Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jan 18 18:01:58 UTC 2009

Policy a stumbling block to learning math

SINCE 2003 much has been debated on the issue of using English as a
medium of teaching for Science and Mathematics. This policy was
introduced by our former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir whom I regard
as a visionery leader. I personally think that the concept is good but
I have reservation with its impulsive implementation. Let us look at
the standard of English in our schools. Many will agree that the
English proficiency in our country has deteriorated through the years
and the main reason is due to the lack of qualified English-speaking
teachers, particularly in rural areas.

While many teachers are still struggling to use English, wouldn't it
be even harder for them to use the language to teach Science and
It would even be worse for young students to learn these subjects from
their teachers? Of course, the Education Ministry can create
programmes to educate the teachers. Nevertheless, I am pessimistic
about its effectiveness in such a short period.

Furthermore, I think it is unfair to put such burden on students.

Children whose parents could afford to send them for private tuition
would be able to do well. What about those who are poor?

I have tutored two young boys and found that they have problems
understanding Math questions in English.

But when I translated them into their mother tongue, they could easily
understand and answer them.

In such situation, I can't help but see the policy as a stumbling
block for these students in learning Mathematics.

Science and Mathematics are technical subjects, not language subjects,
and are best taught in mother tongues.

As for the English language, let us first put more effort to improve
its teaching in school and bring it to a certain level before we dream

Let us solve the root problem first.

Let us improve the teaching of the English language in schools and
improve the skills of our English teachers.

Let us create innovative programmes to stimulate the students'
interest to learn and master the language.

Only then, will our system be able to produce teachers who are able to
teach well in any subject using English.


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