Toh Boo Huat
The just released Education Blueprint was touted to be very comprehensive as it took into account the views and desires of Malaysians who were given opportunities to provide input during dialogues held in major towns across the country.
However, if the responses and loud cheers from large section of the crowd during the dialogues are any indication of popular support and demands by the people, then two such requests are missing in the blueprint i.e. calls for Science and Mathematics be taught in English and, for a non-politician Education Minister.
In my humble opinion, the blueprint ought to address the desire of many ordinary folks who would like their children to learn Science and Mathematics in its lingua franca i.e. English while fully supporting maintaining MBMMBI policy for those who want it. Interestingly, the rich who can afford to attend International schools and those Mara sponsored students are enjoying this privilege that is gradually being denied to those attending national schools.
It is an accepted fact that the English language proficiency among our students and workforce is low. The government has rightly, in this blueprint, seeked to tackle this issue by improving the teaching methods, getting better qualified teachers and allocating more teaching hours to it.
These is a good starting base to work from but let us be also frank and accept that learning any language in isolation is tough. Learning English will be very much easier and can be picked up faster when used frequently and applied appropriately. Realistically, studying both Science and Mathematics in English will provide our pupils, especially those from rural areas with a great platform to do so, much like a twin turbo-charger needed to help elevate our standard of English.
I am also of the opinion that the plan to introduce English Literature is premature and contradict the reasons why PPSMI was left out. The authorities have constantly highlighted that some of our pupils struggled with PPSMI and that we do not have enough capable English teachers for PPSMI, what more English Literature which is a much more difficult subject by itself. In fact, days before the launch, the DPM said “We have done studies repeatedly and we have found that there is a lack of English teachers” and that “when students did not understand, the teachers reverted to using Bahasa Malaysia to teach the subjects”. (NST 9-Sep-2012 - Improving quality in all areas of education)
Walk before attempting to run. Our immediate and urgent target is students and a mass workforce with a higher proficiency in English, not flooding the country with Shakespeareans! We should only consider introducing English Literature in future when the standard of English amongst our pupils is elevated, thus reducing any likelihood of failing, leading to abandoning yet another overly ambitious policy.
The other loud call was for a professional and highly experienced academician to be the Education Minister and this popular request received among the loudest applause during those dialogues. It is obvious that the rakyat do not want any more politicians in that post. Many (including our former DPM, Tun Musa Hitam) are alarmed and have enough of seeing our education standard deteriorate continuously over the years with no end in sight, not to mention numerous “politically inclined” policy decisions made.
The people have spoken and the message was indeed conveyed up. An attendee of two Round Table discussions on education revealed in his blog that “there was an almost unanimous agreement that English should be made the medium of instruction for at least Mathematics and Science”.
How then and why were these two well-supported requests left out of the blueprint? Whoever made this decision to do so have betrayed the people!
As parents and primary stakeholders, we demand that the final blueprint include these two issues to truly reflect and honor the desires of the people.