Malaysia: Lively debate at language talks
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Wed Oct 22 21:26:45 UTC 2008
Lively debate at language talks
By : Kristina George
PUTRAJAYA: The fourth round-table to discuss the use of the English
language to teach Mathematics and Science in primary and secondary
schools saw a hot debate involving political stakeholders at the
Putrajaya International Convention Centre. The closed-door discussion
included Parti Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, MIC
president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr
Wee Ka Siong, Parents Action Group for Education (Page) and the
National Parent-Teacher Associations, among others. Deputy Minister in
the Prime Minister's Department S.K. Devamany lauded Education
Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein for his effort to get
feedback on the issue.
"When this policy was first established in 2003, it was done hastily.
I feel that instead, this (the discussion) is the way it should have
"This is a matter close to the heart of the rakyat and we have got to
listen to what they have to say, too." During the lunch break, Wee
said the round-table discussion was important as they needed to listen
to all groups to reach a decision on the usage of the English language
for the teaching of Mathematics and Science by the end of the year.
He said that the MCA was standing by its views on retaining Mandarin
for Mathematics and Science in Chinese primary schools, while English
should only be introduced for the two subjects in secondary schools.
Samy Vellu said MIC committee members would be meeting members
associated with Tamil schools nationwide to decide by next week. "I
must get consent from all parties and ensure that we reach a decision
that is most beneficial for our Tamil school students."
Wee said he was irritated with Page for having overstepped its
boundaries, conducting surveys that had not been authorised by the
"Its actions show that it has no respect for the ministry." Page was
formed recently by the SK Bukit Damansara PTA to maintain the teaching
of Science and Maths in English. Page deputy president Roz Mawar
Rozain, however, said that they were only trying to provide help to
the ministry and did not mean to step on anyone's toes.
"We had addressed the survey to parents of the PTAs and not to the
schools to get our consensus," she said, adding that the common
perception of the policy relegating the superiority of the national
language of Bahasa Malaysia, was untrue.
"Presently, in primary schools, Bahasa Malaysia is used as the medium
of education for 59 per cent of school hours while in secondary
schools, 62.5 per cent of school hours saw the usage of the language."
Roz Mawar added that the term "mother tongue" did not apply to all
Malaysians as Bahasa Malaysia was not the mother tongue for all
Bumiputeras and Mandarin was not the mother tongue for the majority of
the Chinese community.
Roz Mawar said many were still misled by the concept that rural
students, who were raised speaking their mother tongue, were not able
to cope with their studies because of their inability to understand
when taught in English.
"We came across a Google webpage which stated that the optimum time to
absorb languages is when a child is between two and seven years, all
the more reason to begin teaching our children the language sooner,"
At a Press conference later, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Razali
Ismail said all recommendations and views that were presented
yesterday would be taken into consideration and submitted to
He said that input from the previous round-table discussions and all
examination results would also be submitted.
On the rising rate of violence among students, Razali said parents
should work on instilling moral values in their children and not
depend on the school or the government.
He said beefing up security would only cause more problems. He
stressed on the important role parents played in ensuring that their
children did not take their hand phones to school.
"I urge parents to monitor their children's activities and ensure that
they abide by school rules at all costs."
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