With polls this year, whither PPSMI?

– Hussaini Abdul Karim
The Malaysian Insider
Jan 11, 2013

JAN 11 – What has happened to the circular MOE sent to all schools last year recommending a ‘soft landing approach’ allowing all national schools to continue conducting the teaching of mathematics and science in English until 2015?

That decision made by the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Education, I understand, was made to allow all national schools students who started learning those subjects in English to continue until they complete Form Five.

The people welcomed that decision and we thought, BN is more people-friendly than Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) that wanted PPSMI to be abolished immediately. Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS) also do not support the re-instatement of PPSMI but Democratic Action Party (DAP) does and they both support the increase in the content in using English language at national schools to make our students bilingual.

In fact, they also support the learning of foreign languages, including vernacular languages, in national schools.

However, it seems that many, if not most or all, headmasters of national schools in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, have made their own decisions to stop using PPSMI and have instructed their teachers to only teach those subjects in Bahasa Malaysia beginning from the new school term this year.

I understand that many other schools have also switched upon the directive of their respective schools’ headmasters and they are now teaching mathematics and science in Bahasa Malaysia.

Has the circular been cancelled or replaced by a new one or are headmasters now allowed to make their own decisions?

To recap, ‘Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris’ (PPSMI) (the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English) is a government policy aimed at improving the command of the English language among pupils at primary and secondary schools in Malaysia.

In accordance to this policy, the Science and Mathematics subjects are taught in the English medium as opposed to the Malay medium used before.

This policy was introduced in 2003 by the then-Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad.

PPSMI has been the subject of debate among academics, politicians and the public alike, which culminated to the announcement of the policy’s reversal in 2012 by you as the Minister of Education.

The rationale for the decision to change the medium of instruction from the Malay Language to English for the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics subjects was made based on the government’s concern on the nation’s human capital development towards achieving the standard of a developed country, as well as an early preparation to compete in the era of globalisation.

It is widely known that the field of science and mathematics form the basis and have a crucial role in the progress and development of a country. Various innovations and discoveries in these two fields happen rapidly and information access is mostly in the English language.

English language is also the language spoken internationally and mastery in this language would allow easy access to information in these fields.

The policy decision to implement PPSMI was made to ensure students’ mastery in science and mathematics in view of the fact that most of the sources are available in the English language.

Indirectly, it is also hoped that the implementation of PPSMI would contribute to the enhancing of students’ command of the language.

When proposing the policy, Tun Dr. Mahathir was in the opinion that Malaysia’s progress is declining in the age of globalisation, and he had hoped that this policy gives a competitive edge to the nation, following the footsteps of Singapore and India which are moving forward because of their utilisation of the English language.

Two days ago, I asked a Form Two student of SMKSAAS in Sek 2 Shah Alam, near where I live, about the number of subjects taught in English this morning and she told me that the only subject they teach in English in her school now is English language. The school has switched from teaching mathematics and science in English to BM since the new term started. I then asked her how she feels about it and she said, “Too bad, we do not learn enough English in school anymore”.

At the same time, I also asked some friends to check with schools that their children are attending on the situation and I get similar answers from them.

Parents of a school in Port Dickson were rudely shaken when its principal decided to switch the teaching of science and math from English to BM in Form 2 after having completed Form 1 in English.

Some of the schools that have switched teaching mathematics and science from English to BM are SMK Section 3 Bandar Kinrara, Puchong, SMK Tinggi Kluang; SK Pekan 1, Labuan; SMK Ketari, Bentong; SMK Setapak Indah; Seri Puteri Cyberjaya., SMK Dato’ Ahmad Razali, Ampang, SK Ampang, SMK TTDI Jaya, SMK Sek 9 Shah Alam, SRK Raja Muda Shah Alam, SRK Seksyen 7 Shah Alam, SMK Seksyen 7 Shah Alam. I am sure there are many more if MOE cares to find out.

Many appeals were made by members of the public, professionals and stakeholders to get government to continue and re-instate PPSMI giving very valid reasons which the government has stubbornly refused to accede and has instead, introduce the new MBMMBI policy. So, parents thought, with the ‘soft landing approach’ on PPSMI, there will still be some ‘breathing space’ for them and most importantly, the students themselves but, this is also now denied.

In 2003 when PPSMI was introduced, the Barisan Nasional won big at the 11the General Election as the policy did not affect voters’ choice of government and, if BN leaders now are worried that PPSMI will be their bogey this coming GE 13, I think they have read the situation wrongly.

GE 13 is just around the corner, isn’t the government interested to listen to the people at all?

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 12 January 2013 - 12:11 am

    ‘……isn’t the government interested to listen to the people at all?…’



  2. #2 by yhsiew on Saturday, 12 January 2013 - 7:47 am

    Some ministers are not really interested in the job assigned to them. They merely want to use their position as a launching pad to move “higher-up” in politics.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 12 January 2013 - 8:41 am

    Something people should reminded that its almost certain Najib will be out after this GE and Muhiyiddin will be the PM. It scares me to no end because not only has he said some scary things but even worst, the man is even more clueless what to do than Najib and much more trapped in the old regime’s anachronistic mindset.

    Muhiyiddin tenure in education ministry is marked by pretty dead-minded ideas – turning back PPSMI, so-called ‘education blueprint’ that is just bits and pieces of what others do but don’t come close, repeating things that have failed before, controversy after controversy such as with orang Asli, that is never resolved properly and politics take precedent,

    In fact repeating things seems to be Muhiyiddin hallmark – not only in education – raising BR1M to RM1,000 and making it permanent – That is all we are going to get from him – old failing things but just multiplied?

    On top of all that Muhiyiddin has a strong track record of simply REFUSING to deal with the biggest issues of the day – be it Chinese education, be it Interlok, universities ranking, Math & Science scores, scholarships for Indians and lets not forget ALL the hyperbole of ‘best education’, etc. etc..

    Its not his ultra-Malay ideology I fear in Muhiyiddin, its his mediocrity and his blindness of himself, that scares me..

  4. #4 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 12 January 2013 - 11:26 pm

    We can only hope politicians from acroos the divide will come to their senses! Any language learned is always a plus! And English happens to be the language of international communication. Doing maths and science in English can only help our students to be more adoptive when they reach their tertiary level. If indeed needs be, have longer hours in class to add time without affecting the teaching of BM! Many Chinese opted for the Chinese Primary schools solely because they believe their children will get better teaching not because it is merely a ‘Chinese scool”! In Singapore, the Government finds it difficult to get the Chinese over there to pick up Chinese language until now, the people saw the advantage of Chinese language, it suddenly flourishes because of China factor in term of opportunity! Though such practical approach to life can cause misunderstanding amongst the Non-Chinese!

  5. #5 by chengho on Sunday, 13 January 2013 - 6:11 am

    1School , english for everyone

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