PETALING JAYA: The Education Ministry needs to pull its socks up to resolve issues around the Dual Language Programme (DLP) classes and ensure sufficient teaching staff, say educationists and education groups.
While parents have been given the choice, they said the onus is on the ministry to ensure that the DLP – where students learn Science and Mathematics in English – continues.
Educationist and former Universiti Malaya professor Tan Sri Dr T. Marimuthu said the DLP had a long history following the abolishment of the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI).
“It is finally back to the parents to choose whether they want to let their children learn the subjects in English or not.
“Since you have given parents the choice, why restrict it?” he said in an interview yesterday.
Since the ministry knows the number of students in Year One and Form One and those in the DLP, Marimuthu said they should know better to be more prepared.
“You cannot just say that there are ‘no teachers’. It is not acceptable at all. It is the ministry’s duty to find teachers who are proficient in English.”
He said Malaysia has many experienced teachers, including part-time and retired ones, who can be roped in to teach.
“There are ways that the ministry and its state departments can solve the problem,” he said, adding that he is confident that the ministry has the experience to resolve this issue amicably.
Reiterating the importance of English, Marimuthu said knowing a second or third language was always a strength and that English is the international language of knowledge.
“English is the international language. IT, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and other information are all in English.
We are living in a digital world, and most of it is also in English,” he said, adding that learning any language is an asset.
Introduced in 2016, the DLP gives schools the option to teach Science, Mathematics, information technology, communication as well as design and technology in English or Bahasa Malaysia.
Among the criteria for running the programme is that schools have enough teachers to teach the subjects, a minimum of 15 students and that schools have written consent from parents before class begins.
It was reported on March 26 that hundreds of students from five Tamil schools in Johor were in limbo after they were told that the DLP would only be available in one class for each school starting this year.
A group of parents from SJK (T) Jalan Yahya Awal in Johor staged a demonstration in protest of the DLP classes being reduced at the school.
Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the authorities could not use the excuse that teachers were not ready to teach DLP.
She said that according to the National Education Advisory Council (2018–2020), all Science and Mathematics trainee teachers were trained to teach these subjects in both languages.
“(This is) to ensure that teachers are language-ready at any point in time. It is appalling that the Education Ministry is dragging its feet on the DLP.
“The convenient excuse, always, is that teachers are not ready. This, too, was the excuse given by the ministry when PPSMI (Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English) was abolished,” she added.
Noor Azimah said that most Tamil vernacular schools had benefited from PPSMI and hoped to continue doing so with DLP.
“Many of their students excelled in international science competitions, usually without any public funding, which brought Malaysia to the forefront of excellence,” she added.
The group urges the government to reveal the current status of DLP implementation nationwide.
Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president Dr Ramesh Nair called on the government to look into the supply and demand for the programme in schools.
According to him, there is generally still demand for DLP, and mismatching should be avoided.
“If we want to continue with the programme, the authorities should look into the demand.
“If the supply is not matching the demand, more (efforts) need to be made to ensure more Science and Mathematics teachers can deliver the subjects in English for us to keep DLP alive,” he said.
He also said that teachers who were previously trained to deliver Mathematics and Science subjects in English under PPSMI should still be in the education system, and that could address the manpower issue.
“We have teachers who are capable of teaching the subjects in English. However, the problem might be in the distribution of the teachers,” he said.
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said all state education departments should not have turned down requests from parents or students who opted for the DLP.
He said that in the case of the schools in Johor, they had fulfilled the requirement of having a minimum of 15 students in order to hold a class.
“We anticipated this issue would arise if the state Education Department and the Education Ministry did not commit to supporting DLP despite high demand.
“JPN should transfer DLP teachers from schools that don’t need the programme to schools that do.
“It is their responsibility to teach students, and taking the easy way out by rejecting parents’ requests should not have happened,” he added.
The Star reached out to the Education Ministry for comments but it had not responded as at press time.