[lg policy] Malaysia: PPSMI =?windows-1252?Q?=96_?=Issue closed but is there closure?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 9 15:31:21 UTC 2011

PPSMI – Issue closed but is there closure?
Posted on 8 November 2011 - 05:25am
Last updated on 8 November 2011 - 01:24pm

Zakiah Koya
newsdesk at thesundaily.com

THE government's decision to abolish the Teaching of Mathematics and
Science in English (PPSMI) policy has garnered all manner of reactions
– some positive, some not. theSun speaks to one main stakeholder whose
voice has yet to be heard on the matter.

OUR education policy is one that has been seemingly in a constant
state of flux, with policy reversals and changes to the curriculum
affecting teachers, students and parents. The recent flap over the
scrapping of the Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English
(PPSMI) policy is one example.

Following the government's announcement that it would stick to its
2009 decision to scrap PPSMI in stages, starting next year, various
quarters have come out support or condemn the decision.

While non-governmental groups such as Page (Parent Action Group for
Education) and the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP),
as well as various political groups and academicians have voiced their
views on the issue, one major stakeholder has been silent.

Teachers and education ministry staff are unable to openly comment on
the PPSMI issue due to Education Ministry directives. Many parents,
too, were reluctant to come forward due to worry over their children's
situation in schools.

theSun managed to get the views of several parents and teachers on the
PPSMI policy and the Education Ministry's decision, which affects 5.3
million students and 10 million parents.

According to teacher Rina Ramanan, 40, who has been teaching English
Language for the past 20 years in a Petaling Jaya primary school,
although the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English was
introduced in the year of 2003, the teachers are still grappling with
teaching the subjects in the language.

"They come to me often but they have much improved over the years. But
then again, one has to understand that most of the Science and
Mathematics terms in Malay are actually the same in English language –
the only difference is the way they are spelt, therefore as long as
the children get the concepts correct, they will do fine in

"As long as the language is understandable, science and mathematics
teachers would let it through – not much of a fuss over the grammar
and spelling.

"The students in my school are from the middle and lower income
society class and even those from the lower income where the parents
do not speak English, seem to have benefited since the implementation.
Although the parents complain that they cannot sustain the teaching
when they are at home, they are happy that at least the children are
getting used to English. Their only worry is that they could not help
their children with their lessons,” said the bubbly school teacher.

A president of the Parents-Teachers' Association (PTA) of a school in
the city where the pupils are mostly from the higher income group said
although the ministry have given the “guarantee” that the children can
continue PPSMI until Form Five, she is still worried about the

Sasha, as she wanted to be known as, said she is especially concerned
over the statement from the Education Ministry director-general saying
that pupils can opt to transfer to schools still offering PPSMI.

“I am just waiting to see how this going to be done. It is just not a
logical thing to do – to transfer the children midstream. What more,
when the system is left to the headmasters or headmistresses,” she

Last week, the Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is
also the Deputy Prime Minister stated that the government schools
would not be allowed to teach Science and Mathematics in English
despite pressure from parent-teacher associations and several
non-governmental organisations, which favour PPSMI.

In bringing closure to the issue, Muhyiddin reiterated last week that
the policy would indeed be scrapped, but as part of the ministry's
"soft-landing" approach, declared that students who have started
learning the subjects in the language may opt to maintain them.

Following this, the education ministry then stated that it will be up
to heads of the respective schools whether to continue PPSMI, and that
the ministry will facilitate the transfer of those who wanted to
transfer their children to a school that has PPSMI.

However, even this has caused some confusion among parents, who worry
how this will affect their children.

“I just wish that the Ministry would once and for all decide what
language to use and concentrate on upgrading and strengthening the
syllabus. We parents are getting tired of playing the game of
constantly having to keep watch over our children’s education system
and not knowing what further surprises and plans the Ministry of
Education is going to spring upon our poor children," complained

“I prefer English but I do not mind if it is in BM – what we want is
for the children to have a good world-class education without any
interruption. Here, the education system is changed every time the
minister changes. Is this fair on us parents, teachers and the
children?” said the parent, who has three schoolgoing children.

Another teacher, Amin, said that he had to deal with changing systems
during his teacher training days.

“I was in the English major in early 90s. First they told us that we
had to focus on grammar, then they came to us and said communicative
syllabus, then there was a U-turn back to grammar. Now, I am not even
sure what we are supposed to teach the children. So, many of us decide
just to follow the given textbooks and ensure the children pass their

“Forget about training them to become proper English speakers or
interested in English reading. This is why the new generation of
primary schoolchildren is not excellent in English – the students may
be getting As but that does not make them proficient in English,” said
Amin, who teaches the upper primary schoolchildren from mixed
backgrounds in a school in Jalan Klang Lama.

Hopefully, the new policy announced by Muhyiddin to replace the PPSMI,
the MBMMBI (Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening the Command
of English) will have better luck in arresting the decline of the
standard of English in schools.


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