English for Maths-Science: Muhyiddin's ticket to the PM's seat?
EDITOR'S PICKThe never-ending tussle of whether to teach Science and Maths in English is seriously putting the future of Malaysian education at risk. Back in 2009, upon assuming the post of Education Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin released the statement that the teaching of the two subjects would be reverted to Bahasa Melaysia. Without fail, the usual tag-along BN crowd of well-wishers and sycophants rushed to welcome his move, althought this very same crowd had hailed ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad when he first implemented the teaching of the two subjects in English.
From the donkey's mouth
For example, in 2009, the MCA information and communications bureau chief Lee Wei Kiat said the Government’s decision was in line with UNESCO’s finding that students could learn the two subjects better in their mother tongue. Although Lee failed to mention which and where the UNESCO findings were published, he further elaborated, “For the past six years, many students were affected by the teaching of the two subjects in English and could not catch up.
“This announcement will ensure that our students are competitive in both subjects,” he said. Lee said the Government’s policy change in 2003 was “a lesson to learn. Many reports have shown that the Government was not prepared to implement such a policy. Because of that, we have lost so much money. Therefore, we hope the Government will thoroughly think over proposals for new policies to avoid making such mistakes."
Lee’s statement leaves one to wonder, when Mahathir announced the teaching of Science and Maths in English, why did the Parliament remain silent? Would not the Cabinet and the relevant ministries have had conducted feasibility studies to ascertain the use of English to teach the two subjects? Lee is obviously speaking as a politician and less as a concerned citizen.
S Samy Vellu was the next to rush into the fray. Then still the MIC presidemt, Samy not only gave the thumbs up for Muhyiddin's decision to roll back the use of English, he also said the Tamil Schools Headmasters Council has asked for both subjects to be taught in Tamil.
“Lets hope the performance of students will improve with this decision. We want more to be done to enhance the use of English in schools,” he added.
This statement from Samy Vellu is even more puzzling, on one hand he supports the teaching of Science and Maths in Bahasa Melaysia with the hope that the students' performance improve, yet on the other, he wants more to be done to enhance the use of English. Which is which? And then what about Tamil for Maths and Science. What actually is the real stand of MIC? Again, another statement made by yet another politician - where are Malaysia's concerned citizen?
Hisham takes the cake
But it was Hishammuddin Hussein who said the darndest thing. The former Education minister was confident that a majority of the people would understand the Government’s decision to revert to Bahasa if they looked at the reasons behind the move.
Hishammuddin, who now as Home Minister still makes the darndest decisions, said it was impossible for the Government to expect everyone to receive the decision well. “It is not a knee-jerk reaction as a result of political pressure,” he told a press conference. He said the ministry started to study the effects of teaching the two subjects in English during his time as Education Minister. “We have been looking into the grouses raised for many months and even years.”
So in essence, what Hishammuddin meant is that a whole generation of Malaysian children were guinea-pigs in a government experiment in using language. But when the Malay-maority in Umno found it hard-going to learn a new language, the project is conveniently shelved.
Is this not the real reason for English being in a state of limbo when it comes to teaching Science and Maths in Malaysia. Until and when the Malay majority accept it, especially those in Umno, it will never be used. The Muhyiddin decision has reached a stalemate, with no clear resolve from either him or the Cabinet to state a solution or way forward to end the deadlock.
Education reforms begin with the Minister in charge - literally!
But politically, this may well be Muhyiddin Yassin’s trump card. In keeping English out of the picture, he can play the Malay patriot role to the hilt regardless of whether his decision really benefits his community or not. The move to halt the teaching of Science and Maths in English is not taken from an educational point of view but is politically motivated. The motive was to please the Malay electorate, although a large number are against it.
None of the BN parliamentarians can justify choosing Bahasa Melayu over English in the teaching of Science and Maths. None of the BN parliamentarians can produce concrete proof that English will make Malaysian children any worse than they are now. And the reason is obvious. English itself is not the problem, it is just a language of instruction. What is dreadfully wrong are the mechanisms currenly in place to teach the language and the resolve to use the language by teachers themselves.
If English is not to be used in Malaysia to teach Science and Maths, then why do our parliamentarians choose to send their own children to study abroad where the medium of communication is English? Do they not have faith in our own local education system? Is it because they know only too well the rot that is in the Malaysian education system that they do not want to subject their own children to it?
The fact is the entire education system in Malaysia needs reforms and it has to start from the Education Minister himself. By right, the Education Minister should be an educator by profession since this means that he orher would know best how to tackle education issues. Instead, we have a career politician as the Education Minister who only views his post as a step closer to the Prime Minister's seat.