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Monday, December 21, 2009

Send out a clear message on PPSMI

NST 2009/12/18

IN place of the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English, better known as PPSMI, the Education Ministry has introduced the policy "Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening the Command of English" (also known by the Malay acronym MBMMBI).

There are obvious flaws in this policy which the education minister should address.

Firstly, every linguist will tell us that the way to mastering any language is through exposure, exposure and exposure.

PPSMI exposes students to English and allows them to practise the language by application. Eliminating PPSMI and introducing MBMMBI will reduce English exposure time from 41 per cent to 21 per cent of total learning time. Thus, MBMMBI will further weaken the command of English of our future generation.

Evidence of this is obvious. Since Bahasa Malaysia replaced English as the medium of instruction in schools in the early 1970s, the standard of English of Malaysian students has dropped drastically to the extent that even local university graduates are rendered unemployable due to their poor English communication skills.

Secondly, MBMMBI will eliminate scientific English and replace it with "scientific" Malay words, the majority of which are actually nothing more than "Malay-fied" English terms such as "oksida", "fotosintesis", "silinder", etc Trouble comes when these terms are not "Malay-fied", for example, "segitiga sama kaki" which means isosceles triangle. It is a common joke by professors at foreign universities to brand our students as coming from the "Land of the Same Leg Triangle".

Many Malaysian students are experiencing difficulties coping with tertiary studies, even in local universities and UiTM where English is the medium of instruction. It doesn't help when one hears that lecturers are forced to pass low-performing students or face dismissal.

As such, MBMMBI will produce incompetent engineers, doctors and technicians.

Thirdly, it intends to introduce mathematical and scientific terms in English lessons to make up for the loss of PPSMI. According to the education minister, Science and Mathematics teachers have failed under PPSMI. Therefore, wouldn't it be illogical to expect our non-technical English teachers to explain mathematical and scientific terms and jargon? Worse, it would be out of context.

Fourthly, under MBMMBI, Bahasa Malaysia would be the only main language spoken and mastered and English would be relegated to a distant second place. As it is, nationalists have labelled English as a colonialist language and criticised those who want to learn in English as traitors. Unfortunately, there will be some hapless folk who will be influenced and misguided by these bigoted "patriots".

Many Malaysians have already moved their children to international schools and more have shifted abroad. We, the common people, would have to find creative ways to escape this political charade, to escape from the "Land of the Same Leg Triangle".

Incidentally, the Hong Kong government has just announced that half of its secondary schools will switch its medium of instruction from Mandarin to English, including specifically, the teaching and learning of Science.

We, the parents, must take matters into our own hands. Insist on a resolution to maintain PPSMI in your children's schools at the next annual general meeting of your parent-teacher association.

Come out loud to send the message to our education minister.

for Parent Action Group for Education (Page)


Education minister not upholding 1Malaysia

The Edge Financial Daily

Monday, 14 December 2009 00:06

Our education minister’s recent comment on his decision to abolish PPSMI (the teaching of Maths and Science in English) for all schools as being final and not to be questioned is thumbing down on our prime minister’s slogan of 1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now.

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) upholds that parents know what is best for their children and political considerations should not rule over educational needs.

PAGE findings had shown that the majority of urban parents and a significant number of rural parents want their children to study Science and Maths in English.

If our education minister doubts our statement then PAGE seeks our minister to call upon all national schools to vote on a resolution on this issue at the next annual general meeting (AGM) of their Parent-Teachers Associations (PTAs).

Our education minister should not have called upon his party members to hijack over and dominate the school PTAs “to suppress the voice of parents” and neither should he nor his subordinates threaten school administrators who differ with him on this issue. Please be reminded that many principals as well as science and maths teachers were not consulted to have their say on this matter.

We parents who had also been ignored in his final decision-making process will abide by the outcome of this democratic and transparent process, and our minister can rest be assured knowing that what he does will be in all sincerity, the true wishes of the people. Long live 1Malaysia.

Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim
PAGE chairperson


Monday, December 7, 2009

Support for PAGE

Lim Kit Siang writes:

Government should respect PAGE and empower parents to decide whether to use English to teach/learn maths and science in primary/secondary schools.

During the 2010 budget debate on the Education Ministry late this evening, I called on the government to respect the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) and to empower parents to decide whether they want their children to use English to teach/learn mathematics and science in primary and secondary schools.

I reiterated the DAP stand that maths and science should be taught in the mother tongue or home language in Std. One and spoke on the decline in mastery of the English language by Malaysian students, all the way to the university level.

The government had been talking about the importance of ensuring fluency and proficiency of English students, especially university students, but little had been achieved going by the employers’ complaints about the poor English command of graduates.

