Thursday, September 10, 2009

News: Malaysia to U-turn (again)!

Dear All,

Here's some brief news report from the ELT Gazette (the ET professional's news tabloid)concerning the recent u-turn about the PPSMI policy.

Rodney Tan


Malaysia to u-turn (again)

MALAYSIA’S SCHOOLS will no longer have to teach mathematics and science in English. In a major climbdown, the Malaysian government announced in July that from 2012 these lessons will gradually revert to being taught in Malay or, in a minority of schools, Chinese or Tamil. At the same time, plans were unveiled to bolster the teaching of English in its own right, including more classroom time, a new emphasis on grammar and literature and 14,000 additional English teachers, 1,000 of whom will come from abroad.

The government’s previous policy, introduced in 2003 to shore up sagging English standards, has been dogged with problems. Many teachers were ill-prepared to conduct classes in English and critics argued that teaching English in a scientific context would not achieve the policy’s stated ends. What’s more, some of the country’s ethnic Malays saw the policy as undermining the official status of the Malay language and as discriminating against rural communities. In March this year, with the government midway through its policy review, Malay opponents of English staged a rally that brought thousands onto the streets of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. (See May 2009 Gazette, front page.)

The government said the about-face was not driven by political considerations, claiming student performance in science and mathematics had been indifferent or declining following the switch to English. While welcoming the u-turn, one leading campaigner against English, Professor Abdullah Hassan, disagreed with the government’s phased approach. ‘Delaying [implementation] till 2012 is wrong,’ he told the Gazette. ‘Those teachers that taught in Malay six years ago have not lost their Malay. There is also no substantial change in the syllabus, so those books used six years ago are still usable.’

Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam, president of the Malaysian English Language Teachers’ Association (MELTA), had a different view. ‘Many who have made a concerted effort to overcome their limitations with English are quite distressed about the change because they say they have forgotten the modalities of teaching mathematics and science in Malay,’ he said. He was sceptical about the new measures, saying a wholesale improvement in the climate surrounding English use in schools is needed, though he added that MELTA would work with the education ministry to smooth the forthcoming transition.


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