Friday, September 05, 2008

Is The Switch From Malay To English In The Teaching Of Science And Maths Very Damaging?

From the Letters section from today's The Sun, entitled
Time to drop linguistic shackles
The statements made by ‘A Humble Educationist’ ("Keep English for Science and Maths", Sept 3) are disturbing.

He should explain, unemotionally and rationally, what he meant by "racial politics" in the education policy. And, if teaching of science and mathematics in the national language of Malaysia is "an irrational" policy, is Humble Educationist saying that the teaching of the subjects in English in this country (not in Britain or America) is a "rational policy"?

Some of the best scientists and heart specialists in Malaysia are the products of the national education system.

I know of a number of brilliant mathematics professors who taught mathematics fluently in Malay in our universities.

After 2003, they were forced to teach the subject in English, much against their wish.

The result of the switch from Malay to English in the teaching of science and maths in the national schools is very damaging to hundreds of thousands of students, especially those in the rural areas, not because they are no good in the subjects but because they are taught in a language that they are weak in. It’s like asking English boys and girls in England to do maths or science in Malay which they are not conversant in.

A number of independent studies by rational scholars have been made on the huge damage that the switch has done to our students.

The writer said that English is "a known language of science and technology".

Is English the language of science and technology in Europe, in Russia, in Japan, in South Korea, or even in Thailand and Indonesia, and in many other countries which have made great strides in science and technology?

If you think that only the Malays are "irrational" because they are against the teaching of the subjects in English, ask the Chinese if they also wholeheartedly support the "irrational decison" to teach the same subjects in English in the national-type Chinese schools. I know that the Chinese community reject the decision.

If well-educated and qualified Malaysians are deprived of jobs or opportunites for development in this country simply because they can’t communicate well in English, then this is what some Western scholars call "English linguistic imperialism" or "the colonisation of the English language" especially in former British colonies.

If this is globalisation, then I think the government has the moral and political right to stop it in the interest of the rakyat and the nation.

Dr Hassan Ahmad Petaling Jaya
***** Do you agree or disagree with this gentleman's views?

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

decided jun 02. implemented jan 03. too hastily. objective is to improve command of Eng. train more Eng. teachers & increase Eng classes. Teachers in SRJ(C) not good in Eng. so, how to teach? I kesian them. Never use Eng before but must teach in Eng.
Sh impl in the secondary sch. 2 mths after UPSR exams , get Eng teachers to prepare std 6 with math/sci terminology.

1:33 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous youth attack said...

there always pros and cons to everything and not to mention this as well.

if math and science in english were to proceed,then it might help or not the improvement of english among students and educators.but that doesnt mean that we're deserting our national languange and other native-tongue.

but then again the doctor who wrote the article do have his points.our education system so far has succedeed in generating many intellectuals in various niche.

but if the implementation is more towards the betterment of the teachers and students rather than the worse,then i have no problem with math and science in english.

2:25 PM GMT+8  
Blogger dominic said...

If we look at Malaya/Malaysia
during the early years after independence, you would find that English was taught from Std 1 onwards. Students do not have problem learning languages when it is learned when young. Of course, you must have teachers who can speak that language well before you can impart the language to the students. The purpose of implementing use of english in Maths and Science is to encourage the use of English as it is a language spoken/used globally. As far as I know the Education Ministry was trying to make compulsory the passing of English language in the STM but could not because a big percentage of teachers could not master English. So how to impart anything in English.
If we were to go through graduates who could not get a job in the private sector, you will find most of them could not talk English properly. The private sector has dealings with international companies and the communication language is english not Malay language.
As for the Chinese language, this language is thousand years older than Malay language (which is considered a young language in the world). But if you look into students who study in chinese, you will find that their parents make sure their children can speak english well enough to be able to compete in the world. However, many Malay parents are now sending their children to chinese schools because of business/trade with China has become increasingly big.

2:35 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Theshi said...

I agree that making science and maths English is not the way to improve or encourage it. The manner in which it was implemented did cause a lot of complications and difficulty even to this day.

It seems to me the Education Ministry likes taking short term/half past six measures like this(well maybe not just this ministry) without proper planning.

But English language colonisation? Thats just pure BS...To say it was a badly executed plan is correct but to say this is encroaching into our culture and threatening it is just pure BS and shows an inferiority complex on the part of the writer.

3:45 PM GMT+8  
Blogger jeremy adnan said...

dominic,
i couldnt agree with you more.

english language is essential for those who want to compete internationally.english language is a global languange.

i see nothing wrong with measures taken to strength the usage of english among students.but first and foremost it is the teachers that should master the language so that they will no have no problem in handling math and science in english.

3:49 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous SM said...

The writer's arguments "do not hold water"!
Yes, the Chinese in China use Mandrain for Maths & Science. The Japanese also use their own language. The Russians I'm sure use Russian. So? You want to compare the Chinese, Japanese & Russians to our Scientists, Teachers & Lecturers? Just look at the standard of our Universities! It just keeps going down & down.
You think the BN politicians are going to keep their children in our local schools? All of them send their children Overseas & before that they ensure that their children speak & write fluent English!
There is nothing wrong in ensuring that our National Language is spoken well among Malaysians but we need to compete globally & therefore we need English.
Just look at our local graduates. They can't speak English to save their lives! How are they going o compete?!

4:01 PM GMT+8  
Blogger dominic said...

I must state here that english was the main communication language before 1970. It was switched from English to Malay language after that to give the Malays a better advantage in education than the other races. But did the other races especially the chinese/indians had any problem in learning the malay language. No!! Within a decade, this language barrier was overcome and they speak as well as the malays themselves. Why? because their parents see the importance of education. But then, in the world of education, our standard of education went backwards (at least 10 years) and our standard of education has gone down after the language change.

Referring to 'colonisation', I would like to state here that if the british had not conquered Malaya, then it would have been the dutch or portugese. Look at countries formerly colonised by dutch/portugese and tell me whether they are better off than Malaya under the British. The british may have taken a lot from our land BUT they gave us Malaysian one precious thing - EDUCATION. If not for english education, we may still be living in huts and with little development

4:27 PM GMT+8  
Blogger kopitelp16 said...

The problem is the system was implemented without much deeper studies.

Another problem is the 'tuan' can get a grip on the language. Can only speak Bahasa "Tuan"

5:34 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous menj said...

I agree with the article. The rationale behind the implementation of teaching Mathematics and Science in English to IMPROVE[!] English is nothing short of absurd. So if I wish to improve my command of Arabic, I have to learn Maths and Science in ARABIC? So if I want to be fluent in Japanese, I have to take both subjects in JAPANESE? It is a no-brainer to come to the right conclusion about this matter.

- MENJ

8:39 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Nutella said...

I suggest better improve the teachings of English first. If you can't even do that then just forgo the plan to use english in science and math. I learnt science and math in malay but when I went to the US I don't have many problems. Math are just numbers and physics are just concepts. If you can't understand them then it doesn't matter what language you are learning it in you still won't be able to grasp it. Find a way to make students read and converse more that will be my suggestion.

7:47 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How the hell can anyone learn English without studying its grammar and sentence structure? Try telling the Vietnamese to teach Science and Maths in French to their students since Vietnam was a former colony of France

1:15 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Purple haze said...

Would our Dr Sheikh Mustazsfar have used Bahasa Malaysia to communicate with his colleagues on his space journey or in training ?

Maybe yes, but we would probably have to hire an onboard interpreter as well.

The use of English for just Maths & Science won't work if the aim is to improve the overall level of English. Its either all or nothing and no one, especially a Malay politician will have the guts to change the current policy to use English as the medium of instruction.

1:42 PM GMT+8  
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11:28 PM GMT+8  
Blogger andydandy said...

I doubt if the switch from Malay to English as the medium of instruction for Maths and Science was to "improve" the command of English. It was to improve the level of Maths and Science of the students as many concepts of Maths and Science is not properly delivered in Malay.
I think that English is very important if one is to communicate with foreigners. It is the medium of communications for business. Even mainland Chinese learn English and are hiring British English teachers to teach the locals English, as although 1.3 billion chinese speak Chinese but there are billions of others who speak English.
Having a national language is important as it unifies the people but for the country to improve and prosper, we need the citizens to learn more than just the national language.

12:21 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Mohamed Idris said...

I totally agree with the writer, especially with his last point.

"If this is globalisation, then I think the government has the moral and political right to stop it in the interest of the rakyat and the nation."

I don't understand why communication with the outside world is more important than communication on the national level. How on earth can this make sense?

Malaysia should consider itself lucky because its languages are among the big languages of the world. This makes it easier for people to use them as mediums of instruction.

Besides, investors will come here if the workforce has some real skills to offer. Language is not one of these real skills. It is a soft skill. Just think of China. How many people speak English in China? Very few. Still, everybody wants to invest in China. Could anyone tell me why?

1:19 AM GMT+8  
Blogger محمد إدريس Mohamed Idris said...

One last point to Purple Haze:

The first Malaysian angkawasan Sheikh Muszaphar had to learn Russian, not English, before he could go into space.

4:13 AM GMT+8  

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