DAP proposes an all-party committee to consider the idea of re-introduction of English-medium school system and how best to arrest the unchecked decline of standard of English

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday)Four days after saying that the government was willing to re-introduce the English-medium school system to arrest the decline of the standard of English “if the people want it”,  the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad himself shot down the idea  after a meeting of the UMNO Supreme Council meeting yesterday. 

Mahathir said the UMNO Supreme Council rejected the proposal to reintroduce English-medium schools on the ground that it would be contrary to the National Education Policy and proposed instead that Science and Mathematics be taught in English. 

The four-day window for public opinion seeking, which saw support for the reintroduction of English-medium schools  among some  educationists,  politicians, community leaders, unionists and parents  including the Kedah Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Syed Razak Syed Zain, must rank as the shortest in the nation’s history, and raises the question whether the Prime Minister and the government are serious in wanting public feedbacks on the important issues of the standard of English, the education system and Malaysia’s competitiveness in the international marketplace.

Malaysians are entitled to ask why the UMNO Supreme Council should have the sole and final say on issues of national importance like how to arrest the unchecked decline of English standard in the country and whether there should be a re-introduction of English-medium schools, why the views of the other Barisan Nasional component parties were not sought and  treated with such open contempt,  and why  no proper mechanism for public feedbacks on the issue was put in place before it was summarily dismissed after the short-lived four-day public opinion seeking. 

In the past three  decades, when the standard of English in Malaysia  suffered its worst decline, the three current senior-most UMNO leaders had held the portfolio of the Education Ministry, namely Mahathir himself, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and as such,  they are  among the handful who must bear the greatest responsibility for  Malaysia’s plunge in  international competitiveness because of the collapse of the standard of English in the country. 

All efforts in the past decade to raise the standard of English had not only come to nought, but seen a further dive in the standard of English in the schools and universities. 

For instance, the outcome  of the Second Outline Perspective Plan 1991-2000 to  give greater importance to the teaching of English as a second language in order to stem the decline in the standard of English had only produced a situation where about 60 per cent of school heads in the country had a very poor command of the English language!  This recent statement by the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) had not been contested by the Education Ministry. 

The problem of the unchecked decline of the standard of English has become too chronic and protracted.  The Malaysian public should be allowed adequate time  to consider and give their views on how to arrest the decline and enhance the standard of English in the schools and universities, including  the proposal for the reintroduction of the English-medium school system, and for this reason, DAP proposes the establishment of  an all-party committee to be tasked with the terms of reference to invite representations and submit a report on this issue within a year.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman