I WOULD like to share my views on the issue of teaching Mathematics and Science in English. Whether a research was conducted or not before implementing the policy in 2003, based on logical thinking we can see that something has not been so right since it was implemented.
One reason why we have not achieved the target is because the educators or teachers who had options in Mathematics and Science were trained in the short period of approximately five weeks.
They were trained in the specialised programme called ETeMS that has been proposed as an urgent interim measure to ensure teachers of Mathematics and Science will have the basic capacity to use English as the medium of instruction. (Source: www.tutor.com.my/tutor/etems).
We must remember most of the trained Mathematics and Science teachers learned the subjects in Malay language since primary school. Even most graduate teachers in 2003 and the year before, learned the subjects in Malay language in local or public universities.
These selected teachers were not ready to teach Mathematics and Science in English.
Thus, teachers should have been trained at least a year before they were asked to teach the two subjects in English.
Another obvious flaw was that the ministry implemented the policy in three phases but at one go in 2003: primary (year one), secondary (form one), and lower six.
It was inappropriate to implement the policy at the secondary and form six levels in 2003.
The ministry should have started it with the year one students in primary school and let the process go naturally until the students enter secondary school in 2009, and lower six or matriculation in 2014.
This would have involved only primary school teachers. With a year’s training and starting with the primary school pupils, the implementation would be less challenging to the Mathematics and Science teachers. Along the way, secondary teachers could have been more ready to use the language in 2009 after undergoing training since 2003.
Some may argue that it could be too late to indirectly implement the same policy in the public universities in 2016 if we follow the natural process of grooming their skills.
If such is the case, universities should have implemented their own strategies if they want to achieve world-class status in particular.
However, it should be done without forgetting the role of public universities to retain the use of Malay language in relevant subjects especially those in the arts stream.
It is sad to see most universities switching most of their programmes to English although they are in the arts stream.
After all the “shocks” to parents, teachers and students, please do not tell us that the Education Ministry is going to revert back to Malay.
The root problem is not the use of the language but the method used to implement the policy.
It was done in a rush and we can see the impact on our children who started learning Mathematics and Science in English from year one in primary school.
They can slowly cope with the subjects because we have exposed them to English since they were in kindergarten.
It could be too late to pick up the language and concepts in Mathematics and Science when they enter year one. As we know the syllabus in year one expects students to read and write in both Malay and English.
We must remember that our children must be proficient in both languages as they have other subjects in the Malay language.
However, we should not forget weak students regardless of races, especially those in rural areas who still struggle to master the English language. Some are weak in both languages.
Let us learn from the past and look forward for the benefit of our future generations. Here are some suggestions that the ministry may consider
> Prepare the children in kindergarten, especially those from Tadika Kemas and in rural areas. The ministry should support both teachers and children in these kindergarten to ensure they start from young.
> Education graduates with the option of Mathematics and Science should be fully trained before getting their postings.
> Allow flexibility among teachers who teach Mathematics and Science in secondary schools to use the Malay language when they teach students from the arts stream.
Probably teachers who are not comfortable teaching in English may teach the arts stream students who can hardly cope with both subjects.
Realistically, arts stream students rarely join science programmes in universities.
The Star Online: 15 Jun 2008