Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Don't want to teach in English!

Right on the heels of yesterday's Star report about an English proficiency test for teachers in Science and Math, there was a follow up report in today's Star with the headline "Many still refusing to teach in English".

Said a teacher/trainer, who declined to be named: “There are three main reasons why teachers are still not teaching Maths and Science in English: lack of confidence, the hope that the policy will revert to Bahasa Malaysia and the fact that the exams are in both languages.”

I was only aware that the Math and Science exams were still in both languages for the new batch of students who were taught both of these subjects in English when one of our readers pointed this out in the comments section. While there may have been some validity in having this policy during the transition period, if the MOE is committed to this policy, then dual language exam papers should certainly be phased out and soon. If not, the very thing which the anonymous teacher / trainer pointed out will occur - that many teachers will refuse to teach Science and Math in English thinking that the policy will be reversed in the near future.

While I think the move to teach Science and Math in English was badly implemented, to do a U-turn now and revert back to the old policy would be an even worse policy option. Certainly, I think the cabinet and MOE deserves at least some faint praise for sticking to their guns on this policy despite pressure at the UMNO General Assembly last November to abandon this policy.

Hopefully, having more press coverage on this issue will ensure that the MOE keeps taking proactive steps to rectify the situation.

Ironically but perhaps not surprisingly, also in today's Star, a report which showed that almost a third of students graduating from public universities have limited proficiency in English. How many of these graduates are channeled into our primary and secondary schools as well as into the public service? One can only wonder...

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many teachers still refusing to teach Sciens and Mathematics in English. Do the same teachers above refuse to accept the critical service allowance for teaching English of 10%(non-grads) and 5%(grads)? If so, well and good. But if not, then?

Anonymous said...

For too long the Ultra-nationalists have enforced the paradigm that in order to strengthen Bahasa Melayu's status, they had to destroy the standard of English. They saw it as a zero sum game. Some influential Umno leaders still believe that.

Fortunately, many now realise that it is seriously hurting the country's ability to survive in the modern globalised economy.

"Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a big fall,
All the king's horses, all the king's men
Could never put Humpty Dumpty together again"

Its going to be a long, difficult climb to get the standard of English in schools back to a competitive level again.
Does the political will exist ??

Anonymous said...

One thing about this whole Science and Math in English shenanigan is, "this is only a transitional period"...yeah, right! Come 2020, we will still be in the transitional period...Implementation is never focused on! Why?

Anonymous said...

If it is a DIRECTIVE, teachers cannot refuse!

DISCIPLINARY ACTION MUST BE INSTITUTED AGAINST TEACHERS REFUSING TO TEACH IN ENGLISH

Anonymous said...

If it is a DIRECTIVE, teachers cannot refuse!

DISCIPLINARY ACTION MUST BE INSTITUTED AGAINST TEACHERS REFUSING TO TEACH IN ENGLISH

Anonymous said...

another reason for teachers to revert to bm is because students don't understand what is being taught - either the teachers or the students themselves are not proficient in english, particularly kampung and rural areas. both the teachers and students english proficiency level should be look into.

Anonymous said...

"For too long the Ultra-nationalists have enforced the paradigm that in order to strengthen Bahasa Melayu's status, they had to destroy the standard of English. They saw it as a zero sum game. Some influential Umno leaders still believe that.

Fortunately, many now realise that it is seriously hurting the country's ability to survive in the modern globalised economy"


Don't really think that the above is true. I don't think the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Germans conduct their Science & Maths classes in English at all levels of education. But they are still economic powerhouses.

So tinkering with the language in the first place was very wrong. The whole point was to emphasise the importance of Maths and Science in schools. Innovation, creativity and the need to encourage students to do things differently is a must.

Of course improve the student's grasp of the English language.

For those of you who spoke English at home or in your schools, did you seriously face any problems switching mediums when you went to universities in Britain, US, Australia or Singapore? I seriously doubt so.

nerd said...

Please don't be too harsh on teachers. Sometimes we have to look at the circumstances and not imposing a blanket directive that could jeorpadise the process of teaching and learning. We must understand that the children are still learning by relying totally at the whim and fancy of the teachers and most of all, the government directives which will shape up the future generations. Let the children learn the subjects in whatever languages they prefer till they reach a mature stage whereby they can study the subject on their own with little guidance from the teachers. In Sciences and Mathematics, understanding of the concepts and formulae are utmost important regardless of the languages we use. It's pointless to teach the subjects in English when the students are getting nowhere.

Anonymous said...

It’s quite a general expectation that since Sc & Maths teachers are paid critical allowance and they are obliged to teach in English. As I could remember, the 10% of an undergraduate teacher is only RM 130 – 200 and the 5% for graduate teacher is roughly between RM 85 – 150.

Besides, we have to bear in mind that some students couldn’t even learn Sc and Maths well when they were taught in BM. Since the statement was clearly made that the government will not revert to the use of BM, the concern now is to equip the teachers well. I have heard some of my friends attending a series of training to prepare teachers to teach in English. Of course, such courses could never be compared to the language skills one has learned through 12 years of schooling. I have personally had very good teachers who could teach well English, but of course, there were a few who struggled.

Teachers today are the product of our past education system in BM as well. Therefore, I don’t think it’s fair to expect ALL Sc and Maths teachers to have GOOD proficiency in English and able to teach well in English. The focus has always been on those who couldn’t teach in English, but what about those who have made improvement??? By the way, how many people with GOOD English proficiency or “ability” would opt to teach in government schools? Bear in mind that “Salary” matters.

And for the question of implementation, based on the 2005 statistics, we have a total of 9,658 primary and secondary schools in the country, which I believe, implementation doesn’t come as easy as we could expect...

moo_t said...

I see students become guinea-pig for the half-baked policies.

As mentioned by earlier commenter, the thesis of developed European country is enough to say that English is the main reason.

English is not the silver bullets to our education system. It is waste of teacher and students time to learn science and math using alien language. IMHO, unless you born from a English educated family, otherwise it is plain STUPID to carried on the half-pail water science and math course!!!!

Kian Ming, please be practical. Malaysia is not Singapore, 90% of people are not converse in English. I know there is an urge of to master English so when the children growth up, they can master those tools and knowledge mostly derive from English books.

But you cannot simply intercept the teaching process before one familiarise with the the language.

Why not suggest to increase the time of English teacher? Add 4 hours on English speaking/conversation.
Isn't this more practical than messing around with science and mess using alien language?

Just my 2 cents.

moo_t said...

Just add more from previous comment.

Increasing English teaching time is common-sense and practical. Without the foundation, the outcome can be disastrous, as one cannot run before they learn to walk.

Kian Ming, I am intriguing why you fail to point out such obvious flaw.

You've mentioned,
"While I think the move to teach Science and Math in English was badly implemented, to do a U-turn now and revert back to the old policy would be an even worse policy option."

IMHO, the idea is flaw and illogical in the first place. Without the language foundation, how can you implement such system? Do you think by continue the trends, those student and teacher will "eventually" fix the language barrier?

It is similar asking a bunch of car foreman try to build rocket. Will time help them if they never pick up the BASIC physic?

If MoE want to rush, they can only rush on building foundation. Add more class/period on English teacher. The primary and secondary school can hold on NOT teaching math and science in English, but increase 4 hours per weeks in English course. For University, to catch the missing time, they should implement 20 hourss/week English study.

Anonymous said...

a friend said it's not the religion but the person practising it, likewise, it's never the language, for merely it is a tool, and it's up to the people to use it. ;)

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

LET THE SCHOOLS CHOOSE WHICH MEDIUM THEY WANT TO USE TO TEACH.
EXAMS SET IN BOTH LANGUAGES.
LEAVE THE CHOICE WITH THE STUDENTS!
-MATHS TEACHER.