Monday, September 15, 2008

UPSI Study on S&M

Managed to locate an NST report on the UPSI study. You can download the study from the NST page. Bakri was certainly right about the lack of controls in the study. Would the Malay students from the rural areas have done better if the tests were in BM? This kind of control groups should be standards in these sorts of studies. And the fact that many students could not fill in the blank in 'He...to school' is not so much an indictment of the teaching of S&M in English but the appalling teaching of English. The more I read about this issue, the more I'm convinced that we should just continue with the teaching of S&M in English as a commitment towards improving the standard of English throughout our education system. If we revert to the old policy, I don't see the possibility of sufficient resources being devoted to this cause.

TEACHING OF MATHS AND SCIENCE IN ENGLISH: Study reveals policy's flaws

TANJUNG MALIM: Five years after schools began teaching Mathematics and Science in English, tests on thousands of students have revealed poor scores in these subjects.
The tests and surveys, part of a study of that policy, have also shown that the majority of students still find it hard to follow Mathematics and Science lessons in English.

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) put over 3,000 Year Five pupils and about 2,800 Form Two students around the country through short Mathematics, Science and English language tests between February last year and January.

The schoolchildren were from a mix of urban, rural and vernacular schools in Peninsular Malaysia.

The tests were made up of modified past-year examination questions. Some were taken straight out of textbooks.

Some 1,700 Year Five pupils tested this January had a mean score of 7.89 out of a maximum 20 for Mathematics.

The results were not much better for Science: a mean of 4.08 out of 14. English proficiency was not good either: a mean of 11.87 out of 31.

The mean scores of Malay and Orang Asli pupils were also much lower than those of the Chinese and Indians, said study leader Professor Emeritus Datuk Isahak Haron.

Isahak has called the policy a failure, particularly in terms of its impact on Malay students in national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan), and is asking for a return to the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Bahasa Malaysia.

In the survey, many Year Five pupils told researchers they found it hard to learn Mathematics and Science in English, saying they did not understand the lessons.

In one sample, less than a fifth of the Year Five Malay students surveyed considered it easy to learn Science in English and only about a third thought it was easy to learn Mathematics in English.

When a sample of 1,300 Malay students were asked how well they understood the Mathematics and Science lessons when it was taught in English, over 60 per cent said they only understood the lessons "sometimes".

The policy had even failed in its aim of improving the pupils' command of English, said Isahak, a lecturer at the Faculty of Cognitive Science and Human Development.

Students struggled to correctly complete even simple sentences, he said, citing the following sentence in a passage taken out of a school textbook: "He ..... to bed" (The answer is "went".)

An average of 14 per cent and 19 per cent (two different groups) got the answer right.

Even the highest score according to racial breakdown -- 41 per cent of Chinese students in one group answered correctly -- did not speak well of the policy's aim of improving English.

Isahak suggested that it would do more good to allocate more time, staff and money to the teaching of English at the primary school level.

He urged a change in how the language was taught in schools. He said the standardised syllabus should be scrapped in favour of lessons tailored to suit the abilities of different students.

The UPSI study also incorporated findings from other surveys of secondary school students that pointed to similar problems.

Shortly after the policy was implemented in 2003, Associate Professor Hashima Jalaluddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia interviewed 43 teachers and 971 Form One students from six schools in the central and southern states of Peninsular Malaysia .

Most of the teachers said students had problems following Mathematics and Science lessons in English, while 70 per cent of the students said they would be more interested if the two subjects were taught in Bahasa Malaysia.

Only a quarter said they had no problem following the lessons in English.

In 2004, Zainuddin Bikum surveyed 229 students in two schools in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, for his dissertation at UPSI and found that more than half of the group was facing difficulties.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Professor Juriah Long found that about half the students in both urban and rural schools were worried because they found it difficult to follow Mathematics and Science in English. This was one of the results of her 2005 survey of over 7,000 Form Two students nationwide.

Her study, which also looked at the location of schools and the socio-economic background of students, found the concern was greater among Malay students, those in rural schools, and poor students.


Isahak said Malay students in national schools, mostly in rural areas and from lower socio-economic backgrounds, had lost out the most as a result of the decision to teach Maths and Science in English.

The ones who gained from the policy were a small percentage of Malay students from upper middle class families who went to good schools, he said.

However, UPSI's own test results showed Year Five Malay students from rural schools scored highest in nine out of 10 Maths questions and two out of seven Science questions compared with Malay students in big town and city schools.

Meanwhile, Malay students in city schools consistently fared the lowest.

Isahak believes the difference in the percentages is marginal and because there are more Malay students in rural areas, it is these students who will be most affected.

19 comments:

dahvid said...

While my esteemed colleagues in academia may disagree with me, I concur with your views. After all, the M&S in English policy has been around for only a couple of years, and it should be given more time to fossilise and root itself.

Anonymous said...

I maintain that the biggest argument for teaching Math & Science in English, despite its difficulties and problems, is that other proposed ALTERNATIVES ARE JUST NOT BETTER.

The main alternative that teaching math & science back to bahasa/vernacular and then improve English standards is going to executed worst especially in the long run.

Those who think the teaching of Math & Science in English given the weakness in teachers, administrators is not going to suffer in the short term has been fed too long on the NEP. This is structurally about a better of no perfect solution because the administrators messed up 20 years ago when they had the opportunity to do it right just like the NEP.

If they can't get the teaching of math & science in English done, don't expect them to remove the NEP voluntaritly. The short term pain is even worst...

Anonymous said...

Suspected the study has always been another "MICKEY MOUSE" research project with lack of solid and scientific experimental design and understanding of the various variable parameters but with "FAR REACHING" conclusions, such as the PATENTED RESEARCH research carried by our Malaysian taxi passenger

Anonymous said...

Tony, I give up. This country is...

I will just send my kids to Singapore. Hopefully, he will do well enough to get into NUS. I am saving up for his full tuition fees if need be.

Anonymous said...

They always get the wrong idea, yes, maybe s&m will have better results if taught in english but what is the 1st purpose of the policy? it was to improve the standard of english in malaysia, if all we want is a good statistics then might as well take out SPM and make everyone a professor... If it's going to grow then it has to lose something, flowers have to shed leaves to grow, and humans drop their baby teeth to grow, rome wasn't built in one day, so why can't he statistic falls just for this few years to apply pressure on students of the rural area so that they realize the importance and starts improving instead of everyone cooping with them and dragging the standard back into zero....

Derek said...

IMHO, the issue is not so much on language but in reality, the grasp of the Science and Maths of the Teachers themselves are poor. Combined with having to teach it in a language that the teachers temselves are not proficient in only makes it worse.

The Japs did not speak much English during the 1920s to 1940s, yet they conquered almost the whole of Asia and could build planes, subs and even air-craft cariers. Same thing with the Germans, they hardly spoke English but conquered the whole of Europe.

Bottom line, if you are good in Maths and Science, you are good. Language is only a minor barrier to overcome but if you are bad in Maths and Science and bad in Language, teach another subject like History.

Btw, cannot download from the NST Link. Is it possible to post another link?

Shawn Tan said...

I just spoke to a Chinese school science teacher yesterday and asked her for her opinions on this matter.. She told me some things that were rather enlightening..

She said that almost all of the parents would like to see the policy of teaching science/maths in English to continue.. They do know that it is only a matter of time before the kids have to face it in English anyway.. So, it would be good to get the foundations done in the schools..

She also marks national exam papers and she says that most urban schools are okay.. Even in vernacular schools, 90% of the students answer the papers in English and the results are okay.. The only problem are the papers that she has marked from say, Kelantan and Sabah (i.e more rural schools).. Less than 50% would attempt the papers in English and those that do, can hardly answer them correctly..

However, as you have mentioned, these students would traditionally fare worse than their urban counterparts, even under the previous systems.. So, it is not so much a matter of the language then, but rather the resources available to these schools, which is an age old problem..

Another surprising thing that I found out was that there is trouble with science practicals.. It seems that students these days are not given as much "hands on" time with things as before.. She complained that many of the students are unable to even light a bunsen burner properly..

Kian Ming said...

For those of you who want a copy of the report and cannot download it from the NST website, email me at im_ok_man(at)yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

I'm VERY surprise that UPSI study can be published w/o due diligent checks.

One of the glaring example is the lack of controls in the study! There r others discrepancies waiting to be 'digged' out, too.

Any more reason reason why this S&M medium of instruction is in such a flip-flop state?

Any person worth his/her sock in the academic world would have done so before their studies go out, whether in peer-reviewed &/or general publications.

This incident marked the sad states of the said 'experts' in our institutes of higher learning.

R these 'experts' really should be there in the 1st place or r they there just to filled the required 'quota'?

In either cases, these 'experts' r the real bane of the M'sian education. They r there, together with their political masters, to 'down-shifted' our educational standard. Making themselves laughing stocks of the known & causing damages among the education of our children.

Such trashes, masqueraded as experts with lines of 'big' titles, made wastes to our educational system!

anomie

Anonymous said...

i learnt from somewhere that even Anwar Ibrahim is against the policy. he said it dishonours the status of bm guaranteed by art 152 of the fed constitution; and it proved discriminatory towards rural students. stance hasn't changed a bit since; though he pledged to improve our mastery of english and mandarin.

i think the problem also lies in how proponents communicate the benefits to the masses. some made rather disparaging remarks abt the potential of bahasa and mother tongues which make them feel their cultural identity is under threat.

also, the rakyat may be puzzled by the demands of even not-so-large, non multinational for english proficiency, leaving the impression that thsse big shot-wannabes "tak berpijak di bumi nyata" and so on.

this leaves me thinking: from tackling our english proficinecy through two core subjects, why not do it the way other countries do where science and maths are taught in the national tongues, american cartoons dubbed in local lingo since decades, but create a society keen on english and other foreign languages; while over here we simply..................complicated everything. =\

Ahmad Ikmal said...

I for one believe that PPSMI should continue. The debate whether we should continue this policy or not should stop totally. We should now focus on the implementation aspect, and how to strengthen it. I will talk about it further in detail of my proposals and hope to get your constructive feedbacks soon. Do visit www.aikmal.blogspot.com if you guys have the opportunity. Thanks....

Anonymous said...

Require a certain result for a political agenda? No problem! We can design a study to get the results you want or your money back.

Anonymous said...

Many top universities are from english speaking world, so it is important to have the highest standard of english, esp. in our institutions.

Anonymous said...

My friend is an Arab who studied math and science in Arabic back in Saudi Arabia. He is doing Engineering here in Malaysia, and in English. He is not having problems with the subjects, as far as language is concerned. He told me that in Arabic there exist a whole set of terminology very different from that of European languages. Even sin and cosine have different names in Arabic. As I said earlier, he has been doing well in his Engineering studies, even though he had to attend pre-sessional English courses before he started his studies. Many of his Arab friends are doing well too, even though they could not speak to the immigration officer when they first arrived here, nor were they able to fill out the immigration forms.

The bottom line is; you can transfer your knowledge of math and science from one language into another. There is no problem with that. Moreover, English can be learned anytime. And it is best learned as a subject. Besides, what do school pupils need English for? Research?! Well, there is hardly any research at the school level. English is good if you know why you need it and how to use it.

So please stop promoting the math and science in English policy because it is literally useless. And please stop being mind-colonized. We have to do what is right and not what parents or politicians want.

Get Accepted said...

Lets send our kids to Singapore!

Great research and informative article. Full of brains!

education,teachers, principals, college, coaching

LeighC said...

Hi! I know I'm abit behind time with this reply but I just got to know about this report. Here's my two cents worth:

Thank goodness I don't have a disease that makes me cluck like a frightened chicken when I see bad statistics. I mean no disrespect, nor am I going to pretend I know the exact solution to the problem. But I have my two cents worth on the recent study done on the Teaching and Learning Science and Mathematics in English (for short, I'm going to call it TLSME). This study was conducted by University Pendidikan Sultan Idris and the report was dated April 2008. I got my copy through NST online (report is in Bahasa Malaysia) [www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/PDF/Math-Science%20Report]

Everything is googlable nowadays, so I am sure the detailed history of TLSME can be easily obtained from the Net. In short, Government wants S&M to be taught in English and after 5 years into the implementation, "many" studies have shown that the results of S&M have taken a nose dive and now there is a call to reverse this decision.

My focus will be on the statistics generated to support the claim that TLSME is a failure. I will focus solely on the Mathematics study of Standard 5 students for now, as a full analysis is too much for one posting.

The study was conducted in three batches.

Feb2007: Covered 6-8 states, 27 schools and 1564 students
Jul2007 : Covered 2-5 states, 13 schools and 636 students
Jan2008 : Covered 5 states, 28 schools and 1703 students

Of all the students interviewed a great majority (~70%-90%) were Malay students and the rest were Chinese, Indian and Orang Asli. In terms of gender, it was quite an even representation of male and female students. There is a range in the number of states because I could not locate where a few of the schools were from in the study. East Malaysia was not represented.

What disturbs me most about this study is its lack of objectivity in the analysis. A glass that is half empty can also be viewed as half full. The study was vague in many of its questioning techniques so it is not surprising that the results were dubious (or it could be that I did not get hold of the full version). For me, to generalize well, the sample size taken has to be large, sample has to represent of the population and sample must be well-studied. Therefore, I find this report very courageous to call it quits with its (lack of) findings.

Strike One: Horrible Addition

Firstly, the sample was introduced according to race: Melayu, Cina, India, Orang Asli and Lain-lain. My guess is as good as yours what is classified under "Lain-lain"- international students perhaps? And the most glaring mistake is that in Feb 2007, the sample size N = 1564 but when I add up the number of students according to race, the sum is only N=1549. So where did the other 15 students go? There wasn't a Lain-lain Lagi category and the following percentages made were based on N=1549 but yet all the other results kept repeating N=1564. I have ruled out typo because in the table that detailed the school and number of students stated sampel size as N=1564. Okay, let's give it the benefit of doubt, maybe it is typo... but hang on. In Jadual 2.3 the sum of male and female students interviewed in Feb2007 Tahun 5 do not add up to N=1564 as well! The male students (817) and the female students (733) adds to 1550. I shudder at the thought of the other 14 students being Lain-lain.

Q1: Should one trust a report that cannot add up simple Maths and did not account for missing data?


Strike Two: Insufficient Representation

I know I am not promoting unity here by drawing your attention to the sample divided according to race again, but that was how the study was reported.

Feb 07: Malay 69.5%, Indian 7.7%, Chinese 15.5%, Orang Asli 7% and Lain-lain 0.3%
Jul 07 : Malay 89% , Indian 7.5%, Chinese 1.9% , Orang Asli 0.5% and Lain-lain 1.1%
Jan 08: Malay 80% , Indian 12.6%, Chinese 3.5%, Lain-lain 3.8%

From the sampel above, the conclusion made (after more statistics in between) was that 73.7% of all races find it "hard/not easy" to study English and on the average, 70% find it "hard" and "quite hard" to study Mathematics in English.

Let's assume that there are no mistakes in calculation here. It is so blatant that one race dominated this study and yet the conclusion made was for all races. It is not as though Indian/Chinese students are hard to find, there are many Indian/Chinese students here in Selangor alone. Why couldn't the team who conducted this study have a more balanced ratio? 89% and 1.9% is too vast a difference to conclude that they represent all races.

Q2: Should one trust a study that suggests manipulation of data?

Strike Three: Vague and Ambiguous Results

I think success happens when you have achieved your dreams and live a God-fearing life. You may say I'm nuts and insist that success is when a man keeps a mistress to release 'extra energy' and it's okay as long as his wife does not find out. A word as simple as success can be so hard to define and agreed upon for you and I who have gone through at least 15 years of formal education.

Strike three part I
One got to have a well-defined battleground before an act of convincing can begin. What is defined as "Hard", "Sometimes Hard" and "Easy" as stated in this report? Has learning a Mathematics concept ever been "Easy" all the time? About 62.8% of the students rated learning Mathematics in English as "Hard/Sometimes Hard". Which topic? Why was that topic hard to understand? Was it because of the teacher's explanation or the nature of the concept which required more time to digest?

