Thursday, July 09, 2009

PPSMI Reactions

Yesterday (8/7/09) the government reversed its 2002 decision regarding the teaching and learning of Science and Math in English (PPSMI).

As at 6p.m. today, there's been a huge backlash from almost everyone connected in one way or another with the issue.

This is what I gather:

1) From the blogposts, blog comments, letters to the editors to several online newspapers, news interviews (NTV7), and a couple of personal interviews, the public is largely against the scrapping of the PPSMI.

2) An ex-USM Malay lady lecturer was equally aghast at the policy reversal. According to her, the whole exercise smacks more of an excuse to gain political mileage than anything else. She further asserted that her brother who teaches Math in a rural sekolah kebangsaan somewhere up north asked his students which language they prefered to be taught in. Every student in his class opted for English.

I was of the impression that most of the "public" (i.e. students, parents, academicians (including teachers) were against the use of English in both these subjects. But if what I see and read is true, then I think I was wrong in my assumptions.

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. If the majority of persons directly concerned with the learning/teaching of these subjects are FOR the PPSMI, then who was against it? I can only think of politicians (both BN and Opposition) and certain vested parties including the Dong Xiong and Gapena, among others.

2. Did the teaching/learning of Science and Math in English since 2002 actually help Malaysian students improve their grades in the English language?

3. If the issue was the grossly low standard of speaking/writing/understanding in the English language among many Malaysian graduates, was the Education Ministry right in implementing the teaching and learning of English in Science and Math in 2002 in the first place? Or wouldn't it have been better to simply have had more English language classes and bring back Literature to arrest the decline in the language as many have proposed?

4. A few foreign countries (South Korea, for one) who have traditionally had the teaching and learning of Science and Math in their native languages have actually expressed an interest in Malaysia's example of using English as the medium of learning/teaching. Again, others have observed that this new development could be to simply ensure that their own students gain an advantage in an increasingly globally competitive working environment. If that's accurate, then wouldn't the scrapping PPSMI in 2011 be detrimental to our own students?

5. If I'm not wrong, the decision to use Bahasa Malaysia as the defacto medium of instruction in our schools was enforced gradually from 1970. It remained in place until 2002. That is a total of 32 years. The PPSMI was implemented from 2002. Yet the policy has been scrapped after only 7 years. Is this wise?

For some reason, I don't think this is going away anytime soon.

See these sites below for more comments on the issue:

and, check out ex-Prime Minister Mahathir's blog:
My hope? Just that common sense prevails! I too have got an 8 year old in the local sekolah kebangsaan. As he's in Year 2 now, if the implementation goes ahead as planned, he would continue to study both Science and Math in English until 2011, when he will be in Year 5. He would then continue same for another year (Year 6) in 2012 and then would have to revert to Bahasa Malaysia in 2013 when he 's in secondary school.

I feel sorry for him, and there's nothing much I can do about it - for now at least. If anyone out there wants to share his/her thoughts on this, please feel free to comment. Perhaps all is not lost yet.