This has undermined Malaysia’s international competitiveness as English is an international language and a language of competition in the world arena.

As many parents in the country have expressed their wish that English be used as the medium for mathematics and science, I called on the Education Ministry to declare its stand on PAGE’s call to allow parents the choice of deciding whether their students in schools should use English to be taught mathematics and science.

I also called on the Education Ministry not only to allow Chinese and Tamil languages to used chosen as SPM subjects in a 10 + 2 formula, but to ensure that both subjects are recognized officially for scholarship and other official purposes.

What PAGE is asking for is very resonable: that those students, teachers and schools that benefited from the policy maintain status quo. There will be no need for re-learning of students, re-training of teachers, re-writing and re-printing of text books, scientific and mathematical knowledge continues to be gained speedily further enhancing students' potential yet saving hard-earned taxpayers' money that can be put to better use elsewhere.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Overhaul economy", Second Finance Minister

'Malaysia must overhaul economy'

By Rupa Damodaran

Published: Business Times 2009/12/02

Malaysia must overhaul its economy urgently to keep up with the changing world and regain the pole position it once held in the region, a minister said.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said the country needs to diversify its trading partners and overcome competition from other emerging economies in exports.

"We must also consider the gradual dismantling of our open-ended protection of specific sectors and industries, which has introduced a climate of complacency and artificial levels of supply," he said at the opening of the two-day National Economic Outlook Conference 2010-2011 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. The event was organised by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research.

Ahmad Husni said Malaysia had lost its competitive edge in many sectors of the economy, with private investments now half of what they were before the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

"Malaysia is trapped in a low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure," he said.

Among its peers like China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, Malaysia's economic growth over the past three years was the second lowest.

"Our economy has been stagnating in the last decade. Our private investment has been steadily in decline," Ahmad Husni said.

He added that the country's manufacturing sector was suffering from a lack of investment, while the services sector was underdeveloped.

Between 2000 and 2007, Malaysia's investment per value-added in percentage nominal terms in manufacturing dropped from 30.6 per cent to 21.7 per cent. In the case of services, the decline was from 26.8 per cent to 22.1 per cent.

Ahmad Husni believes that the 1Malaysia concept can "re-catalyse" the private sector's role in the economy and enhance the level of competitiveness.

He also said that the government was confident of achieving 5 per cent economic growth next year and had identified several growth drivers. It would seek to enhance capacity through domestic demand.

PAGE: The Finance Ministry has painted a picture of doom and gloom. For the boost that it requires, PPSMI will play a major role in contributing towards preparing the future generation for the global and financial challenges ahead.


Under fire over RM10b FDI loss

NST 2009/12/02

CHIEF Minister Lim Guan Eng was yesterday taken to task for turning down RM10 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) into Penang just because he could not guarantee the prospective investors 1,000 engineers.

Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya (BN-Teluk Bahang) told the state assembly that he was shocked to read about the matter and saddened that such a huge investment opportunity had been lost.

"It is implausible that we do not have or cannot find the engineers."This (decision to turn down the investors) was a very big mistake that the state government has committed.

"Dr Hilmi, who is a former Penang deputy chief minister, said the people in the state had lost out on a big investment just because Lim was not far-sighted enough.

He also said developers had been spooked by the policies introduced by Lim's administration.

He cited an example where the state approved development plans but inserted a specific condition that it could be cancelled at any time by the chief minister.

At this point, Lim stood up to clarify that this was no longer the case and the state government no longer imposed such a condition.

Lim said there was no reason for Hilmi to raise the matter as it was no longer an issue.

However, Hilmi responded that it was exactly such inconsistent policies which caused investors to worry.

"You may no longer impose such conditions but the damage is already done.

" Hilmi also touched on how the state government was allegedly delaying projects submitted by those deemed to be associated with the Barisan Nasional.

"I have heard grouses about this... I understand Perda (Penang Regional Development Authority) had submitted plans some two years ago but they have yet to be approved."

PAGE: The politicians have missed the point. The country has failed to produce the engineers required. For this reason, schools should be given the option to choose PPSMI if it feels that teachers are capable, students are able and parents are agreeable, so that competent engineers are ready for employment when such an opportunity arises again.


Be bold, govt officers told

NST 2009/12/02

By Jaswinder Kaur

KOTA KINABALU: Government officers given the task of making decisions must not allow politicians to intimidate them, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said yesterday.

Instead, he added, they should focus on carrying out their duties based on regulations and the law.

Masidi said if civil servants did not let politicians interfere, they would be able to make the right decision, especially when deliberating on development at sensitive areas, such as hillslopes and the sea.

