MANY feel that switching back to teaching Mathematics and Science in Bahasa Malaysia is the right thing to do in view of the lack of English competence on the part of both teachers and students. It is claimed that only eight per cent of the teachers involved are confident enough to deliver the subject matter in English.
It is undeniable that many teachers who teach Mathematics and Science in English do have a language problem and that teaching has become less effective. Most rural students do not have a good grasp of the English language and cannot follow the lessons in English. As a consequence, despite the PPSMI (teaching of Science and Mathematics in English) policy, many teachers and students end up teaching and learning the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia. Following the recent PPSMI decision by the education minister, Bahasa Malaysia will replace English as the medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics in national schools. Vernacular schools will revert to their respective languages to teach these subjects. The three major communities in the country -- Malay, Chinese and Indian -- will now be able to learn the two subjects in their mother tongue. But what about those who use English at home and consider English as their home language?
These days, not all Malays, Chinese and Indians grow up speaking in their mother tongues. English is widely used by many Malaysians at home and there are many Malaysians who would prefer to have their children learning Science and Mathematics in English. For that matter, they prefer their children to be educated in English. Out of no choice, they have to send their children elsewhere -- specifically to private schools.This country has allowed the establishment of international schools and many well-to-do Malaysians would prefer their children to be educated in English-speaking countries. Most prominent and wealthy citizens have their children educated in English-speaking countries. Unfortunately, only a privileged group can afford to do so, and those who aspire to have their education in English but do not have the means are deprived of this opportunity unless they can secure a scholarship. Not many are successful, though.Seemingly, to please all groups of people in the country, it would be a good idea that children are given the choice of whatever language stream they wish. The political formula in the country is unique in that vernacular languages are allowed in the education system. If the use of languages is so liberalised, why not include English and make everyone happy? This would stop the people blaming the government for scrapping the PPSMI policy.