Tuesday October 16, 2012
Why PPSMI should continue
ROADSHOWS are being held to gather feedback from the public on the recently released Preliminary Education Blueprint 2013-2025.
It is with this understanding that I am writing this “appeal” letter on PPSMI (The Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English).
I know that much has been propounded on PPSMI during the many roundtable discussions and town hall meetings prior to the release of the blueprint.
However, all the 11 shifts of reforms documented have not referred to it. The nearest we got was “Benchmark … Science and Mathematics to international standards”.
I hope there is still time for the powers-that-be to revisit the issue.
It is not about a U-turn, flip-flop or even face-saving.
It is about the best and proven route to put our Science and Mathematics at international standards.
This letter will not dwell on the pros and cons of PPSMI; that has already been dealt with many times over. Instead it proposes what next to be done given the present situation and sentiment.
We want our schoolchildren to be on par with the best in the world and grow up to be globally confident, competent and competitive.
First, continue to offer PPSMI option at the primary level. The argument that children learn best in the beginning using their mother tongues is easily debunked for we continue to rightly subscribe that our national schools (sekolah kebangsaan) are the best avenue to help foster national unity and should be the first choice of school for our children from different ethnicities.
The Education Ministry and the many vernacular schools advocates and enthusiasts may be surprised at the outcome if parents/pupils are given the choice of language in Science and Mathematics.
And, I am not just talking about parents residing in the urban areas. Many, irrespective of their locality, want more exposure hours in English for their children so that they can improve their proficiency.
Given time, PPSMI may even become the preferred choice across all primary schools.
Second, teach Science and Mathematics in English from Form One onwards.
This is a realistic approach, taking cognizance of the present sentiment on the ground (albeit changeable) and the unfortunate political expediency that make it difficult to “enforce” the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English in primary schools right now.
However, with the on-going policy of Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English (MBMMBI) expected to bear fruit, can we not be optimistic that English proficiency will increase by the time students reach Form One, thus making them ready for Science and Mathematics in English?
With the basics firmly grasped after six years of primary English, learning Science and Mathematics in English in secondary school should be manageable and, certainly more so for those who have opted for PPSMI while in primary.
This way our students will be able to access the whole world of English Science and Mathematics and on route to international standards.
Third, the ministry continues to train teachers to teach Science and Mathematics in English. This will help build teachers’ competence and confidence in English Science and Mathematics.
Vast resources are readily available. Besides if option in primary is offered and PPSMI be the option in secondary, we will need more English Science and Mathematics teachers in the years ahead.
Trust that many dedicated and committed Science and Mathematics teachers want to be proficient in English Science and Mathematics; they know deep inside that with English they will be more versatile and better able to help their charges.
Fourth, school administrators, education officers at district, state and ministry level continue to genuinely and earnestly facilitate the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English.
Yes, many of them are the products of a school system that used Bahasa Malaysia as its main medium of instruction and are therefore more comfortable with Bahasa Malaysia.
Nevertheless, many believe in PPSMI. Some may even be “privately” doing it for their own children.
But, publicly, to preserve their position and “standing”, they do otherwise.
If they have been disadvantaged, let them not pass it on to theirs and others’ children.
They should look and think globally, act with vision and conscience and facilitate what is best for our future generation.
Last but not least, let those powers-that-be not take us who advocate PPSMI to be anglophiles, coming from English-speaking families and not fully understanding the plights of the “rural” folks and students.
I have written before and may I repeat here that “in the beginning, none of the so-called English-speaking families spoke English at home”. It is a father, a grandfather or a
forefather who had got the vision and was convinced that the English language was global and important, and who then boldly decided to make a switch in the family language.
Today, their children and their children’s children, if they have been as hardworking, diligent and steadfast, and have all the qualities and traits of their pioneering fore-fathers, they can easily find themselves qualified and accessible to all arenas of knowledge and skills, and professions the world has to offer.
The world does not owe us a living and neither will it wait for us. This should be the overarching guiding principle when we put the final touches to our Education Blueprint 2013-2025.
LIONG KAM CHONG