"Politicians will always sign letters seeking support by saying sila bantu (please assist) but government officers must not take this as an approval.

"Use your wisdom and follow the law. I was once a civil servant myself, and was placed in cold storage for going against a politician.

"I was brave enough to go against the directive because I knew I was right."

Masidi said this at a seminar on highlands development for state and Federal department heads at the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) campus in Sepanggar, here yesterday.

He said the popular decision might not always be correct, but that the right decision would always be right.

"I bring this up in the context of this seminar because we are talking about highlands and development on slopes. There is always a dilemma in this, with politicians coming into the picture.

"We do not need to destroy the environment to achieve development or to succeed in life. Look at alternatives that will not harm nature, or else we will face bigger problems in future.

"Later, speaking to reporters, Masidi said unregulated hillslope development in Kundasang, which is a popular tourism spot, was a thing of the past now that the area was finally under the Ranau district council's rating zone.

He said the district council had been instructed to meet operators to find ways to improve safety standards of lodges and other structures already there.

"The buildings exist, so this is what the council has to do. We cannot afford an accident that may lead to loss of lives, and the tourism industry to fall."

PAGE: This is the stand all politicians should take for all their ministries, in particular, the Education Ministry, where it involves many defenceless children and parents who would rather not say or do anything for fear that their children/school will be victimised. The Ministry of Education is not vindicative.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

English essential for business and trade

Star Thursday November 26, 2009

DEPUTY Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi’s comment that the private sector should use Bahasa Malaysia and not English is irrational, retrogressive and does not stand to reason.

The Deputy Minister’s views have not gone down well as indicated by the strong reaction and disagreement to his suggestion from various quarters.

At a time when our prime minister frequently emphasises the need for Malaysia to compete globally, to attract foreign investment and to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation, the call to the private sector to use Bahasa Malaysia and not English does not make business sense and defeats the PM’s call.

The private sector in Malaysia, I am certain, is patriotic and respects Bahasa Malaysia as our national and official language.

However, they realise that for them to do business and trade with the international community, using English is a necessity as they must be able to communicate in a language acceptable to all.

Every level-headed Malaysian who subscribes to reason and logic will unanimously agree that teaching, learning and using the English language must never be made into an issue when it is done in the interests of our future generation and for the sake of our nation’s progress and its future well-being.

We have to be pragmatic and progressive in this era of globalisation. It is essential for the Government to adopt a practical and open-minded approach towards English, which can contribute to Malaysia’s progress, while remaining firm and steadfast in ensuring that Bahasa Malaysia is the country’s official and national language.

We learn and use English as it is an international language for science and technology, business and commerce.

Malaysians should strive to be bilingual or even trilingual, now that most Malaysians, particularly the younger generation, have mastered Bahasa Malaysia.

Malaysians may lose out in the field of information and technology in the new millennium if they are not proficient in English.

The ability to learn and use English or any other language should be seen as a progressive move to improve our knowledge and expertise.

The fear of the English language, which some still regard as a legacy of British colonialism, is clearly misplaced and needs to be rectified.

To overcome this, more needs to be done to convince parents and students, particularly those in the rural areas, about the importance of learning English as a tool for science, technology, business and commerce as well as progress and modernisation.

Kuala Lumpur.


UPSR: Better showing in Math, Science and Tamil

Friday November 20, 2009

Jump in A's in three subjects


PUTRAJAYA: There has been a jump in the number of A’s obtained in Mathematics, Science and Tamil (Comprehension) in the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) 2009 results.

Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said Mathematics (in both national and vernacular schools) had the highest increase in the number of A’s obtained at 4.2% followed by Tamil (Comprehension) at 3.6% and Science at 2.2% out of the 12 subjects offered in the UPSR.

“There was no significant drop in the other subjects,” he said when announcing the analysis of the UPSR results at the ministry yesterday.

Alimuddin said more Year Six pupils obtained A’s in all their subjects in this year’s UPSR compared to the previous year.

A total of 48,171 obtained all A’s this year compared to 46,641 in 2008.

He said the number of pupils who obtained good results (with a minimum C) also increased from 46,641 in 2008 to 48,171 this year while there was a decline in those who obtained all E’s from 3,363 in 2008 to 3,266 this year.

He said the emphasis for the UPSR 2009 results was on the overall achievements of pupils and their subject performance.

“The ministry is not naming any best schools as we want to avoid an over-emphasis on examination results,” he said.

The Average National Grade (GPN), he added, was used to measure the overall achievements of pupils while the Average Subject Grade (GPMP) gauged subject performance.

