|Maths and science: The case for BM|
|Helen Ang | Mar 12, 09 11:20am|
Yang dikejar tak dapat, yang dikendong berciciran.
We might dream about creating a breed of Malaysian scientists and mathematicians but we’re losing hordes of children who don’t even have a decent grounding in Math and Science due to PPSMI (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris).
1 Prof Mohamad Tajuddin Rasdi commented that the move to teach Math and Science in English was made with “such rapidity that it boggles any management team to implement”. The public did not hear about any feasibility study nor were there any debates or concerns that built up to the radical switch.
2 PPSMI was implemented in January 2003, coming at the tail-end of Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s tenure. “Tun Mahathir sort of woke up one day and decided to change the languages of the two subjects”, Prof Tajuddin noted. Dr M’s ‘Eureka!’ moment came after Malaysian kids have been learning Math and Science in Malay for almost four decades.
3 Dr M’s executive order was given against a backdrop of massive unemployment among local graduates which he blamed on their lack of proficiency in English. At the same time, private colleges offering courses in English were burgeoning. The PPSMI directive did not originate from the Education Ministry but was instead the premier’s personal initiative.
4 The PPSMI project – it was revealed in Parliament last May – has already cost taxpayers RM3.2 billion over the last five years. A significant portion of the money was ostensibly spent on ICT equipment. Further billions have been budgeted to see through the programme. Is it an enrichment of pupils or of cronies, one may ask?
5 We have completed a cycle of PPSMI. In 2008, the pioneer batch finished their Year Six. Yet last year, only 31.1% elected to answer the UPSR Science paper fully in English, while 68.9% opted to use Malay, or vernacular (Chinese/Tamil), or a combination of languages.
This rojak language feature is unheard of anywhere else in the world. Would a 12-year-old in England submit his Science answer script in a jumble of English-French-Urdu?
6 Close to 70 percent were not confident enough to sit the exam in English. In absolute numbers, that’s 352,641 pupils. It is mother tongue instruction that’s most effective for children as countless studies have shown. Unesco endorses this formulation. The European Union similarly adopts a mother tongue education policy.
7 Is it so incomprehensible to the vocally pro-PPSMI urbanites that English is alien to the majority of rural children?
Furthermore, Math and Science teachers who are themselves deficient in English will not help improve the pupil’s language command. In fact, a likely scenario is that kids will pick up English grammar mistakes from Cikgu during Math and Science periods.
Wrong to scapegoat BM
8 A most oft-cited argument in favour of PPSMI is that the bulk of reference material is in English. But we’re talking about seven year olds and 11 year olds. They don’t need to refer to advanced textbooks and academic papers.
They’re not required to write a thesis using English jargon. Foundation level Math and Science deals with basic concepts that can be explained just as well in BM or vernacular.
Nor are these parents capable of giving home tutoring as they themselves are not well-educated. And in settlements and long houses, children do not have access to facilities, computers and laboratories.
The above article is condensed from a two-part essay originally published by the Centre for Policy Initiatives. The memorandum submitted by GMP to the King can be viewed here.