DLP ball back in schools’ court

 PETALING JAYA: Schools now have the prerogative to decide which students are eligible for the Dual Language Programme (DLP).

The Education Ministry, in a statement to The Star yesterday, said while there is no provision in the DLP guidelines requiring schools to conduct assessments, they have the autonomy to determine the best methods for managing the DLP to decide which students are eligible for these classes.

“Schools may conduct observations during the transition week for Year One pupils through various activities designed to assess pupils’ language skills to determine eligibility for enrolment in DLP classes.

“Essentially, the eligibility of Year One pupils to participate in the DLP is based on their proficiency in the Malay language as stipulated in the guidelines,” it said.

The ministry’s response came following concerns raised by parents at a school in Kuala Lumpur, which allegedly assessed its Year One pupils for DLP eligibility recently.

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The assessment, according to a parent, was conducted using a “buku transisi” (transition book), which is meant to help pupils transition from homeschooling or kindergarten to Year One.

The pupils were evaluated in Tulisan (writing), Lisan (oral) and Bacaan (reading) in four subjects: Bahasa Melayu (BM), English, Mathematics and Science.

A two-day re-evaluation was subsequently conducted by the school on April 23 and 24 for pupils whose parents had appealed for their children to be moved into the DLP.

According to a mother who wanted to be known as Lia, about 19 out of 27 parents lodged appeals but only three pupils were approved, leaving the majority denied – including her child.

“The headmistress emphasised using the buku transisi for assessment because in this school, everyone prefers the DLP.

“While she (the headmistress) has asked for our input on improving the current method, we are just too unsure to suggest alternatives.

“Assessing a child fresh out of an all-English preschool, like mine, using the buku transisi is challenging,” she said.

On the ministry giving the schools autonomy, Lia said this contradicts what parents want.

“What we want is to choose our children’s education,” she said.

Another parent, Tan, also expressed his concern about schools having the autonomy to decide which method of learning is best for children.

“Assessing children under seven years old on their BM skills is wrong, especially when they are also forced into a non-DLP class, which further demotivates them.”

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said for school heads to exercise autonomy, they need to understand the ethos and culture of the schools they lead.

“If parents want the DLP for their children, then principals should exercise that autonomy if it is for the benefit of the individual student and the school.

“Principals should do what is best for their students, which is the autonomy parents wish to see.”

She added that while the BM criterion was previously applied solely at the school level, the updated DLP guidelines now require individual students to meet that criterion.

“Pupils who have been taking the DLP from Years One to Six are now forced to switch to non-DLP classes because they did not score the minimum of TP3 for BM or grade D in the UASA (Academic Session Final Test).

“Students should be given a grace period. If their BM is weak, then conduct appropriate interventions under the MBMMBI (Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening the English Language) policy rather than forfeit the DLP from them,” she said.

In its statement, the ministry said the implementation of the DLP is based on the guidelines stated in its “Specialised Circular No.5 Year 2024: Guidelines for the Implementation of the DLP” dated March 19.

“Schools implementing the DLP must ensure that opportunities are also provided to students who apply to study Science and Mathematics subjects in their national language or mother tongue,” it said.

It said schools must ensure that there is at least one class in each year or form that conducts the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics using the national language or mother tongue as the medium of instruction, starting from Year One and Form One for new academic sessions beginning from the year 2024/2025.

The DLP began in 2016 with around 300 schools participating in the pilot project, offering the option to teach Science and Mathematics in English.

Parents were free to decide whether to enrol their children in the programme.

Aimed at improving students’ employability and global competitiveness, the programme is part of the MBMMBI policy.

To qualify for the DLP, schools must fulfil four criteria set by the ministry: sufficient resources, a plan to ensure the programme is sustainable, parental consent, and meeting the minimum Malay proficiency requirement.

The ministry said the fourth criterion is important to ensure that the implementation of the DLP is in line with existing legislation and the National Education Policy.

“The criterion for proficiency in the Malay language also aims to ensure that students consistently strive to improve their proficiency in the Malay language as the national language and strengthen their English language skills in line with the MBMMBI policy,” it said.

The school in Kuala Lumpur declined to comment when The Star reached out for a response.

* Names of parents have been changed to protect their privacy

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