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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The benefits of English-medium national-type schools

The benefits of English-medium national-type schools, which are vital to our country’s future, are crystal clear.

COMMENT

By Lan Boon Leong

It was reported in the press last month that the Education Ministry is sticking by its decision to abolish the PPSMI policy of teaching and learning Science and Mathematics in English.

The abolishment of the policy means that the two subjects will be taught solely in Bahasa Malaysia in the national schools, and solely in Mandarin or Tamil in the national-type schools.

The Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said he and many other academics believe the two subjects need to be taught in the students’ mother tongues.

UNESCO, in fact, advocates mother-tongue education for all subjects because studies have shown that children learn better in their mother tongue.

However, mother-tongue education, although desirable, will make the national and national-type schools even more ethnically polarized than they are today.

Moreover, there are many Malaysian children of diverse ethnic background – Malays included – whose mother tongue or first language is English.

But there are presently no English-medium national-type schools to accommodate them. These children are academically disadvantaged compared to their peers whose mother tongue is Bahasa Malaysia or Mandarin or Tamil.

The solution to these two problems – ethnic segregation and linguistic inequity – is obvious: the government needs to add English-medium national-type schools to our national school system.

These schools will clearly not be attended solely by English-speaking Malaysian children. Many parents of children whose mother tongue is not English would also send their children to these schools because they understand the importance of English for their children’s future.

Convert nation schools

English-medium national-type schools will therefore have a much better ethnic mix of students than the Mandarin or Tamil counterparts and the national schools, and thus able to foster ethnic harmony unlike our present schools.

Furthermore, children whose mother tongue is not English who attend these schools should be more proficient in English.

These benefits of English-medium national-type schools, which are vital to our country’s future, are crystal clear.

So what is stopping the government from establishing them? It is not difficult to do so – we could start simply by converting some national schools, particularly the mission schools, to English-medium ones.

If you are a Malaysian parent who is in favor of the establishment of English-medium national-type schools, please vote at www.surveymonkey.com/s/NKRJVDH and join PENS (Parents for English-medium National-type Schools) at www.facebook.com/#!/groups/PENSmember/ to help recruit more members.

If we do not push for English-medium national-type schools, they will never be established. But if our collective voice through votes is loud enough, there is at least a possibility. Vote and campaign for your children’s future!

Lan Boon Leong is an Associate Professor at Monash University Sunway Campus.

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