Parliament next month should adopt an all-party motion  that Malaysia aims to be a powerhouse in mathematics and science and that Malaysia should immediately take part in all the five  International Science Olympiads to aim for gold medals

Speech (2)
- launching of the “Restore Chinese education freehold status” movement in Perak 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Sunday): UMNO leaders like the Deputy Education Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Samsudin in Bandar Jenka yesterday  have made the outrageous allegation that those who are opposed to the use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One are “traitors” who do not want the upliftment of Malaysian  educational standards to meet the challenges of the times or see  the success and  progress of Malaysia. 

DAP calls on all leaders, whether in government or opposition, to refrain from making wild, baseless and divisive allegations of this nature and to approach the challenge of transforming Malaysia into internatonal educational centre of excellence with full seriousness and commitment – especially as there is no disagreement among Malaysians, whether political parties, races, educational bodies, on the urgent need to raise the proficiency of English, mathematics and science in schools, both primary and secondary, and universities, whether public or private.  The differences are over means not the ends of this objective. 

If Malaysia wants to become an international centre of educational excellence, then the 10-year Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010 should be amended by a formal debate and vote in Parliament next month to adopt as a national objective the goal to position Malaysia as one of the world’s top nations in mathematics and science. 

In the Third International Mathematics and Science Study – Repeat (TIMMS-R) 1999, an eighth grade level test involving 38 countries and 180,000 students, five  Asian countries were the top performers in mathematics, namely Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan while topping science in the first five nations were four Asian countries, viz: Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.  Malaysia was placed a miserable 16th place for mathematics and 22nd place for science.

The first lesson to be learnt from the results of TIMSS 1999 is that it is not the use of English  to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Year One which is responsible for top scores in mathematics and science.

In the top 15 countries for mathematics, only Singapore (No. 1)  and Australia  (No. 13) use English to teach mathematics and science, as Canada (No. 10) is bilingual, using both English and French, while all the other 12 countries use their respective mother tongues to teach these two subjects.  Singapore uses the total immersion system of having English as the medium of instruction for schools – which Malaysia is not prepared to emulate.

The same applies to science, as apart from Singapore (No.2), Australia (No. 7), England (No.9) and Canada  (No. 14), all the other 11 countries use their respective mother tongue to teach the subject.

This is also the clear lesson from the results of the  International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), an annual  World Championship Mathematics Competition for High School students participated by over 80 countries, with each country sending six competitors.

In the 42nd International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) held in Washington in July 2001, China led  the top 20 out of the 83 participating  countries,  followed by Russia, USA, Bulgaria, South Korea, Kazakhstan, India, Ukraine, Taiwan, Vietnam, Turkey, Belarus, Japan, Germany, Romania, Brazil, Israel, Iran, Hong Kong and Poland.  Only one of these 20 top countries, the USA, used English to teach mathematics and science.  The placing for the other Asian countries are Thailand (No. 22), Singapore (No. 29), Indonesia (No. 59), Malaysia (No. 59) and  Philippines (No. 75).

Altogether 39 gold medals, 81 silver  medals and 122 bronze medals were awarded at the 2001 International Mathematical Olympiad, and the tally for the various Asian countries are as follows:

2001 International Mathematical Olympiad Medals Tally

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total  
China 6 - - 6


3 3 1 6


2 2 2 6


1 3 2 6


1 5 - 6


1 4 - 5
Singapore 0 1 4 5
Thailand  0 2 2 4
Indonesia  0 1 - 1

Hong Kong

0 2 4 6


0 0 0 0

Malaysia’s dismal results are equally evident in the 33rd International Physics Olympiad (IPO) held in Bali  last month, where a total of 42 gold medals, 37 silver medals and 58 medals were awarded, but Malaysia did not win a single medal.

The medal tally for the 2002 International Physics Olympiad in Bali are as follows:

2002 International Physics  Olympiad Medals Tally



Silver Bronze Total  
China 4 1 - 5
Korea 4 1 - 5
Taiwan 3 1 1 5
Indonesia 3 2 - 5
Singapore 2 1 1 4
Vietnam  1 4 - 5
India 1 4 - 5
Malaysia - - - -

These dismal results of Malaysia in the international mathematics and physics, as well as other science, Olympiads should be serious food for thought and debate by Parliamentarians next month. There are at least three  other international science Olympiads, covering chemistry, biology, informatics, which are held annually to “discover, encourage and challenge” the gifted young people in all countries in mathematics and science.

Parliament next month should adopt an all-party motion  that Malaysia aims to be a powerhouse in mathematics and science and that Malaysia should immediately take part in all the five International Science Olympiads to aim for gold medals.

An all-party Parliamentary Committee should be set up to assume responsibility to ensure that Malaysian pre-university students can excel in the five international mathematics and science Olympiads, to lay the basis to transform Malaysia into an international centre of educational excellence and a mathematics and science power-house.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman