Wednesday, December 10, 2008

English in education: The continuing saga

I am in full agreement with Zainul Arifin's latest op-ed piece as I have been with all his previous pieces on the matter of education in Malaysia. I'm just glad that Zainul has a space to articulate his views on this matter.

THE Chinese-education lobby group Dong Jiao Zong, according to a news report, is threatening a nationwide protest should the government decide to continue with teaching Science and Maths in English.

The group and many others want to revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, and Mandarin and Tamil in vernacular schools.

If the report is true, Dong Jiao Zong's threat can be seen as a pre-emptive strike to put pressure on the government, ahead of the Education Ministry's fifth roundtable meeting for stakeholders on Dec 16 to get feedback on whether to continue with the policy

Political parties and various other groups have also weighed in, many siding with Dong Jiao Zong, though none has threatened as blatant a show of dissent as it has in promising to gather opponents of the policy for a nationwide protest if the current policy is not reversed.

The leaders of Dong Jiao Zong know how such a threat would play out in public, but the fact that it does so anyway suggests either naivete, or arrogance. And I do not believe it is the former.

I thought the recent Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results, which was to be a key factor in determining the fate of the policy, showed that it was not damaging and that more students answered their questions in English. Interviews with students, which I must admit could be misleading, suggested that they preferred the subjects to be in English.

Read the complete piece here.


kluangman said...

Kalau kita mengambilkira 'ketahanan' kerismudin dalam isu keris, dia dengan hinanya telah menjual bangsanya dengan meminta maaf kepada kaum bukan Melayu.

Dalam isu ini, dipercayai kerismudin akan sekali lagi sedia berkhidmat untuk lelongan murah masa depan anak bangsanya.

Anonymous said...


If you ask me, I think everything - save for bahasa, tamil & mandarin - should be taught in English.

I wrote it down and got a fair share of bashing. Such is life. Merry Xmas

de minimis said...


The Minister of Education/UMNO Youth leader needs to be more consistent and instal a titanium spine and titanium cojones. If he can do that then there will be no need for apologies. He can be the voice of reason instead of being a polarising figure.


I vividly recall your cogent and well-argued post and, in fact, wrote a supportive comment there. We may be in the minority on this matter. But, I truly hope that the powers that be understand that this issue transcends ethnicity and language chauvinism and, that, English is the relevant language.

mekyam said...

i totally agree with elviza and you, ct.

we really need to look at it from a pragmatic point of view. language in education should be seen as a medium, a tool.

to be globally competitive, we need to give our children the best and the most useful tool(s).

Anonymous said...

Someone pointed out that the national school system is also a vernacular education system. It is vernacular in Bahasa Melayu being the medium of instruction. So we actually have three vernacular streams.

Looking at just this result:

and Malaysia's code as MAS, i think the Association knows why they are defending Science and Maths to continue to be taught in the Chinese language.

But we must also hedge our bets, in which case English language should continue to be used to teach Science and Maths in national schools.

In the end, this is for everyone's future.

I woke up this morning and decided to read Mergers, Acquisitions & Divestitures. Proceeded to the Encyclopedia of the U-Boats (1904 to present), and capped it with The World Is Curved (David Smick).

I can't find any version in Bahasa. Can you?

..there's a paper somewhere on how to make an atomic bomb..but.. oh never mind.

deck said...

I largely agree that it would be better for the students to learn mathematics and science in English, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of imposing this choice on parents. Letting them decide would be for the best.

Also, as I pointed out in my own post on the subject, the question of whether or not there are enough teachers who can teach the subjects competently in English is a legitimate concern. I very much doubt that retraining existing science and mathematics to have them teach in English would work very well.

Pat said...

While I am in complete agreement with Elviza, I have to acknowledge Wankongyew's point: about having teachers proficient and competent enough to teach in English. That has always been my concern.

We've reached a point in our lack-of-policy in education where very few can and do speak English. How will they then be able to use it as a medium of instruction?

'The teacher as role model' - this is an important aspect of teaching, whether he be a language teacher, or subject teacher.

So, we'd have students emulating the terrifyingly incompetent English we have out there: memang lah funny in asides as our 'bad Engrand' to steal Patrick Teoh's word.

In real life, it is so not funny.

The way forward? Not clear without one humungous migraine, CT!