Photo Credit: pmorgan
Lingua-nazis in Malaysia are having a field day. The government has decided to abolish the Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (more popularly known in Malaysia by its Malay acronym PPSMI) in 2012; after six years of poor planning and implementation.
In that six years, PPSMI has endured endless assaults by neophobic politicians and so-called academics and sociologists.
Yesterday, the got the best news of their lives; PPSMI will be phased out.
The terrorists have won.
What riles me the most about this reversal of policy is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the merit (or should I say the lack of) of using English to teach science and maths. Let me quote some reasons stated by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for the policy reversal:
Based on studies conducted in 2008, he said, the ministry found that only a small percentage of teachers fully used English to teach the two subjects.
“On average, the percentage of those using English during Mathematics and Science periods was around 53% to 58%,” he said, adding that only a small number of teachers were proficient.
Is this the fault of PPSMI or the education system that the teachers went through?
The purpose of introducing PPSMI in the first place was because the previous leadership recognized that English is becoming more prevalent in this information age. I’m pretty sure that for over 90% of you, the web browser you’re using to read this article has its menus and settings in English.
Let’s look at real world examples to see the bigger picture.
Wikipedia is undeniably the most valuable online reference site, especially when it comes to scientific and mathematical concepts. Like most popular online resources, Wikipedia is multi-lingual. Taking a peek at its language stats reveal the following information.
As of October 1st, 2008; there were 2,567,509 English articles in the Wikipedia ecosystem.
In the same period, the Malay content on Wikipedia consists of 30,820 articles. This figure is merely 1.2% of its English counterpart. Stats for Chinese (205,047 articles) and Tamil (15,460 articles), the two other main languages in Malaysia; aren’t worth shouting about either.
The fact of the matter when it comes to PPSMI is that it failed not because of its intentions but because of the implementation. In my mind, it’s obvious that the Malaysian government jumped the gun by dumping PPSMI. Sure, the scheme has its flaws; but it’s not something that can’t be revised or improved.
What irks me the most is that flip-flopping on such an important policy is detrimental to the development of our children.
I believe that the government is more concerned with being popular rather than objective. If objectivity was the main concern than we would have gotten rid of the fragmented mother-tongue based curriculum that is now so entrenched in Malaysian society.
In the end, the butt of the problem is now handed over to parents like myself; who now have to explain to our children that the government is phasing out PPSMI not because English is now less important, but because we trained teachers how to read texts instead of how to educate.