Malaysia: Let English stay with Science and Maths.

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Dec 11 14:23:41 UTC 2008

Let English stay with Science and Maths.

I pity the insecurity of those who oppose English, but for their
righteousness and chauvinism, they deserve my contempt. I wish they
would all disappear, but alas they would not.

Rightly said. We have read about how certain groups vehemently oppose
the policy of teaching science and maths to the extent that they would
go on strike on a nationwide protest. It seems the reason for them to
do this is that the academic results since the language-switch policy
was implemented have shown that the policy does not help students to
improve their proficiency in English. Then something must be wrong
down the line.

If the teaching has been done at an earlier stage, I see no reason why
the students are not able to cope. Again it must the overemphasis of
their mother tongue or the teachers themselves have not used the
language widely. Why the fear of using a language that has wide
applications in every discipline? Yes carry on with the use of
vernacular language in other subjects but please do not restrict the
use of a language that allows a student to get ahead in life
especially across international borders.

Enough have been said on how difficult it is for students to make the
transition from vernacular language to the English Language when they
enter secondary schools where the teaching of the sciences is
continued in English. It is the incompetence in the English Language
that have caused scholars to fumble when they were sent overseas on
taxpayers money in countries like UK, the States and Down Under. I am
quite sure they would have cope well if given an earlier start in the

Please remember it is just the sciences that is taught in English
while other subjects remain to be taught in Bahasa Malaysia. Our
national language must be given due importance. And for goodness sake
please do not regard the teaching of Science and Maths in English as a
"betrayal of the position of Bahasa Melayu as the national language.
No, no, no. My preU students who studied the sciences in vernacular
and national language had earlier hiccups when I taught them but along
the way this cleared up when I used both Mandarin and Bahasa to
explain certain terms. Most of the time I speak to them in English.

If a total of RM3.2 billion has been spent over the past five years in
carrying out the teaching of Science and Maths in English, with a
large portion being spent on the purchase of ICT equipment, why
abandon the project half way? It would be a disaster to do a flip flop
on this policy. A policy must be given enough time to see it through
its success.

Look at the Singapore's model. Although the medium of instruction is
English most Singaporeans including the Malay and Indian Singaporeans,
I was told by my brother speak fairly good Mandarin. I guess it must
be the daily interaction with each other that they pick up each
other's language just like how the Myanmars in the restaurant pick up
Cantonese or other dialects. I myself have never attended Chinese
school or Mandarin lessons but through interaction with my students I
have acquired a certain amount of proficiency and I have no problem in
speaking Mandarin with a Chinese national when I go for my monthly
massage to ease my back pain.
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