Step in the right direction

EDUCATIONISTS lauded the setting up of a Cabinet committee to study the proposal on the teaching of Science and Maths in English.

Former National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said it is a step in the right direction.

On Thursday, Prime Minister and acting Education Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said while the government has not made a decision yet on the teaching of Science and Maths in English, a Cabinet committee was set up to study the proposal.

He said a decision has not yet been made on whether to go ahead with the proposal as there were groups who are pro and against it. The Dual Language Programme (DLP) will continue in the interim.

“Dr Mahathir understands the nation’s needs.

“Whether we like it or not, proficiency in English and Bahasa Melayu is important.

“We cannot say one language is superior to the other and there is nothing wrong in mastering English; it doesn’t make us less Malaysian.

“About 30 years ago, Malaysia had one of the best civil service and we were respected because of our knowledge in English, ” said Siva Subramaniam, who is also a former commissioner for the Malaysian Human Rights Commission.

NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan said the union would like to volunteer its services and feedback on the implementation of the previous Teaching and Learning of Science and Maths in English (or better known by its Malay acronym, PPSMI) policy and DLP to the committee.

However, he said they are appealing to Dr Mahathir to “seriously look into overcoming the problems arising from and to strengthen the DLP.”

Speaking to a press conference after addressing ministry staff at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre on Thursday, Dr Mahathir also said that the Government wants to introduce a new method of teaching where video lessons prepared by foreign and local subject experts will be introduced in schools.

He said standardised lessons on the different subjects would be recorded in thumbdrives and discs and shown in classrooms so every child would benefit.

Teachers could then guide and teach according to the videos, he said.

“Not all English teachers are proficient in the language.

“The method of teaching English language needs to be updated using programmes that will be provided by language experts, which will be played on the screen and assisted by class teachers.

“This is the modern way of teaching a language.

“This goes for other subjects, especially Science and Mathematics, ” Dr Mahathir said.

Responding to this, Tan said it is unnecessary expenditure as teachers are already volunteering their expertise.

There needs to be a comprehensive policy on supply of hardware, software and 21st century classrooms in all schools to ensure its success, Tan added.

“We can search on YouTube for many experts who have recorded their teachings and choose videos with high hits to be used in our classrooms, ” he said.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin however feels the setting up of a committee to study PPSMI “indirectly shows incompetency”.

“But with this committee in place, ministry officers can independently report the present situation without fear or favour, ” he added.

While he agrees on having video lessons by experts, Mak said it is preferable if the videos are done by local experts for both STEM and English subjects to ensure better understanding.

“Videos are just as a supplement and not for the full length of a lesson.

“We can’t pay teachers thousands of ringgit just to switch on the videos for every lesson in class, so I suggest not more than 15 minutes per video, ” he said, adding that the government must ensure teachers themselves understand the recorded lessons before they impart further instruction or knowledge.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the Education Ministry must ensure no more flip-flopping with students’ future, plan for continuity and success.

Echoing Dr Mahathir, Noor Azimah said science conferences are conducted in the English language.

The priority should be for the nation to be scientific driven to ensure a successful human capital moving forward, she said.

“The advantage of science and mathematics in English, a single original medium, facilitates ethnic groups to discuss together seamlessly STEM-related matters.

“The ball is in the court of the Education Ministry. “This is the time to reveal a past study on the (first) PPSMI, showing its gradual success where students as well as teachers were gaining confidence, ” she added.

S. Sri Murugan, an English language teacher from SMK Subang Utama, said he commended the introduction of video lessons.

“With screens and content delivery from native speakers or language experts, people must realise that education is now borderless and not confined within the four walls of the classroom.

“A language expert in Britain might have an interesting video to share which I can show to my students in class as part of my lesson, ” he said.

The Education Ministry welcomed the prime minister’s statement.

It said the implementation of the teaching and learning of Science and Maths in English is not something new in the national education system.

“Although the ministry has gradually abolished the PPSMI policy since 2012, the DLP which was introduced in 2016 provides schools with the choice to teach Science and Mathematics in English.

“As of January 2020, a total of 2,292 schools nationwide have implemented DLP.

“Studies on the implementation will be carried out in the near future and brought to the Cabinet’s consideration before implementing them, ” the ministry said in a statement.

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