KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — The National Union of the Teaching Professions (NUTP) welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is currently the acting education minister to revive the Policy of Teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI).
However, the academic group expressed caution on the ill-preparedness of the teaching force to adapt to the system, which was abolished and replaced with the Dual Language Programme (DLP).
NUTP president Aminuddin Awang said that the union is “praying that the minister treads carefully” on the issue so that it would be “politically right” for the wellbeing of the society as a whole.
He said one of the main problems with PPSMI when it was enforced over a decade ago, was language competency issue among teachers.
“NUTP supports the Prime Minister’s suggestion that Maths and Science be taught in English, but we pray that the minister treads carefully on this issue so that it will be politically right for the betterment of the society.
“If we were to look at history, the PPSMI issue was in place for 11 years. There were numerous problems plaguing the implementation; incompetent English proficiency teachers, difficulty in preparing the dual-language exam papers and even the lack of motivation among the teachers themselves until incentives were given which gave rise to many wanting to teach for the sake of the incentives. Then we had to do a soft landing approach when the policy was withdrawn,” he told Malay Mail.
Aminuddin said that at present, the DLP is in force, and should suffice, as only parents who want their children to be taught Maths and Science in English are required to sign up.
However, he said that even the DLP is again plagued with issues, with lack of teachers being the main problem and parents who want their children to be placed under the DLP being rejected, due to insufficient classes catering to demand.
Aminuddin lamented that those in charge of overseeing the system, are not doing enough to improve the DLP.
“There are insufficient teachers as the old guard that taught PPSMI have gradually disappeared due to retirement, hence the Science and Maths teachers currently in the majority are those who are not proficient in English, but in the national language. We have problems even getting textbooks for Maths and Science in the English language.
“We also have the perennial problem of those in charge who are either powerless to address the issue or just not in sync with the program as they themselves are not proficient in English. The upper echelons of the system are just not doing enough to even keep this DLP alive,” he added.
The policy for teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) was among Dr Mahathir’s final policies before he left office as the fourth prime minister.
It was pioneered in 2003 to mixed reactions before being eventually implemented at all stages of the national school system in 2007.
However, it was dismantled by the previous Barisan Nasional administration in 2012.
The education minister at the time, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, introduced a replacement policy to “Uphold Bahasa Malaysia and to Strengthen the English language” (MBMMBI).
Detractors of the reversal alleged that MBMMBI was meant to appease Malay nationalists ahead of the 13th general election.
In making the announcement on the return of PPSMI, Dr Mahathir said it was crucial for the two subjects to be taught in English as that is the native language for both disciplines.
Dr Mahathir added that it was essential for education policy to be geared towards equipping students with the necessary skills to be productive in their adult lives, and to consider Malaysia’s multiracial and multicultural background.
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