On the achievements of pupils in urban and rural areas, Alimuddin said there was an overall improvement.

He said a total of 31, 360 obtained all A’s in urban areas compared to 16,380 in rural areas.
“The comparison with this year’s and last year’s results show that the gap is narrowing,” he added.

Alimuddin said of the 1,086 pupils with special needs who sat for the UPSR, 13 scored all A’s and 177 obtained a minimum of C’s.

Giving an update on the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination which started on Wednesday, Alimuddin said SMT Kerian in Bagan Serai, Perak, has been used to house 131 students from SMK Alor Bongsu and three from SMK Alang Iskandar who were affected by the floods. “These students will remain there until the SPM finishes,” he said.

Nine students, he added were sitting for the SPM in hospitals — four suspected A(H1N1) cases in Shah Alam, Sarikei, Manir and Marang while another five were involved in separate car accidents in Malacca.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Study shows support for use of English

Star 2009/12/02

IN a just concluded survey on the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) involving 48 schools (22 urban and 26 rural involving 354 students aged 10 to 15 in Selangor and Pahang), it was found that more than 87 per cent of students in urban and rural schools preferred the subjects to be taught in English despite many of them being weak in the language.

Another nine per cent did not mind whether these subjects were taught in English or Malay.

So, a majority of our students are still willing to face the challenge and they support the use of English to learn Science and Mathematics.

Among the reasons most of them gave were: "English is an important language", "I watch English programmes on TV and almost everything I like on the Internet is in English" and "My parents always encourage me to study the subjects in English".

The majority of the rural children confessed that they were weak in English. However, they would prefer to learn Science and Mathematics in English.The majority of the weak students did not blame their teachers for the problems they had in mastering these two subjects.

A significant number of students felt that since there is a Bahasa Malaysia translation to all the questions in public exams and lessons, it was all right for them to be taught in English.

Some of the comments from the weak and good students:"At least I am exposed to English terms that we often see on the Internet." "Never mind, if I cannot understand English, I'll read the Malay translation.""I'll always carry an electronic dictionary with me to help with my study."
Almost all students were aware that their English had improved through learning Science and Mathematics in English.The majority never felt that they would lose their racial identity when these subjects were taught in English. Most students in the better classes felt that teachers were not serious enough when using English to teach the subjects.

Students from some urban and rural schools said their teachers were not competent in the language.

Teachers spoke broken English and often reverted to Bahasa Malaysia when they were lost for words.Then again, 64 per cent of the teachers involved in teaching the subjects in English reported that PPSMI was ineffective. It was an uphill task, according to them. Some said it could be the language factor and some said that students were weak in Science and Mathematics. Only a minority of them admitted that they were not competent to handle the subjects in the language.

The conclusions to these findings are interesting. Students still aspire to learn Science and Mathematics in English despite "external forces" objecting to this policy.

Parents are positive about the use of English to teach Science and Mathematics.

A majority of our teachers are not competent to handle the subjects in English.

Students did not feel that they would neglect their mother tongue when Science and Mathematics were taught in English.The majority felt inferior when they were not good in English. They felt they would lose out to others later on in life if they did not learn Science and Maths in English.

DR M.A. NAIR Kuantan


PPSMI: English now a mother tongue


E.L.Melbourne, Australia

I REFER to the letter "PPSMI waivers must not be granted" (NST, Nov 26) from Sa'ari Hasan of Ayer Keroh, Malacca. The writer seems to assume that all Malaysian children are brought up in households where only Malay, Chinese or Tamil is spoken. This is a narrow viewpoint.

It cannot be denied that many Malaysian children nowadays are born into English-speaking households and are exposed to television and the Internet where most of the information, cartoons, movies, etc are in English.

They also have access to major bookstore chains offering a myriad books and magazines in English.

To these children, English is not a foreign language. They have the right to learn in the language they are most comfortable with, that is English.

Parents, too, must be given the right to decide what language they want their children to be educated in, and they have voiced this out in parent-teacher association meetings and in the press. We have seen that in some schools, an overwhelming majority of parents want the teaching of Mathematics and Science to remain in English.

How is it that in the 1950s and 1960s, our parents who studied in English-medium-schools had no problem coping with their studies? The entire syllabus then was in English. Moreover, it was a lot less likely that the older generation came from English-speaking households. I have aunts and uncles who could not speak a word of English when they entered Standard One. Yet now, they are all graduates and communicate in perfect English.

It is obvious that the command of English and overall quality of the older generation, who had the privilege of studying in English-medium schools, are much better than among the thousands of graduates being churned out of local universities today.

Having worked in the human resources division of a large company before, I have gone through thousands of job applications. Most of the applications from local graduates ended up in the rubbish bin because their English was appalling.

Bahasa Malaysia nationalists need to rid themselves of the attitude that English is a legacy of British colonialism. Communicating in English is not comparable to donning "bowler hats, tailcoats and brollies", as the writer puts it. No one is belittling Bahasa Malaysia.

Please be sensible and do not let blind nationalism impede the country's progress in this era of globalisation.

The education minister had said more emphasis would be placed on the teaching of English in schools. But let's not kid ourselves. Will this really improve students' command of English? I seriously doubt it.

As it is, one does not even have to pass English to get a Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia certificate.

Therefore, do you think teachers will take it seriously, let alone students? More likely the students will fool around during the English periods or teachers will tell them to "buat kerja sendiri" (do your own work).

Rural students already have such limited exposure to English as they do not have as much access to things like computers or satellite television. Abolishing PPSMI means that they will have even fewer opportunities to improve their English language skills.

They will definitely end up being "locked up in a world of suffocating ignorance".


PPSMI: So many people cannot be wrong



AFTER reading what members of parent-teacher associations had to say about doingaway with PPSMI (“Can we have Science and Maths in English in some schools?”— N S T, Nov 8), I’m compelled to write this letter to articulate the feelings of my family, friends, relatives andmyself regarding the decision to revert to teaching Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia from as early as next year.

Whether we like it or not, English is the lingua franca of the world. Most parents want their children to master the language so that they will be better equipped to find a job or to pursue tertiary education.

For these reasons, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had the courage to correct shortcomings in our educational policy by reintroducing English as the medium of instruction in Science and Mathematics.

Realising that a generation of Malaysians had paid for the flaws in our education policy, Dr Mahathir tried to break the unfortunate chain of inadequacy in English among our students and graduates. Most Malaysians look upon this change of policy as his best departing gift to our nation.

When it was announced this year that the government had decided to revert to teaching Science and Maths in Bahasa Malaysia, our hearts sank.

If 95 per cent of the population in SK Perumahan Tampoi are Malays and the parents have no problem with their children learning Science and Maths in English, as revealed by Mohd Hambali Munadi, the chairman of a PTA in Johor in the same letter, one wonders why we would want to revert to teaching Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia.

I pray that the government will allow the two subjects to be taught in English in schools where a majority of the parents want them to be taught in that language.


PPSMI: An advantage


Y.L. , Klang

I REFER to the opinions of Dr Wan Hashim of Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia on PPSMI (“Do not belittle BahasaMalaysia ”—NST, Nov 23).

I believe Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim’s remarks (“It’s the language of knowledge”— NST, Nov 18) were not incorrect.

With all due respect to Wan Hashim’s position as a lecturer for 30 years, I, too, believe that English is the language of knowledge.

It’s true that every language needs time and room for improvement.

Bahasa Malaysia, too, can be a language of k n ow l e d g e .

But, think again. How many years will it take? The task is not impossible but consider that in today’s world, constant discoveries and inventions are rapid and would be first and foremost, explained in English.

As a science-stream student, I can assure you that it is no easy task looking for information in BM. We are limited to textbooks and reference books, and can almost never do cross-reference on the Internet, unless we translate what we are looking for into English.

It is possible, of course, to learn in BM but it takes a lot more effort on the student’s part. Is it any surprise that Malaysia isn’t exactly the most popular destination for students seeking tertiary education? When students pursue their master’s and PhDs overseas, they have to convert to using English for Science and Mathematics.

In today’s competitive world, who wouldn’t want an advantage?


PPSMI: Allow schools the English option


DATIN NOOR AZIMAH ABDUL RAHIM for Parent Action Group for Education

IN his blog, the prime minister has rejected the idea of a single-stream school system because the people are not ready for it.

But are the people ready or do they accept the abolition of the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI) in national schools?

A survey by Parent Action Group for Education (Page) last year showed that 95 per cent of parents wanted PPSMI to be continued.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in his blog, polled 84 per cent against the decision to abolish PPSMI.

Even the Education Ministry's telephone survey showed more than 90 per cent of callers wanted it to go on.

Recently, parents from seven schools in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya returned a majority of 94 per cent and 98 per cent respectively to continue with PPSMI.

We thank the prime minister for respecting the spirit of the Education Act 1996, which calls for children to be educated according to the wishes of their parents.

We hope he will honour their wishes by giving our national schools the option to choose or reject PPSMI.

Page appeals to the education minister to allow that option and let parents make known their wishes through a meeting of their parent-teacher associations.