Datuk Wan Ramli Wan Daud speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur February 6, 2020.
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — A coalition of education NGOs and several national laureates have urged Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to reverse his proposal to revert back to teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI).
The Movement to Abolish PPSMI said it would be better for the Ministry of Education to focus on improving the teaching of the English language in schools, as opposed to using it to teach those subjects.
“There is sufficient evidence indicating the failure of the policy to teach Science and Maths in English, when it was first implemented from 2003 to 2012,” said the movement’s chairman Prof Datuk Wan Ramli Wan Daud during a press conference at the Islamic Youth Movement Malaysia’s (ABIM) headquarters here
He cited the country’s performance in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
“Malaysian students were above the global average for TIMSS from 1999 to 2003, but subsequently dropped by nearly 100 points below that in 2007, 2011, and 2015.
“Our ranking in 2015 increased slightly, after English for Science and Maths was abolished in 2012,” he said.
Similarly Wan Ramli said Malaysia’s PISA standing in 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018 was still below the global average, despite the government choosing Dual-Language Programme (DLP) students to sit for the assessment’s tests.
“Our students are far behind when compared to countries such as Vietnam, who learn Science and Maths in Vietnamese and whose standing is much higher.
“So it is puzzling why Dr Mahathir seeks to repeat a policy which has affected nearly three million students and cost over RM3 billion to carry out, without producing any tangible benefits,” he said.
He also stressed that the coalition is not opposed to the English language in itself.
“Many educators advised the government in the past to review how English is being taught in schools, since as it stands there are considerable weaknesses on how its taught.
“For example, back in 2012 Malaysia used a European-based standard to teach English, but which was originally meant to teach students in Spain, and as such was imported wholesale for our pupils.
“This meant our students were using a a system not calibrated to the local context, and which was carried out without first properly studying its impact. Hence why the current teaching of English in schools is so problematic, yet alone using it for Science and Maths,” he said.
Tamil Foundation vice-president Subramaniam Ramasamy concurred with Wan Ramli’s views, stating this has been his organisation’s stance ever since PPSMI was first mooted in 2002.
“When they carried it out in 2003, it was so sudden. No trial period or sufficient number of teachers to see it through.
“It proved to be immensely difficult to switch from the vernacular medium of instruction like Tamil to English, the schools simply were not equipped to do so. The ministry might as well boost our English subject skills than pursue PPSMI,” he said.
Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia secretary-general Stanley Yong said a portion of the Chinese community have expressed concern that PPSMI would lead to the loss of the pupils’ mother tongue.
“Quite a number of people in the Chinese vernacular schools are of the view that teaching Science and Maths in the pupils’ mother tongue as it is the only way to let them understand the subjects better.
“The results are there, especially for primary schools. Though PPSMI has good intentions, as it stands we cannot do so without negatively impacting future students since we do not have the properly trained teachers to do so,” he said.
Abim president Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz said that ultimately the prime minister should not have made the decision himself.
“It is no longer like the old days of how the government knows best, making decisions without first seeking a consensus.
“Tun Dr Mahathir ought to know better that it is not a one-man show. They should have focused on other more pressing issues to the rakyat than on this,”
The policy was first implemented in stages in 2003 despite strong resistance from educational, cultural and intellectual figures at the time. It was one of the last decisions by Dr Mahathir during his first tenure as prime minister, shortly before leaving office that year.
It was eventually implemented in full by 2007, but five years later was reversed by then-education miinister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who introduced its replacement policy of upholding Bahasa Malaysia and strengthening the English language.
Earlier today Dr Mahathir, who is acting education minister, said the Cabinet has not yet made a concrete decision on implementing PPSMI, with a committee being set up to study its impact- The Malay Mail Online.