[lg policy] Malaysia: Fix the implementation of policies

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 3 15:04:57 UTC 2013

 Fix the implementation of policies
September 3, 2013

*FMT LETTER:* From Tunku Munawirah Putra, via e-mail

Unesco’s stand on supporting mother tongue education is so that the
minority group or indigenous people too can benefit and progress through
education. It states that “Unesco promotes mother tongue-based bilingual or
multilingual approaches in education – an important factor for inclusion
and quality in education.”

In essence, having mother tongue education is so that those who do not
speak the mainstream medium of instruction in schools do not get left out.
It is about including them in the mainstream education while granting their
rights to education. Unfortunately, in our beloved nation, the politicians
and linguists are milking this fact, twisting it and using it to their
advantage to push through their language and race agenda.

Nurul Izzah is inaccurate in saying that Unesco supports mother tongue
education for technical subjects. PAGE was part of the stakeholder
roundtable discussion on the Malaysia education policy review with Unesco
in April 2012. They have recommended as a high priority for the medium of
instruction of science and mathematics to be reviewed.

The Unesco report entitled “Malaysia Education review policy, April 2012”
referred to in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB), proves
Unesco’s stand. We were fortunate enough to have a peek at it; surely it
could be made available to those representing us in Parliament.

The above review, we repeat, suggests a more flexible approach be used to
ensure that children are taught in the medium they learn most effectively
in, and it includes English as a language of instruction for Science and
Mathematics. It also mentions that curriculum policies should meet the
needs of various stakeholders.

We concur with Unesco that children need to be taught in the medium they
learn most effectively in. But what our politicians are denying is the
possibility that these two subjects can be effectively learnt in English.

According to Wikipedia, we have 33 spoken languages and dialects in
Malaysia. Mother tongue, a native language, a language one learns at birth,
could be any of the 33 spoken languages. Some examples are Kelantanese,
Cantonese, Hokkien, Malayalam, Punjabi, Iban, Kadazan-Dusun and of course

On Science education specifically, the study by the Educational Planning
and Research Division of the Ministry of Education and the Unesco Institute
of Education Planning (IIEP) on science education in secondary schools
identified problems in its implementation, but not the curriculum.

The key is in the implementation of our policies. That is our education
system’s biggest problem, not the language. Even if we do not use English
to teach these technical subjects, the implementation problems will not go

So let’s focus on fixing the implementation. But before we bulldoze
dismissing English as a pragmatic option for the technical subjects, we
seriously ought to plan and prepare properly. Surely we do not intend to
waste billions more in future or even worse, good brains and global

Happy 56th Merdeka. Long live Malaysia!

*The writer is honorary secretary, PAGE Malaysia*


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