[lg policy] Malaysia: Voices of our young generation lost in tangle over PPSMI

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 2 14:33:15 UTC 2011

Voices of our young generation lost in tangle over PPSMI
The Star Says

THE raging debate over the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in
English (PPSMI) is unlikely to simmer down despite the Government’s
unequivocal stand that there will be no policy reversal. The
protagonists have fought long and hard in a battle where, sadly, the
real victims are our young generation, whose voices are not heard.
Those who speak on their behalf, from either side, must understand
that there are long-term consequences when policy changes are made at
this level, more so in the field of education.

The voices we hear in this newspaper, and in cyberspace,
understandably, favour the English language proponents. To their
opponents, their outreach is limited to urban, middle-class families
where English is almost like their mother tongue, whatever their
ethnicity. Those who speak on behalf of the rest of the country,
therefore, claim that simply in terms of numbers, reverting to
teaching Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia is the obvious

There are merits to both sides of the arguments but the battle
continues not so much in terms of what is good for our children and
our country in the long term, but what is politically expedient in the
short term. The Government must allow choices. It makes more sense to
seek a win-win situation that allows parents and students PPSMI as an
option than to bulldoze the reversal decision through.

We are told that statistics and feedback prove we need to go back to
Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction but not a single document
on this has been made public or transparent. Why is a policy deemed
correct and visionary back in 2003 but no longer so today?

History will tell us that in the early days of our independence, like
many countries freed from the yoke of colonialism, we did not
immediately discard the systems put in place by the British

As far as education was concerned, all Malaysians, even in the
furthest reaches of our rural areas, were given every opportunity to
excel in English.

Many had to be uprooted from their homes to stay in hostels of premier
schools once they reached the secondary level. And if they did well,
they were given every opportunity to study overseas and come back to
serve the country.

In a way, this is still happening today. Every year, we still send our
students out to gain knowledge primarily in the English-speaking
world. Many still go on public expense though an increasing number
have to pay their own way there.

The only difference is that the standard of English of these students
is not as high as it was before because English is no longer widely
used within the confines of the schools.

The reversal of policy has already achieved one thing – pushing
parents to seek alternative routes.

As a result, it has exacerbated the divide between those who are
already fluent in the English language and those who are not.

More and more taxpayers are giving up on the national schools and
forking out additional expenses to send their children to private and
international schools.

Even worse, they are leaving these shores for “English” pastures in
significant numbers.

And so, years down the road, we’ll still be talking about the lost generations.


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