Malaysia: Let's Continue With the Policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Sep 8 14:22:40 UTC 2008

Let's Continue With the Policy
Posted on: Monday, 8 September 2008, 00:00 CDT

By Samuel Yesuiah

THE news report, "Wrong to learn language this way" (NST, Sept 4), on
the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English highlighted the
belief by some educationists that the deteriorating standard of
English could not be arrested by teaching Science and Mathematics in
English. They argued that it was wrong to use Science and Mathematics
subjects to teach English. It was also suggested that if the intention
was to improve the standard of English, then the government should
start with arts subjects and also increase the number of English
periods in schools. While there is truth in this, it should be
remembered that the move to teach Science and Mathematics in English
from 2003 was not to improve the standard of English.

The main reason was that we did not want to be left behind in global
economic competition and participation. There is a wealth of
information in Science and Mathematics in English. The English
language is the language of the sciences and arts. It is the lingua
franca of numerous disciplines in the education world. Many books,
journals, reference materials and research papers are written by the
Western world in English.

The government hopes that children will have a strong foundation in
Science and Mathematics by teaching basic terminology and concepts of
Science and Mathematics in English in primary and secondary schools.

A strong foundation will enable them to read science reference books
and journals in English at universities.

It will also enable them to contribute research papers in the
international arena.

Apart from that, there is an information overload as students can
access information and knowledge from all over the world through the

Many students have access to the Internet and they can access the
latest scientific knowledge if they have a strong foundation in
Science and Mathematics in English.

The medium of instruction of the language of Science and Mathematics
on the Internet is English.

Because of the rapid pace of information overload in the scientific
field, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka has been unable to cope with
translating the information from English to Bahasa Malaysia.

Before it can translate the information into books, it is out of date.

It is, therefore, a waste of money, resources and manpower to translate.

Another problem in translation is that the true and intended meaning
of the original message is lost.

It is the intention of the government that students access the
information in the language in which it was transmitted first hand.

Many developing countries have reverted to teaching Science and
Mathematics in English.

It is the global trend and even China is engaging teachers from
England to teach English in its schools.

All around us, much prominence is given to the English language,
especially in Science and Mathematics

However, we in Malaysia are still debating whether to continue
teaching the subjects in English.

It is time that we think global and act local.

Therefore, let us embrace the change that is taking place all over the
world with regard to the prominence of English in the fields of
education and science.

The possibility of reverting to teaching Science and Mathematics in
the national language and the mother-tongue language stems from the
finding that many primary rural schoolchildren face problems learning
Science and Mathematics in English.

This is because many of them come to school without any knowledge of English.

Without the ability to read and understand simple English, it is
impossible for rural children to understand the concepts and content
of Science and Mathematics in English.

Rural primary school teachers have to go back to basics and teach the
children the alphabet, the sound system, syntax, grammar and the
mechanics of writing the English alphabet.

As suggested by the National Union of the Teaching Profession, pupils
from Year 1 to Year 3 should be given a thorough grounding in English
with simple Science and Mathematics terms and concepts integrated into
the English lesson.

Pupils from Year 4 to Year 6 will be gradually introduced to Science
and Mathematics in English.

This idea mooted by the Curriculum Development Centre of the Education
Ministry is called the ELiTE (Early Literacy Through English)
programme, which is being implemented in trial stages in selected
rural primary schools.

The programme, if implemented nationwide next year, will see Year One,
Two and Three children using a curriculum that has Science and Maths
elements integrated into the English language module.

English language teachers and Science and Maths teachers will use the
same module to teach early literacy skills so that the children can
read, understand and write simple English words and instructions.

There has been positive feedback on ELiTE from rural schools that have
run the programme.

Many rural children who have come through the 2003 batch have shown
much improvement in their English-language proficiency.

It is common to hear the children speaking English in the classroom
with their friends.

Even teachers have shown marked improvement in their linguistic
competence and display greater confidence in teaching the two

However, the government has said that it will decide whether to revert
at the end of the year after taking into consideration the findings of
educationists and the results of the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah
examination, which comprises the first batch of children who went
through the language policy change.

I hope the government will receive positive feedback so that it can
continue the policy of teaching Science and Maths in English.



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