After PM’s push for English in Maths and Science, Chinese education groups say no

Students attend the first day of school at Sekolah Kebangsaan Putrajaya Persint 14 (1) January 2, 2019. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Students attend the first day of school at Sekolah Kebangsaan Putrajaya Persint 14 (1) January 2, 2019. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The government should not revive the scrapped policy of teaching of science and mathematics in English (PPSMI), two Chinese-language education groups under the collective name of Dong Jiao Zong said.

In a statement, Dong Jiao Zong expressed its dissatisfaction over Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks in Parliament that the government is studying the reintroduction of the PPSMI policy.

Dong Jiao Zong argued that teaching students in their mother tongue should instead be continued, citing examples of developed nations such as South Korea, Japan and Finland as examples of countries that had staunchly maintained education in their mother tongue without hampering their progress.

Referring to the 2018 results of primary six students who achieved 80.15 per cent and 96.12 per cent of the minimum level in UPSR examinations for maths and science, Dong Jiao Zong claimed this showed the effectiveness of teaching the subjects using students’ native languages.

The group insisted that the government focus on strengthening the teaching of these two subjects in students’ mother tongues in all school streams for better results, instead of “forcing” primary school students to learn these in a second language.

“Because students are unable to master a language that is not their mother tongue, this will weaken students’ academic performance in mathematics and science, and seriously affect the quality of the nation’s education,” the group asserted in a statement yesterday that was written in Mandarin.

Dong Jiao Zong is composed of the United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia (UCSTAM) otherwise known as Jiao Zong and United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (UCSCAM) better known as Dong Zong.

In the same statement, Dong Jiao Zong also cited the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025’s quoting of a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation. (Unecso) report that teaching students using their mother tongue initially would better equip them for bilingual or multilingual studies, noting that a return of the PPSMI policy would contradict the education ministry’s recognition of the importance of education using students’ mother tongue.

The group called on the government to recognise vernacular education as the most effective learning method for students, asserting that this has nothing to do with the “pride” of ethnic groups but was instead linked to the right to learn of students.

Dong Jiao Zong insisted the use of the PPSMI policy during the 2003-2009 period had affected the quality of education in Malaysia and should not be repeated.

The group claimed that the government had previously spent heavily on education tools when implementing PPSMI, but said students’ mastery of English, mathematics and science did not improve commensurately and that the unsuitable tools had also resulted in wastage.

The group said the use of technology to teach can also be used in vernacular education of mathematics and science, but could also be used to benefit students while strengthening their education in their native tongues.

Dong Jiao Zong noted that the mastery of multiple languages varies from individual to individual, saying that students should not be hampered in their education due to their language competency limits.

The group said English is not the native language for the majority of Malaysians and that the education department should not “sacrifice” the majority’s right to learn due to demand from an alleged minority who are well-versed in English

“If PPSMI is forcefully enforced, it will cause the education ministry and schools to focus limited education resources on students who perform well, this will be disadvantageous to students with weaker learning ability, exacerbating the scenario of education inequality,” it said.

Dong Jiao Zong said, however, that it was not denying the importance of English as a language to master technology or for use in international communication, but reiterated that using it to teach mathematics and science would allegedly weaken students’ mastery of these two subjects and harm the country’s future.

“We agree that there is a need to improve Malaysians’ mastery of the English language, and that this is also an urgent task that has to be done, but it has to be based on learning principles. The correct and effective method is a comprehensive improvement ranging from English’s teaching goals, curriculum, number of classes, teaching materials, teaching method, teaching resources and facilities,” it said in the statement.

“Finally, Dong Jiao Zong calls on the government to let go of meaningless personal sentiments and follow research reports and data analysis to advance education reform,” it said.

On Tuesday, Dr Mahathir in replying a question in Parliament had said the National Education Advisory Council is still studying the matter of PPSMI, but noted that the council was split between those that wanted PPSMI and those insistent on continuing with Bahasa Melayu.

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