SINCE 2008, the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) has been seeking the non-abolition of the mandatory policy of teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English but we were thwarted at every turn. We persevered and the policy was resurrected in the form of the Soft Landing in 2011, which will end in 2020, allowing students who started in English to finish in English.
In the meantime, this scientific English policy was replaced by a language policy in 2011 called “Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu, Memperkasakan Bahasa Inggeris or MBMMBI (Uphold Bahasa Melayu, Strengthen the English Language), which continues to be expanded and developed.
In 2015, the Prime Minister with the Economic Council sought a radical approach towards rectifying the appalling state of the English language that has resulted in over 400,000 graduates to date to be unemployed. The Education and Strategic Reform Initiatives (SRI) Human Capital Development of Pemandu (Performance Management and Delivery Unit), comprising highly analytical, dynamic and outstanding professionals in their respective fields carefully hand-picked from the private sector, was tasked to explore and recommend this radical solution.
Numerous stakeholders, including the Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia (FMM), Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), British Council, advocates of English, think-tanks and scholarship foundations, tertiary education professors and, most importantly, high-ranking officials from the Education Ministry were invited to brainstorm and articulate an effective approach.
A lengthy and detailed process was undertaken which culminated in three main recommendations as an expansion of MBMMBI programmes in enhancing English as advocated in Wave 2 (2016-2020) of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB). These were the High Immersion Programme (HIP) for all schools, Dual Language Programme (DLP) as a pilot project involving 300 schools (or a mere 3%), and Dual Language Programme Plus (DLP+).
The DLP+ which would have been the closest we would ever get to the return of English medium schools, excluding the subjects of Pendidikan Islam/Moral and History, although endorsed by the Prime Minister, the Education Minister and the Economic Council, was withdrawn by the Education Ministry from lack of resources.
The philosophy behind DLP is it is a parents’ option (as stated by the Education Act 1996 where “pupils are to be educated according to the wishes of their parents”) and not teachers nor critics to choose the medium of instruction; students cannot achieve operational proficiency through the 15% to 20% English hours offered in classrooms (as indicated by international research) and therefore other subjects had to be explored; and the majority of Science and Mathematics teachers had a minor in English unlike those of other possible non-core subjects.
Parents would fill in a standard form providing consent for their children to be taught in Bahasa Melayu or English for the four STEM subjects. This was done at the start of the year for Primary One and Primary Four, and Form One. A class would be provided where there is a minimum of 15 students in either language. There is no plan to have all the approximately 10,000 schools nationwide offer DLP next year or at any point in time as long as parents do not consent.
DLP is designed for students to immerse themselves in an environment where English can be applied and practised beyond the English classroom. Students who are already proficient can assist the teacher and mentor those who are not. Parents too have a role to play alongside the teachers, providing support, encouragement and a positive attitude. There is no magic formula. Children and grandchildren of teachers, past, present and future will benefit tremendously too.
Giving up from the start without even trying would be a great injustice to the innocent children who have infinite potential if they were guided by visionary adults. Critics, especially politicians who reject the DLP, are selfish hypocrites who want only their own children to excel by quietly enrolling them in international schools where they get to enjoy an English education.
Parents who are level-headed and thinking adults will not want their children to add to the 400,000 unemployed graduates. Or do you?
DATIN NOOR AZIMAH ABDUL RAHIM