Tuesday): The National Union of Teaching Profession
secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam has gone to the defence of the
Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik
in his disgraceful spat with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) President
Datuk M. Kayveas as to whether Gerakan should be suspended from the Barisan
Nasional for its stand not to support the use of English to teach mathematics
and science in all primary schools from Std. One next year and whether PPP is a
“mosquito party” with half-a-million “phantom” members eyeing
Gerakan’s position in BN.
Siva Subramaniam said educational issues should not be
stretched out of context by politicians who aspired to outdo each other at any
He said: “Once politicians start doing this, the entire
issue will become messy and lose its actual connotation. Let’s see what
Gerakan will offer as a counter-proposal before jumping the gun and shooting Dr.
Lim down.” (Star)
Siva Subramaniam is right, but the question is why he or
the NUTP had not uttered a single
word of advice or warning in the
past month when some UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders were making all sorts of
baseless statements and allegations about the issue.
In fact, Siva Subramaniam owes a full public
explanation to justify his “somersault” on the issue of the use of English
to teach mathematics and science in primary schools when early this month
he called on Malaysians to look towards the future and support the
government's decision to introduce the proposal from Std. One next year.
earlier, however, Siva Subramaniam said NUTP,
which represents 106,000 teachers, have not come across any study which
states that teaching mathematics and science in English is more effective than
in Bahasa Malaysia or other languages. (NST 5.7.02)
He had then said that the NUTP had sent a
memorandum to the Education Ministry expressing its concern that teaching
mathematics and science in English might make
it difficult for the government to achieve its 60:40 target ratio of
maths/science to arts students, as students with an average command of the
language would avoid taking the subjects.
He was then full of conviction that rural students, who do not live in an English-speaking environment, would find it difficult to understand the mathematics and science syllabi.
He even made the point that many countries use English as a medium of instruction in schools but they are less developed than Malaysia.
Is Siva Subramaniam preparing to make another
“somersault” of his position on the issue?
The NUTP secretary-general never explained what
educational reasons make him and the NUTP change their position on the use of
English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools in Std. One from
“undesirable” to “most desirable”, and now a seemingly reserved and
But Siva Subramaniam seems to be doing what is
customary for educationists and policy makers in Malaysia, to take or change
positions on educational issues purely on momentary whims and fancies without
having to give any educational grounds – and up to now, no one, whether
Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, Education Director-General Datuk Abdul
Rafei Mamat or the NUTP had given a single reason from any expert study, whether
national and international, to show that using English to teach mathematics and
science from Std.One to is a good
educational idea and will not lead to decline in standards for all three
subjects – English, mathematics and science - when this is not the mother
tongue or home language of the students or
the system of education is the “total immersion system” of using English as
the sole medium of instruction.
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi has summoned a meeting of all the 15 Barisan Nasional component parties
today to discuss the controversy over the use of English to teach mathematics
and science in all schools . Mahathir
may attend the meeting as he has returned last night from his two-day visit to
DAP calls on
the 15 Barisan Nasional component
parties today to salvage the full meaning of the 45th National Day
celebrations by ending the most unseemly
and unprofessional handling of the controversy on using English to teach
mathematics and science in Std. One
by revoking the Cabinet’s July 19 decision, which is threatening overshadow
and undermine this year’s National Day celebrations.
Last Wednesday, at
the farewell lunch for Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia whose term as Cabinet
Minister had expired because of the expiry of his appointment as
Senator, Mahathir said that the
Malaysian Cabinet had won the admiration of other countries with its proven
ability to develop and administer the nation.
However, the Cabinet has of late not presented a flattering picture of its policy-making process as it is now clear that the
Cabinet’s July 19 decision on the use of English to teach mathematics and
science in primary schools from Std. One was
made without proper expert advice or full understanding of the
implications of the decision whether on
academic performance of students in a multi-racial and multi-lingual society and
the nation’s international competitiveness to face the challenges of
globalisation, liberalization and information and communications technology.
Almost a month after the Cabinet’s July 19 decision, Keng
Yaik announced that the Gerakan, after a month’s study including referring to 12 books and working papers presented by eminent
local and foreign academicians on the topic, is now convinced that
a student should first have a strong command of his mother tongue to
learn science and mathematics effectively.
Why didn’t Keng
Yaik, one of the most senior and
longest-serving Cabinet Ministers, seek expert advice before he joined in giving
unanimous support to the Cabinet’s July 19 decision?
Why didn’t he ask the Cabinet to postpone decision until expert advice
was available for the entire Cabinet? Why
didn’t all the other Cabinet Ministers seek expert advice before making the
important decision on July 19?
I really do not
know what is there to admire in a Cabinet which could handle the issue of the
use of English to teach mathematics and science in Std. One in such a
ham-fisted, unprofessional and insensitive
The meeting of the leaders of the 15 Barisan Nasional
component parties today should take full cognizance of the important fact that
there is national consensus regardless of political affiliation -
whether government or opposition - race,
language, culture or religion on
the urgent need to raise proficiency in English, mathematics and science in primary and secondary schools and universities and the
challenge is how to achieve a greater national consensus on the best and least
divisive way to raise the standards of these three subjects without spoiling the
45th National Day celebrations and plunging the country into a
totally unnecessary and avoidable nation-building crisis with threats of
Internal Security Act arrests and other undemocratic crackdowns.