Adopt education systems that are successful

  • Education
  • Sunday, 09 Feb 2020

I REFER to the articles, “Teachers: No more u-turns on PPSMI and we’re on board” & “We’re not totally against it” (The Star, Feb 4).

Since the Prime Minister announced the reintroduction of the Teaching and Learning of Science and Maths in English policy (or better known by its Malay acronym, PPSMI), there has been numerous responses from practically all sectors: politicians in particular, educationists, academia, parents and even the man on the street.

My humble suggestion is that we should logically adopt whatever education system that has consistently been proven to be successful, using internationally recognised yardsticks such as the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), which is intended to measure and evaluate educational systems.

We don’t need rocket science to introduce a world class education for our country. Still we can seek the opinions of our local professors and education experts from our country’s universities. Only last year one public university was able to produce around 650 PhD graduates with doctorate degrees – a record number by any standard.

We just need to be realistic to get the best education system for our students. In this respect, Singapore’s education system has been consistently ranked among the best in the world. It has been benchmarked by many countries to successfully produce a society that is united as well as competitive to face whatever global challenges particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, in order to prepare the younger generation for the Industrial Revolution (IR4) and digital world, especially in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Much as we would like to deny it, the fact remains that Singapore’s formula to success in education is largely due to adopting English as the medium of instruction in schools. Truly, it is not only a necessary step but it is also long overdue before our neighbouring countries catch up with us.

Since independence till the mid 1970s, we had embraced English medium schools. The Education Ministry then adopted Bahasa Melayu (BM) as the medium of instruction until today.

The authorities have fortunately allowed the setting up of independent and international schools that use English to teach all subjects except the vernacular languages. Sadly, these schools impose high fees which inevitably cater for the rich and upper middle classes. The rest who cannot afford these fees send their children to national schools, where BM is the medium of instruction.

Thankfully, our Prime Minister through his wisdom and experience has called for the return of PPSMI. We hope the Prime Minister will revive the English-medium schools so that everyone will benefit from it.

Under no circumstances is BM ignored. BM must remain a compulsory pass for any level of exams (UPSR, PT3 and SPM). In fact the grade should be raised to a credit as BM is an unshakable unifying force in our multi-racial and multi-religious nation.

Can English medium schools be set up under the umbrella of the national-type schools?:

Supposing the PM gives the green light, the English schools or national-type English-medium schools will surely be the preferred choice of most parents. I believe even many students from Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools will flock to these English-medium schools.

English schools, moreover, will invariably be our country’s main revenue earner, attracting students from neighbouring countries such as China, Japan and South Korea as well, which is a win-win end-game for all.



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