EDUCATION: Never too late to revert to PPSMI

21 December 2012 | last updated at 11:23PM

 

 
By Liong Kam Chong,Seremban, Negri Sembilan | letters@nstp.com.my 

I REFER to the letter “Review teaching of Science” (NST, Dec 17) from Dr Faridah Shah. Of particular interest is the contention that to transform effectively the teaching and learning of Science, a priority is to “resolve the controversy surrounding the language of instruction for Science and Mathematics once and for all, by adopting a bilingual approach to the subjects”.

She says: “In primary school, the teaching and learning of basic concepts should be in the mother tongue (Mandarin and Tamil in national type schools) or Bahasa Malaysia (in national schools) in Year One to Four, with gradual introduction of English in Year Five to Six. In secondary school, Science and Maths should be taught in English from Form 1, so that by the time students reach the upper secondary level, they are able to master the subjects in English.”

That Faridah is a council member of the World Academy of Science for the Developing World and also a member of the Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) Education Committee, Kuala Lumpur, certainly gives weight to the applicability and effectiveness of her proposal.

This is a timely and brave proposal, more so in the light of the recently announced TIMSS (Trends in International Science and Mathematics Studies) 2011 results which showed yet another big dip in our Form 2 students’ performance in Science and Mathematics as compared with their counterparts in 62 other countries.

We need to rekindle the “flame” of PPSMI (the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English). And to quote former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was the initiator and champion of PPSMI, “It is never too late to revert to English!”

It is unfortunate that the preliminary Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 makes scant reference to PPSMI. This is indeed sad and certainly not reflective of the many earnest and sincere presentations and urgings voiced during the many town hall meetings and roundtable discussions held earlier, purportedly to inject inputs into the blueprint.

I believe, like me, many advocates of PPSMI are disappointed, distraught and even feel betrayed.

Be that as it may, let’s all rise and treat this shortfall of the blueprint as an opportunity to highlight yet again our aspirations.

At the outset, the MEB recognises the low achievements of our 15-plus in Science and Mathematics, as measured by TIMSS and Pisa (Programme for International Students Achievements). Then, it expresses its targets to take our students’ achievements to the top one-third rankings of all participating nations in the study and programme.

However, MEB neither addresses the problems that had caused the decline nor specifies any remedy for our students’ poor performances in Science and Mathematics. The Education Ministry needs to convince parents and students alike on how it plans to achieve higher international rankings in Science and Maths. If it just deals generally with all subjects and curricula as is done in the blueprint, the impact will be lost.

The blueprint must have sections that deal specifically with Science and Mathematics education as it is our major thrust; and tell the teachers, students and administrators of their respective specific responsibilities in promoting Science and Mathematics.

Failing which, it may lose any significant yield for all its efforts as outlined in the blueprint. The Science and Maths people will say “We are no different from others; it’s business as usual” and they will act accordingly. The Education Ministry can do all other things well and right, but if Science and Mathematics education is not specifically dealt with, the achievement rankings, will not change much.

The blueprint has to give urgent direction and directives to the following areas:

THE waning interest in Science and Mathematics among our students and even teachers;

THE now commonly practised “spoon feeding” approach to teaching Science and Mathematics in classrooms and in the laboratories; and,

THE need to build a scientific culture in schools and by extension, a scientific culture in society for sustained growth of innovation; a point earlier expounded by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

Advocates of PPSMI must continue to stay focused and steadfast that Science and Mathematics in English is the best and proven pathway for overcoming the above challenges. And, let’s not forget the wise and bold words of Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, “That was a policy (PPSMI) in the right direction. But, the good intention behind the policy was hampered by incorrect methodology applied and ill preparedness. This resulted in disagreement which boiled over into opposition to the policy. Ultimately, the good intention was not well received, met with failure and had to be aborted.”

Would the ministry take heed of the royal wisdom, be humble enough to admit a mistake and do a rethink on its decision to abolish that policy?

Would the powers-that-be also not argue along the line that their not wanting a U-turn, a flip-flop or reversion is to preserve their “integrity and honour”? I beg to differ. Offering PPSMI to our schoolchildren is the most effective and efficient pathway to Form 6/Matriculation/University Science and Mathematics in English. It is the proven pathway.

On the other hand, going from Form 5 Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia to Form 6 Science and Mathematics in English overnight is the real flip-flop.

I see two windows of opportunity:

REINSTATE PPSMI for Year 4 pupils beginning in 2014;

REINSTATE PPSMI forForm 1 students beginning in 2017. Would the powers-that-be act on this?

.

Our schoolchildren need to be globally competitive and thrive in Mathematics and Science.

Read more: EDUCATION: Never too late to revert to PPSMI – Letters to the Editor – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/education-never-too-late-to-revert-to-ppsmi-1.189408#ixzz2FfZwz3ZU

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