Strike three part II
The idea that I get from this study that English is the reason of failed Mathematics learning. No doubt the medium of instruction plays a part but it is naive to indicate that English is the culprit and once removed, test scores will increase. We all know too well how test questions/scores can be easily packaged for strategic misinterpretation by the public. Anyway, back to my point of English not being the only reason for low performance in Mathematics

Look at test item 2 (6x7), test item 3 (72÷8) and test item 5 (4/5 - __ = 7/10). Students generally did not score too well in Mathematics language itself (the detailed breakdown of percentage can be obtained from the report- pg40). This shows that the problem is with the students' numeracy skills and this is likely to lead to wrong answers given for worded Mathematics problems. I really doubt that by removing English totally, it will increase numeracy skills significantly because it was reported in this study that only 9.1% of teachers used only English as medium of instruction.

You're Out!

I have over-indulged myself with all the flaws in the statistics made. When I saw this report, I was going to dismiss it but I realised that many have echoed that TLSME has failed because this study said so. And this study is so flawed, I am not even halfway though analyzing it. I may not cackle like a frightened chicken, but I am so ready to gorge my eyeballs out if I read/analyze any further of

(i) how they borrowed strength form the study of Form1&2 Mathematics learning difficulties in English (report done in 2005 after 2 years of implementation),

(ii)how they claimed to have used ANOVA, chi-square, F-distribution etc. to get the statistics but not explain in detail what the results indicate or how it strengthened their arguments,

(iii) how they lacked controlled group and did not study other areas that contribute to the success/failure of learning eg: culture in school, parental influence, teacher's believes and practices, resources, alternative assessments, etc.


I do not think anyone should expect anything less than an earth-shaking revelation from a comprehensive study to call for a reverse in the decision of TLSME . Mere words do no justice to the disappointment I feel of the substandard study headed by a Prof. Emeritus. Building castles in the sky is cool, but what happens when you don't have strong statistics to support it? All fall down.

Ooopsie (UPSI) daisy!!

icon2008 said...

Currently, I am pursuing my first degree in UPSI. I am majoring in TESL and minoring in Literature.

I believe the research carried out by Prof. Isahak Haron. He is an educationist. Besides, he has been supervised by Benjamin Bloom (please search in google for this name) while doing his doctoral degree in Chicago.

As an experienced professor, I am sure that his words have some strength in them.

I challenge anyone of you to produce a research which is better than the one done by Prof. Isahak.

IMHO, teaching of Math & Science has really defeated its initial purpose. You know why? This is because those Math & Science teachers, especially in rural areas, are not really trained or proficient in English.

Come on, you are trying to kill two birds with a stone. You want the students to master English and Mathematics at the same time. This is really absurd and unfair for both the students and teachers (especially those who are not proficient English users).

I fully believe that, we should have an undivided mind while trying to implement something. If you want the students to master mathematical skills, go ahead. Likewise, you want to produce proficient English users, go ahead too. But, please do not kill two birds with a stone.

Last but not least, please do not insult the research done by the academics. Unless, you are really shoulder to shoulder with them. That is you have a better credential than them. I am about to laugh my ass off.

icon2008 said...

Currently, I am pursuing my first degree in UPSI. I am majoring in TESL and minoring in Literature.

I believe the research carried out by Prof. Isahak Haron. He is an educationist. Besides, he has been supervised by Benjamin Bloom (please search in google for this name) while doing his doctoral degree in Chicago.

As an experienced professor, I am sure that his words have some strength in them.

I challenge anyone of you to produce a research which is better than the one done by Prof. Isahak.

IMHO, teaching of Math & Science has really defeated its initial purpose. You know why? This is because those Math & Science teachers, especially in rural areas, are not really trained or proficient in English.

Come on, you are trying to kill two birds with a stone. You want the students to master English and Mathematics at the same time. This is really absurd and unfair for both the students and teachers (especially those who are not proficient English users).

I fully believe that, we should have an undivided mind while trying to implement something. If you want the students to master mathematical skills, go ahead. Likewise, you want to produce proficient English users, go ahead too. But, please do not kill two birds with a stone.

Last but not least, please do not insult the research done by the academics. Unless, you are really shoulder to shoulder with them. That is you have a better credential than them. I am about to laugh my ass off.

geek world said...

Yes cannot download frm nst website