Learning in English to continue

(The Star) – PUTRAJAYA: Students who have started learning Science and Mathematics in English will continue to do so until they complete their studies in Form Five.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the decision was made by the Cabinet to ease the concerns of parents.

This meant that pupils from Year Two onwards would continue learning under the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy, he said.

“I am not interested in the PPSMI debate and I hope parents understand that the Government is responsive.

“A circular on the issue has already been prepared and we will send it out to schools very soon,” he told reporters after briefing ministry staff on the “soft landing” of the policy.

Muhyiddin said schools would have the option to teach Science and Mathematics fully in English, Bahasa Malaysia, or bilingually.

“Students will continue with whatever system they have in place now, be it in English, Bahasa Malaysia or both languages.”

The two subjects will be fully taught again in Bahasa Malaysia starting 2016 for primary schools and 2021 for secondary schools.

Muhyiddin said research had shown that most schools were already teaching both subjects in Bahasa Malaysia.

“Less than 5% of 7,495 primary schools use English to teach the subjects, and for secondary schools, less than 9% out of 2,192 use English,” he said.

When pressed for more information, Muhyiddin said this meant that the medium of instruction for the two subjects in schools would be based on the needs of children and teachers.

“The schools would know better than me,” he said.

The PPSMI policy was initiated by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and implemented in phases, beginning with Year One, Form One and Lower Six students in 2003.

It was then announced in 2009 that the Government would reverse the policy and revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, and Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools, while more emphasis would be placed on English as a subject.

At the time, it was also announced that Form Six students would not be affected by the reversal so as to help them in their transition to tertiary studies.

Muhyiddin said public examinations for the two subjects would continue to be bilingual until 2016 for primary schools and 2021 for secondary schools.

“It is up to students to choose to answer in any language they are comfortable in.

“They can even answer one question in English and another in Bahasa Malaysia in the same examination paper,” he added.

Muhyiddin also said the ministry had produced textbooks in Bahasa Malaysia to cater to schools which were already teaching the two subjects in that language, as they had been using translations of the present English textbooks.

He added that the abolition of the PPSMI policy did not mean that the Government was ignoring the importance of mastering English.

“Under the policy on Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English, the ministry is implementing new initiatives to improve the mastery of English among students,” he said.