KUALA LUMPUR: The announcement to teach Science and Mathematics subjects in English must be supported for the betterment of the students and nation, said Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.
“There is an urgent need to let go of the insecurities and take a bold step for the future of the children and the nation.
“We are short of 500,000 scientists and engineers to move the economy forward for Malaysians to enjoy a better quality of life, leap over the middle-income trap and become a model nation.
“Malaysians have a great potential and if we do not take heed of global advances, we will witness another big wave of the brain drain.”
Azimah hoped that detractors would refrain from opposing the move, which was announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday during a special meeting with the Education Ministry’s management officials.
National Union of the Teaching Profession lauded the announcement and called for the matter to be handled carefully.
Its secretary-general, Harry Tan Huat Hock, said the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI) policy was in place for 11 years, but problems plagued its implementation.
“These included incompetent English proficiency among Mathematics and Science teachers and the difficulty in preparing the dual-language exam papers, along with the apparent lack of motivation among the teachers themselves until incentives were given.
“As a result, many wanted to teach for the sake of the incentives.”
He said the Dual Language Programme (DLP), which gave schools the option to teach Science and Mathematics in English, was also fraught with problems.
These included insufficient teachers, problems getting textbooks for Science and Mathematics in English, as well as insufficient classes to cater to those interested in DLP.
“We also have the perennial problem of those in charge being either powerless to address the issue or are not in sync with the programme due to a lack of proficiency in English.”
He urged the Education Ministry to look into all aspects, especially the teaching force, before implementing the policy.
The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said, in a statement yesterday, English needed to be strengthened in the education system because it was the language of mathematics, science, engineering, information and communications technology (ICT) and medicine.
“These core subjects facilitate the acquisition of scientific knowledge and technology that allow for research and development, greater innovation and knowledge-based ICT activities that would contribute to higher value-added activities in all sectors of the economy.”
“Mastery of the English language is acknowledged as necessary in the acquisition of knowledge and in attracting higher value-added investments, allowing the country to move quickly towards achieving a high-income knowledge economy.”
FMM reiterated that English competency was key in creating a pool of indigenous capacity and capabilities.
“It is important that the government continues to implement higher English immersion rates as research has shown that English proficiency is best obtained in an environment of 50 to 60 per cent immersion.”
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia principal research fellow Professor Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong said the move would cause anxiety again among parents who had rejected PPSMI.
Sunway University senior fellow Chong Kok Boon said the bigger issue was to inspire teachers to spur interest among students in science and technology.
“Japan, Korea and Germany, which teach and learn Science and Mathematics in their mother tongue, have produced many success stories.”