Will the teaching of maths and science in English result in the drop of standards in  these two subjects without substantially raising the standard of  English among the students?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Tuesday)The Malaysian national education system is in the worst mess in the 44-year history of the nation.  The appointment of a non-politician and a former academician to the post of Education Minister after the 1999 general election has failed to restore confidence in the quality of the national education system as there appears to be even more “politics” under a non-politician Education Minister as illustrated by the Aku Janji pledges imposed on university academicians and students in utter disregard of the principles of academic freedom and excellence as well as  the  “politicization” of education in the Damansara Chinese Primary School and Vision School issues.  

In the past month alone, there have been three raging controversies affecting education, viz:  

The Education Ministry has not acquitted itself creditably in all these three raging controversies.

The Government, and in particular UMNO, lack  the political will to take drastic measures to check the 30-year decline in  the standard of English in Malaysia.  

On 6th May, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad announced 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”.    

On 8th May, Mahathir said the Cabinet  had at its weekly Wednesday meeting the day before discussed the re-introduction of the English-medium school system to arrest the decline in the subject, but it was not discussed at length as “we want to hear what the people have to say on the subject” and that the government was serious about getting public reaction on the issue.    

On 10th May, Mahathir said the UMNO supreme council at its three-hour meeting had decided that it was unnecessary to re-introduce the English-medium school system and proposed instead that science and mathematics be taught in English starting from Standard One.    

On 11th May, the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad confirmed that science and mathematics will be taught in English and said a committee had been set up under the Education director-general Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat to determine how and when it could be implemented.  

The Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin said on the same day that the Education Ministry was prepared to begin translating into English the science and mathematics textbooks for Standard One pupils.  

Four pertinent  questions arise from this chronology of events:  

The UMNO Supreme Council can disregard the views of the other Barisan Nasional component parties, but it cannot treat the views of the Malaysian people with contempt – inviting them to give their views on whether  English-medium school system should be reintroduced to integrate with the new global economy and then shutting out the people’s views in a matter of days without any serious attempt to receive and consider public feedbacks.

The Cabinet meeting tomorrow should decide:  

Chinese school educationists and  parents are rightly concerned about the extension of the UMNO Supreme Council proposal to teach mathematics and science in English to the Chinese primary schools, and if the UMNO Supreme Council proposal has become a fait accompli, then the Cabinet tomorrow should take the policy to exempt the Chinese primary schools from this new rule.  

Actually, the most sensible thing for the Cabinet to do tomorrow is to set up an all-party committee to invite public feedback on how best to resolve the unchecked decline of the standard of English for the past 30 years, and to come out with its recommendations in nine to twelve months.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman