DAP calls for the “2:4:3” proposal to be re-opened for national debate and discussion as Musa Mohamad is right when he said this formula will be a “loss” for Chinese primary school pupils especially when they have to sit for the maths and science subjects in UPSR from 2008 in English
by Lim Kit SiIang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): In his interview with Mingguan Malaysia yesterday, Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad said the bilingual formula for Chinese primary schools to teach science and mathematics beginning next year for Std. One is not an “advantage” but a “loss” for the Chinese primary school students.
Musa is right, especially when he revealed for the first time that UPSR mathematics and science subjects from 2008 onwards would be fully conducted in the English language.
Last Wednesday, Musa said that Chinese schools will have a free hand in deciding on the method of teaching mathematics and science in English from next year provided that it is in line with what has been decided by the Cabinet in accordance with the “2:4:3 formula” agreed by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council on Oct. 31.
Although this is an issue of great importance to the students, parents and the nation, it is unfortunate, unsatisfactory and most unacceptable that the full details of the “2:4:3 formula” decided by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council have not been fully disclosed to the Malaysian public to allow for an in-depth and comprehensive debate and discussion, and Malaysians have to get information about the details of the “2:4:3” formula in dribs and drabs – as for instance, Musa’s revelation for the first time yesterday that UPSR maths and science would be set in English from 2008.
After the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council meeting on Oct. 31, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that students in the Chinese schools would have to sit for examinations for maths and science in both English and Chinese until 2008, leaving open the question as to the language that would be used for the UPSR from 2008 onwards.
The “2:4:3” formula reached by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council is to increase the weekly school periods in Std. One for Chinese primary schools to 50 periods, not only longer than Std. One classes for national and Tamil primary schools but even longer than Chinese primary school Std. II to VI classes, whereby three periods of Chinese and one period each of Moral Education and Physical Education are reduced to create the “2:4:3” formula of two periods for English, four periods teaching mathematics in English and three periods teaching Science in English.
Legitimate questions have been raised whether this “2:4:3” formula is educationally sound and the most effective way to maximize the potential and capabilities of our children, in view of educational studies worldwide that the most important task in the early years of primary education is to develop the child’s thinking skills which is best achieved through the mother-tongue or home language.
Eight Japanese have won Nobel prizes for scientific achievements, two of them this year, viz. Masatoshi Koshiba for Physics and Koichi Tanaka for Chemistry – and all the eight were taught mathematics and science in their Japanese mother-tongue in primary and secondary education before acquiring English proficiency. Five of the six ethnic Chinese who became Nobel Science Laureate also had their earlier grounding in mathematics and science in their mother-languages in primary and secondary education, namely Daniel Tsui Chye (Physics 1998), Yuan T. Lee (Chemistry 1986), Samuel C.C. Ting (Physics 1976), Chen Ning Yang (Physics 1957) and Tsung-Dao Lee (Physics 1957).
However, if the mathematics and science subjects in UPSR from 2008 onwards are to be set in English, new considerations arise, as for instance, whether the bilingual formula is the best way for the Chinese primary school pupils to get the best results in the UPSR mathematics and science examination set in English!
In the process, primary education in the Chinese stream will be moving further and further from its proper objectives – not to achieve the highest academic attainments in mathematics and science, but to get the best results in the UPSR in these two subjects which will be set in English!
If the Chinese and Japanese education systems had insisted on their students learning mathematics and science in the English language instead of their mother tongue from their early years in primary schools to first develop their thinking skills, they would not have produced a single Nobel Laureate in science.
In the 2002 UPSR results, Chinese primary school students scored a high pass rate of 92.6% in mathematics and 71.7% pass rate in English. Any change in the primary school time-table should aim at raising further the pass rates of both mathematics and English, and not to see a plunge in the mathematics pass rates because pupils with the mathematical proficiency in Mandarin may not have acquired comparable mathematical proficiency in English when in Std. VI.
This is why DAP has made two proposals: firstly, the “1-2-3 Formula” to assess whether the “2:4:3” proposal fulfils the three tests of enhancing English proficiency, maintaining the traditional high standards of mathematics and science and preserving mother-tongue proficiency; and secondly, that mathematics and science should only be taught in English in secondary schools from Secondary One.
It would be most unfair to place the students in the Chinese primary schools in an disadvantageous position where, as Musa said, they will be the “losers”, with an educationally unsound “2:4:3” proposal aggravated by the requirement that the students would have to sit for the mathematics and science subjects in UPSR from 2008 in English.
In the interest of the educational future of our children, DAP calls for the whole “2:4:3” formula to be re-opened for public discussion and debate.
* Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman