Malaysia

DPM’s education policies ‘pushing nation backwards’, PAGE warns

By Lee Wei Lian
September 10, 2012

Azimah said Muhyiddin’s refusal to budge on PPSMI appeared to be a matter of pride. — File picAzimah said Muhyiddin’s refusal to budge on PPSMI appeared to be a matter of pride. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 ― The deputy prime minister’s education policies are causing the nation to regress in terms of knowledge acquisition and fostering unity, said the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) today on the eve of the unveiling of the new National Education Masterplan.

This comes after Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, said in an interview published by an English daily yesterday that the government was against bringing back the teaching of mathematics and science in English (PPSMI) as well as English medium schools, as these would appear that it was backtracking and flip-flopping

Today, PAGE chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said that the by abolishing the teaching of mathematics and science in English, Muhyiddin was preventing many Malaysian children from acquiring knowledge in a language they are most comfortable with ― a concept that UNESCO advocates.

“It appears that the DPM is more afraid that his ministry is seen as flip-flopping on the policy than its impact on our children and their future,” said Azimah.

She added that the repercussions of not giving children the option to learn science and mathematics in English ― the lingua franca of the two subjects ― could be severe, including a continued decline in the interest in science.

“The government under the prime minister wants to bring the nation forward through 1 Malaysia, science, technology and innovation, but the policies of the deputy prime minister, specifically the abolition of PPSMI, are pushing the nation backwards in the acquisition of knowledge and in enhancing racial integration which is crucial for our continued success,” said Azimah.

Muhyiddin said in an interview in the New Straits Times yesterday that English medium schools have been dropped for almost 50 years and the country should not backtrack now.

He also said PPSMI had been more about the language rather than technical knowledge and the government was taking steps to beef up the teaching of English.

Language in education is often contested on political rather than academic grounds in Malaysia, with both Malay and Mandarin advocate groups in the past threatening backlashes at the polls if their language demands were not met.

Malaysia currently offers public education in three languages ― Malay, Mandarin and Tamil ― while English language education remains the preserve of those wealthy enough to send their children to private schools.

The tendency for only the rich to be able to afford English language education has many industry observers concerned that it will widen the social divide between the elite and the masses.

Malaysia converted its English language medium schools to Malay medium schools in the 1970’s but reintroduced English as a medium of instruction for mathematics and science in 2003. This was again overturned in 2009 in what many perceived to be an effort to placate both Malay and Mandarin hardline groups.

The education masterplan will be launched by the prime minister tomorrow and will be available for public feedback for a period of three months starting tomorrow.