DAP to launch a nation-wide “Formula 1-2-3” campaign for mathematics, science and English in Chinese primary schools with the objective of producing the first Malaysian Nobel Prize science laureate before 2020

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): DAP will  launch a nation-wide “Formula 1-2-3” campaign for mathematics, science and English in Chinese primary schools with the objective of producing the first Malaysian Nobel Prize science laureate before 2020.

Formula “1-2-3”, which  is a three-pronged objective to firstly, raise English proficiency, secondly, maintain high mathematics and science standards and thirdly, preserve mother-tongue proficiency in Chinese primary schools, is also applicable for national and Tamil primary schools although with modification.

The 1998 Nobel Laureate in physics, Professor Daniel Tsui Chye from Princeton University, is the best  example that learning  mathematics and science in the mother-tongue in the primary and secondary schools is no obstacle to reach the international pinnacle of excellence in these two fields, to the extent of being awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics.

The 1998  Nobel Prize award for Daniel Tsui was hailed as “proof of the success of mother-tongue education”  by the principal of the Hong Kong Pui Ching Middle School, Cheng Sing-yip as Daniel Tsui is the first Nobel Laureate   locally educated in mother-tongue education in Hong Kong. (South China Morning Post 14.10.1998).

Daniel Tsui was born as the youngest child of a farming family in 1939 who lived in a small village in Henan, China. His parents, who were illiterate, attached great importance to his education and sent him when he was 12 years old all the way to Hong Kong to start his formal schooling at the sixth grade.

Although he was so  poor that he had had to apply for tuition remission to finish his education, Daniel Tsui performed outstandingly in Pui Ching Middle School in Chinese, Chinese history, mathematics and other science subjects.  There was only one university in Hong Kong then, and all students from a secondary school that used Chinese as the medium of instruction had to attend a one-year special class to prepare for the entrance examination of the University of Hong Kong.

Daniel Tsui studied chemistry, physics and other subjects in the special class and gained entry to the University of Hong Kong, but decided to take up a scholarship to study in the United States.  He went to the United States in 1958 and earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Daniel Tsui is not the only example of a Nobel Science Laureate who learnt science and mathematics  in the mother-tongue in both primary and secondary schools, and later acquiring mastery of the English language to attain academic excellence and world renown,  the others who received their earlier mother-tongue grounding in these subjects either in China or Taiwan being:

Chen Ning Yang   1957 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Tsung-Dao Lee   1957 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Samuel C.C. Ting   1976 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Yuan T. Lee   1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

The  recently-released 2002 UPSR results have again demonstrated the traditional high standards in mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools as compared to the other  streams, as shown by the following:


Subject A B C ABC D E DE
National Schools              
Mathematics 24.2 26.7 31.1 82.0 11.0 7.0 18.0
Science 16.9 33.9 29.9 80.7 8.9 10.4 19.3
Chinese Schools              
Mathematics 52.7 23.2 16.7 92.6 4.6 2.8 7.4
Science 23.9 40.7 21.3 85.9 6.3 7.8 14.1
Tamil Schools              
Mathematics 15.9 29.7 35.5 81.1 12.5 6.4 18.9
Science 8.0 28.7 37.9 74.6 11.4 13.9 25.3

Malaysia will be able to offer a better  primary and secondary education than  those received by these  five Nobel Prize science laureates if apart from maintaining the traditional high standards of mathematics and science through the mother-tongue in these two subjects in the primary schools, English is seriously taught as a subject from Std. One.

The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamd said after his Ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting yesterday that national schools would continue to have a total of seven periods a week for mathematics while Chinese schools would have 10 from next year, and that the syllabus is the same for both streams.

Such a system where Chinese primary schools would require three additional periods to teach the same mathematics syllabus in  two languages does not make much education sense, especially when Chinese primary schools have traditionally higher standards in the subject  as compared to national primary schools.

It is unlikely that under the “2:4:3” formula, proficiency in English, mathematics or science  in the Chinese primary schools will be raised by teaching mathematics and science in English from Std. One, when the sound and sensible way would be to devote  all the nine new  periods per week for the teaching of English from Std. One, if the 50-period-a-week time-table cannot be further modified!

The “2:4:3” plan of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council approved by the Cabinet yesterday will not achieve the objectives of Formula 1-2-3 to enhance English proficiency, maintain high maths and science standards and preserve mother-tongue proficiency in Chinese primary schools and  thus unlikely to be the route to produce Nobel Science Laureates.

There should be a rational debate devoid of emotionalism or threats to use undemocratic and draconian laws so that a national consensus could be reached as to what is the best educational reform possible for the primary schools to achieve Formula 1-2-3 to pave the way to produce the first Malaysian Nobel Science Laureate before 2020.  This is an educational problem which should be resolved educationally and not by way of a “Barisan Nasional political decision” as admitted by the Education Director-General, Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman