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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Clearing the air over a longstanding issue

Parents are fed up over the uncertainty of whether their children can continue learning Science and Mathematics in English despite promises of a ‘soft landing’ from the Education Ministry.

ONCE and for all, the Education Ministry has cleared the air over the soft landing approach of the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (better known by its Malay acronym PPSMI) policy.

An official from the ministry has confirmed that the soft landing approach is still in effect and that students are given the option to learn Science and Mathematics in English under PBSMR (Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah Menengah Rendah), the school-based assessment introduced to replace the Penilaian Menengah Rendah examination.

“All state education directors have been duly informed that the circular dated November 4, 2011 stands.

“There is no new directive regarding the soft landing approach to PPSMI from the ministry,” said the official.

Earlier, parents in Malacca were in an uproar over the apparent confusion that there would no longer be a bilingual test for Science and Mathematics under PBSMR.

During a protest organised by the Association of Parents and Individuals towards Revising the Education System (Aspires) last Saturday, the Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin claimed that teachers from several schools in the state had been told not to continue teaching Science and Mathematics in English by trainers from the Education Ministry.

“The teachers were informed by the trainers that since Science and Mathematics would be be assessed in Bahasa Malaysia under PBSMR starting this year, there was no need to continue teaching the subjects in English,” he said.

The ministry clarified that the incident in Malacca was a misunderstanding, adding that what the trainers meant was that the management of PBSMR would be in Bahasa Malaysia while the soft landing approach would still be available for Science and Mathematics.

It was announced in 2009 that the Government would reverse the PPSMI policy and revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, and Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools, while more emphasis would be placed on English.

However, the circular mentioned above clearly stated that Form Five students in 2020, who would be the last batch of students involved in the PPSMI policy, would be given the option to learn Science and Mathematics either in Bahasa Malaysia, English or bilingually.

Meanwhile, the ministry’s circular dated Dec 13 last year stated that there would be a bilingual written test for Science and Mathematics under PBSMR.

Mak welcomed the ministry’s move to shed light on the confusion, saying that it was good news to parents who wanted their children to continue learning Science and Mathematics in English.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim revealed that parents from a number of schools in the Klang Valley have also complained about the soft landing issue.

“It is really disastrous as some of the students have learnt Science and Mathematics in English from Year One but they were told to switch to Bahasa Malaysia when they entered Form One,” said Noor Azimah.

“Parents have to work together with the parent-teacher association (PTA) to pressure the school principal to follow the ministry’s circular,” she added.

A parent from Subang Jaya voiced his displeasure that the school his child attended only offered Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia, even though a majority of students wanted to learn the subjects in English.

“Students entering Form One were immediately told that they could only learn Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia because it was an order from the state education department.

“The school never consulted the parents,” he said.

A Science teacher from Klang who taught in a school offering Science and Mathematics fully in English, said there was a long waiting list for students to enter her school.

“Since the very beginning, the school principal decided that the medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics should be in English.

“Parents are very eager to send their children to my school because they want their children to continue learning the subjects in English,” said the teacher.

In November 2011, it was announced that students who started learning Science and Mathematics in English would continue to do so until they completed their studies in Form Five.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the decision was made by the Cabinet to ease the concerns of parents.

Muhyiddin who is also Education Minister, had said schools would have the option to teach Science and Mathematics fully in English, Bahasa Malaysia, or bilingually.

It was also announced that the ‘soft landing’ would only begin in 2012 to enable the Government to make the necessary preparations, and to ensure the implementation of the new policy did not affect the first batch, and that they would continue to study Mathematics and Science bilingually (in English and Bahasa Malaysia) until 2014.

The PPSMI policy was initiated by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and implemented in phases, beginning with Year One, Form One and Lower Six students in 2003.

Tags / Keywords: Education , science and maths


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