Tuesday): UMNO Vice President and Minister for Domestic Trade and
Consumer Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that many countries in
the world, including China, Japan, Korea and France, are turning to English as
it can help them progress.
He said the Chinese were immersing themselves in English
through special programmes, while Singaporeans communicate in English. And even
people in France, who are so proud of their language, are learning in English.
(New Straits Times).
Although Muhyuiddin was responding to questions about the
opposition to the use of English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese
primary schools, Muhyiddin does not seem to fully understand the reasons for
the opposition which is not confined to Chinese primary schools but also
national and Tamil primary schools embracing the parents and teachers from all
the three major races in the country.
Furthermore, he also does not understand that disagreement
is not on whether English proficiency in schools and university should be
enhanced but whether the use of English to teach mathematics and science in
primary schools from Std. One is the best, proper or sound educational answer to
This is because educational
research on bilingual education worldwide in the past three decades have shown
that using a second language as a medium of instruction from too early stages
can impede the development of thinking skills of children
resulting in low achievements in mathematics, science and languages –
which are powerful educational arguments against the use of English to teach
mathematics and science from Std. One.
When Muhyiddin mentioned China and France, is he suggesting
that in these two countries, English is used to teach mathematics and science in
primary schools from Std. One?
When he referred to the Singapore example, is he suggesting
that Malaysian schools should emulate the Singapore example in having primary
and secondary schools with English as the medium of instruction?
UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders should be more discerning
and sophisticated when they quote foreign countries to back up their arguments,
so that their arguments make sense and have persuasive quality.
It is most unfortunate that up to now, neither the Cabinet nor the Education Ministry had made any attempt to convince Malaysians that using English to teach mathematics and science in national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools can achieve the desired results of raising the academic attainments of the pupils in mathematics, science and the languages.
I call on the Cabinet
tomorrow to direct the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad
to spearhead discussions with Malay, Chinese and Indian educational
bodies on the educational soundness of the proposal to use English to teach
mathematics and science from Std. One in national, Chinese and Tamil primary
UMNO Supreme Council member and former Cabinet Minister ,
Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, is to be commended for his liberal and
enlightened views on the issue when he said in an interview with
Malaysiakini that the teaching of English should not be forced down the throats
of Chinese and Tamil schools when the government had chosen not to impose the
switch from English-medium to Malay-medium on them previously.
“The more you force this upon the vernacular schools, the more you are politicising education. I think that whatever the Chinese or Tamil schools want, they should be left to it.
“In fact, when Bahasa Malaysia was implemented as a medium of instruction in the early ‘70s, they were not forced to implement it and continued with their respective languages.
“On that score alone, I think they should be left alone to continue teaching in their own language. Why do we have to force them to use English?”
The Cabinet meeting tomorrow should also give serious consideration to the views expressed by Shahrir on the issue.