HERE we go again. Two years after the introduction of the voluntary Dual Language Programme (DLP) in schools, it continues to be troubled by controversy and uncertainty.
Why is it hard to give the programme the room and support it needs, free of noise and confusion, so that it has the best chance of succeeding?
It is as if some among us insist on seeing difficulties in opportunities, and are persistently trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The objective has been clear from the start.
In his Budget 2016 speech in October 2015, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the DLP was an initiative that recognised the importance of the English language in dealing with global competition.
The programme allows selected schools to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects fully in English.
Unlike the ill-fated PPSMI, a mandatory, across-the-board policy to teach Science and Mathematics in English, the DLP is rolled out only in schools that are ready and willing, with teachers and parents having a say in the matter.
And yet, even before its launch, there had been objections from those who believed that the programme would somehow diminish the learning of the national language, Mandarin and Tamil.
Nevertheless, the programme began in January 2016 with 300 schools – less than 3% of the country’s total primary and secondary schools – that met the criteria stated in the Education Ministry’s guidelines.
Last November, Sunday Star highlighted Education Ministry statistics that showed between 18% and 95% of students in the DLP schools have improved their English grades.
Some people have questioned the conclusiveness of these numbers, but what is certain at this point is that there is a demand for the programme.
Last year, there were 1,215 DLP schools. According to the ministry, another 214 have been approved to implement the programme this year.
But why was there tentativeness over the fate of the programme in the early part of last week?
On Jan 1, a blogger posted a statement purportedly from a state Education Department to say that the DLP has been postponed, causing anxiety among the affected schools, parents and students.
It was only three days later that the Education Ministry clarified that the programme would continue, adding that the DLP classes start today (in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor) or tomorrow, in the other states.
The ministry said a circular and guidelines of the DLP implementation this year would be out within this week.
The lack of an immediate response from the ministry encouraged the perception that there was some dithering over the programme.
It does not help that the DLP guidelines were still being tweaked after the school year had begun.
Hopefully, the DLP can now proceed at full speed.
The programme is about duality in how Science and Mathematics can be taught, and not about being in two minds as to what is best for our schoolchildren.