandarin too should be emphasised. English gained worldwide acceptance and use because of the british empire. Basically britain exported that language to all corners of the world, more or less. I can see the same happening to mandarin as chinese extend their reach to all parts of the world. Mandarin will become an international language when it becomes detached from the chinese culture.

    What about BM? For practical reasons, I would assign it a third language status – a compulsory third language.

  18. #18 by Ray on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 - 10:29 am


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