Continuing rant on Bahasa

I believe one good professor from UKM puts it very succintly on the recently revived PPSMI debate, he said the main culprit is about the lack of ability of our rakyat to communicate in English. They cannot speak English properly, they cannot string a good sentence in English and they cannot convey their messages convincingly in English. So, if that is the point, do something to improve their grasp of English, not by meddling English with other subjects. I must say the good professor made a lot of sense.  His English is impeccable too. A definite credit to UKM.

The Ministry of Education realised that a long time ago. Steps have been taken under the MBMMBI initiatives to  improve the methods of teaching English, making it more fun and interesting as well as increasing the time to teach English. Of course, to increase the contact time with English, we could offer other subjects to be taught in English, and being a scientific and technological and economically valuable subjects, the obvious choice are Maths and Science. But there is a danger of the not so good students, which can run into several millions of  the 5 million students today, not being able to learn anything.  Learning Maths and Science in English is a double whammy to them. Their foundation in English are, this is compounded further by having to use English to understand those difficult concepts in Maths and Science. So you ended up with teachers having to resort to BM to explain the concepts (which they themselves had trouble explaining in English) while maintaining the English terminologies and you get 60% of the students answering their exams in a terrible mix of English and BM. In the end, their English, their Maths , their Science and their BM suffer. That is what happened in the PPSMI days. Being already weak in English, the Malay students are the main victims.  But of course one can say things would improve over time, say in 10-15 years or at least after a few cohorts. But then, we are gambling away the future of that cohorts. They are being made the guinea pigs. As a teacher, I personally cannot live with that. The problems are infrastructurally massive. There is also this tendency that the public would want English medium schools to be brought back since the partial effort may not be working. That is another ball game altogether.  So having weighed the pros and the cons for a couple of years the government have decided to improve our students English by improving their English. Teach them English properly, give them more time to learn English. Learn more about grammar, writing, listening and speaking English. After all, as I said earlier, there are so many Anglicised terms in Matematik and Sains, people with a good command of English would have little problem switching to Maths and Science when they enter the tertiary levels. As you can see the terms “Sains” and “Matematik” themselves are already a good example. We do not use Ilmu Hisab, Kira-Kira, Kajihayat, Kaji cuaca, or Ilmu Alam anymore. If you look at any of the scientific journals written in BM, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was written in pseudo English and probably you will be able to get the grasp of the writing if you have the knowledge for it. The key is you command of English must be good. The teaching of English must be improved by leaps and bounds. I was told that is how the Germans do it.

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