LETTER | G25 would like to express its support to the Prime Minister who is also the acting Education Minister on the proposal to introduce the teaching of science and mathematics in English.
G25 agrees that science and mathematics are best learnt in English, which is the universal language, and the primary source of research, publications and cutting- edge technology in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
Early immersion in the terminology and context of these areas would ensure that our students are well adapted, skilled and able to keep up with the latest in scientific and technological developments.
We need to grow the country’s human capital with the potential of becoming inventors and innovators, which will serve as a thrust for economic growth and set a path for us to be an Asian Tiger once again.
Even at the lower end of the job scale, employees with good command of written as well as spoken English are regarded as assets to the company because they are easier to train.
When investors look for a suitable location for their high-tech business, they give high priority to English literacy and proficiency in the labour force as this makes it easier for the workers to understand the manuals and instructions on using the technology systems for operating the work processes as well as for communicating with business counterparts and customers throughout the world.
While G25 supports the introduction of science and mathematics in English, we would also caution its implementation.
There must be a study of the previous policy and why it failed, which caused many students to lose interest and parents to complain, especially those from the rural areas. Let us not repeat history.
There must be no more flip-flops and U-turns on this policy once it is implemented.
The public must be assured of the success of the programme in its implementation.
The plan must be thorough, and with achievable milestones within a realistic timeframe.
With this objective in mind, we would recommend the expansion and intensification of the existing Dual Language Programme (DLP) with its more democratic framework of enlisting parental approval and ensuring that teachers are well-grounded in the English language.
We need to be mindful that there ought to be sufficient time given to teacher training and making resources available in schools.
Perhaps the implementation could begin by ensuring the existence of at least one DLP class in every school giving all the necessary assistance in teacher training, supervision and ample teaching-learning resources, particularly in the rural schools.
This implementation strategy can be guided to organically and incrementally grow annually with careful attention given to teacher capability and teaching-learning resources needed for the programme to succeed.
The completed implementation plan should be in the form of a white paper, which is to be tabled not just to the cabinet ministers, but also to Parliament, in order to obtain a national consensus.
Parliamentary approval will give confidence to the public that this policy will not be reversed when there is a change in the Prime Minister or education minister.
The advocacy of the national language proponents who are against the introduction of science and mathematics in English is misplaced.
The national language will still remain the main medium of instruction despite the two subjects being in English.
G25 would like to appeal to the nationalists and dissenting voices not to turn this into a political, racial or anti-national issue.
We would like to suggest that the Education Ministry constantly engage with these dissenting parties to gain their confidence.
They could be encouraged to render positive and practical views and assistance towards strengthening and ensuring successful implementation of the programme without jeopardy to the position and status of the national language.
In the long run, science and mathematics in English should be offered to every child and not just to those who opt for it.
Every child has the propensity to improve when there are greater application and contact time with the language.
Thus the disadvantaged group would have a level playing field with the rest of their cohort, narrowing the social divide.
This would help them to be more at par with the affluent group at the private and international schools.
It is hoped that this programme will help narrow the social divide in the country.
Again we would like to stress the importance of relevant and adequate teacher training and getting the right resources and support for the success of science, mathematics and English teaching programmes.
There must be an effective budget and expenditure plans to ensure its success.
Going full-on digital teaching will not yield results if the teachers do not use it effectively to teach.
Teachers would need to be adequately trained as facilitators and must be invested in the idea that this type of teaching is the way forward.
Teachers need all the support and guidance to improve their teaching. It is unfair to expect them to heed command from the top and hope that they improve themselves on their own accord.
This is why the Trust School model works, because teachers are being carefully guided and mentored to improve their teaching skills.
In conclusion, to ensure the success of science and mathematics in English policy, we need a thorough implementation plan starting with gradual expansion of the Dual Language Programme instead of rushing to implement it in all schools, as well as ensuring teachers are well trained, resources are available, adequate and effective budgetary resources are in place and ensuring that each and every level of the Education Ministry work towards the goal of smooth implementation of the policy.
G25 comprises a group of eminent Malay individuals who advocate improving the standards of governance in the administration of the country.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.