The “2:4:3” formula to use English to teach mathematics and science in Std. One in Chinese primary schools has been  hailed as a “win-win” solution for UMNO and the Chinese-based Barisan parties but it may prove to be  a  “lose-lose” formula for the country and the Chinese primary school pupils

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday): The “2:4:3” formula to use English to teach mathematics and science in Std. One in Chinese primary schools has been hailed as a  “win-win” solution  for UMNO and the Chinese-based Barisan parties but it may prove to be  a  “lose-lose” formula  for the country and the Chinese primary school pupils.

It is most sad and unfortunate that despite repeated public declarations  by Barisan Nasional Cabinet Ministers and leaders that this is an educational issue which should not be “politicized”, the final solution is a purely political one which has nothing to do whatsoever with education – where the haggling over  allocation of school periods does not seem to be very different from the haggling of Barisan Nasional parties for seats  and candidates before a general election!


Although the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik claimed that the “2:4:3” formula was the result of “very intensive discussion” with “educationists, headmasters, curriculum development people, publishers and all people knowledgeable in education”, this “very intensive discussion” was in the context of complying with the arbitrary Barisan Nasional Supreme Council decision that mathematics and science from Std. One in Chinese primary schools should be taught in English, rather than what is the  best formula to achieve  the triple objectives in Chinese primary schools, viz: preserve mother-tongue education, raise English proficiency and  maintain/uplift the traditional  high standards in mathematics and science.


I do not believe that any  respectable or self-respecting educationist would come up with such an outrageous “2:4:3” formula to teach two  subjects in Std. One in two different languages, turning school children into playthings of politics,  if the terms of reference  given to educationists are to find the best  formula to  meet these triple objectives, without having to squeeze tortuously into the arbitrary  political decision of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council that the two subjects in Std. One must be taught in English as well.


The “2:4:3” formula may be a temporary political victory for the Barisan Nasional parties but only  time will tell whether it will prove to be an educational disaster for  the nation in general and  Chinese primary schools in particular for foisting a most unsound educational formula of teaching the same subject in two languages in Std. One.


Can the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, give one example of another country  in the world, universally regarded as an  international power-house in mathematics and science and where English is not the mother-tongue or home language,  which teaches mathematics and science from the first year in primary schools in two languages, one of them in English?


I find the response  of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday  to two questions on the “2:4:3” formula most revealing and instructive, which should be food for thought for everyone.


Firstly, when responding to the question whether the “2:4:3” formula would impose an extra burden on the Chinese primary school pupils, Mahathir said that the “2:4:3” formula was the best compromise the BN could make without completely rejecting the proposals for the Chinese component parties – the clearest  admission that the overriding consideration is not what is in the best educational interest of the students but  the political interests of the Barisan Nasional, which may not be the same as  the best interests of the nation and people.


Secondly, asked if he expected any similar demand from the Malay community that  mathematics and science should also  be taught in both English and Malay in the national primary schools, Mahathir said this was up to the Malay leaders to look into, adding: “As it is, our (Malay) children sometimes find it hard enough to cope (with the studies). And if we add on even more things on them, this would be an even tougher burden and they might lose out. It is up to them.” (The Star).


The meaning and implication is very clear – that such a “2:4:3” formula would be a great burden for the students, but if the Chinese-based Barisan Nasional parties are prepared to accept it, it is their own look-out and too bad for the Chinese primary school pupils.


It is clear that even  Mahathir does not think the “2:4:3” formula is an educationally sound one, and clearly not  suitable for the national and Tamil primary schools, but it is to be accepted as a Barisan Nasional “political compromise” with the Chinese-based parties in government.


The Cabinet should not give blind or blanket approval for such a dubious educational  formula.


The Cabinet should completely depoliticize the issue and establish a commission of educational experts to find the best formula to restructure and reform Chinese primary schools from Std. One to achieve the three objectives of preserving  mother-tongue education, raising English proficiency and  maintaining/uplifting the traditional  high standards in mathematics and science without imposing unbearable burdens on the students which would be disastrous for the education system as a whole and the greater objective to enhance Malaysia’s international competitiveness to face the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology.



*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman