Yesterday, the Minister of Education @ the Deputy Prime Minister hammered the final nail to the PPSMI’s coffin – I hope anyway. He took pains to explain to the public about the new policy that replaced the PPSMI as well as allowing current PPSMI to end with a complete cycle. No abrupt ending here unlike in 2003 when we introduced the PPSMI. Actually, he already did that in 2009 when he announced the abolition of PPSMI. And the rage simmered down only to rise like a phoenix recently when he asked the public on the reasons why Malaysian students standard of English is still atrocious despite learning the language for 13 years in schools. That really triggered the raging debate that not unlike the feverish pitch it attained in 2008-2009 when the late Dato’ Hassan Ahmad and Dato’ Samad Said led a procession to the palace to petition the king. We are yet to see the reaction from the main supporters of PPSMI such as PAGE and JMM. Probably they would be rallying their 74,000 supporters to march to the Istana Negara as well, now that their memorandum to the PM has gone on deaf ears. If you are reading the English speaking media you’ll get the impression that the whole country is for them. I must admire them. They are very articulate, techno savvy and in touch with the reality of the ICT world. They took their battle to the nether world of the net, which is currently the most efficient battleground for psyche war. Unfortunately the opponents of the policy rely mainly on the Malay print media or rather happy to be silent onlookers. Judging by the statistics given by JMM, more than half of the parents in this country is rooting for them and Malaysia is doomed to the backwaters of civilisation if we do not teach maths and science in English. If only they get the chance to see the written answer scripts by the PPSMI students or spend a bit of their time observing the situation in the classrooms in Bukit Malut or Ulu Kuang or Guar Perahu or Ulu Chenein or Sejijak or any rural school for that matter, they would understand why the government is abolishing PPSMI. Well we could argue that we should get native speakers trained in Maths and Science to teach, just like in my days where Jim Kuhlman taught us Engineering Drawing, Harvey Johnson taught us Physics and James Glaser taught us Chemistry. That would require thousands of them while we are waiting for our own teachers to come to speed. Maybe PPSMI would be more successful if had we introduced them patiently with a sort of soft landing strategy. Maybe we should start from year one on wards, rather than simultaneously introduce them in Year 1, Form 1 and Form 6 like we did back in 2003. It goes to show, technology is not the panacea to everything. “Kita ada cara”, was the catch phrase back then. Obviously the “cara” did not quite worked.
A letter by a practicing engineer in the Sun yesterday caught my attention. He said he had no problem looking and utilising engineering knowledge in English despite learning the basics in BM in his school days. He said if your English is good and you understood the concept very well, even in any language, you’ll have no problem as maths and science is universal. The main issue is the ability to master English which best done via English lessons. That brings us to the conundrum raised by the TPM – why is our standards of English is still very poor despite learning the language is schools for 13 years? I think the answer is quite obvious. Our teaching of English is not effective. If we couple that with Maths and Science, it would be double whammy! Unfortunate that was happening for the years of PPSMI. Pity those generation of students. My sons and daughter are among those lost generation. Fortunately for them, their parents are bilingual and both my wife and I are maths and science teachers. Well, used to be.
I am just hoping that the Government is not going flip flopping again on this issue. Not when PAGE said, if we cannot get the Government to change the policy, we change the Government. And Dr M has called the Government to do a referendum on this issue. Had he done this before introducing PPSMI in 2003, we wouldn’t be in this predicament, would we?