Height of irresponsibility  for Keng Yaik  to join UMNO Youth and other extremist  attacks on   Dong Jiao Zong over the “2:4:3 formula” when  three months ago,  Gerakan Central Committee unanimously opposed the use of English to teach mathematics and science from Std. One in all schools on solid educational grounds

Media Statement
Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday): It is the height of irresponsibility for the Gerakan President and Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik to join in the UMNO Youth and other extremist attacks on Dong Jiao Zong over the “2:4:3 formula” when three months ago, the Gerakan  Central Committee had declared its opposition to the move to teach Science and Mathematics in English from Standard One in all schools next year on solid educational grounds. 

On August 17, 2002, Keng Yaik said the Gerakan Central Committee had taken the decision to oppose the use of English to teach Science and Mathematics from Std. One in all schools after a month-long study of the proposal, including referring to 12 books and working papers presented by eminent local and foreign academicians on the topic.


He said most studies had shown that a student should first have a strong command of his mother tongue to learn Science and Mathematics effectively.


Keng Yaik said the Gerakan study also revealed that although children in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany learnt the subjects in their languages, the countries were still advanced in science and technology.


He said studies had shown that children would have no difficulty doing Mathematics in their mother tongue but would find it hard to relate to their environment if they learnt Science and Mathematics in English  at an early age.


As a result, the Gerakan Central Committee decided that the “existing medium of instruction in both subjects” should be retained and that English should be used to teach Mathematics and Science in  secondary schools.


The decision taken by the Gerakan Central Committee on August 17 was educationally sound and solid, addressing the issue solely as an educational question as to what is best for the students and not as a political issue in terms of how to compete with others to get into the “good books” of UMNO.


This was in fact the line and  argument which the DAP had been making as far back as July, quoting extensive educational studies world-wide which show that using a second language as a medium of instruction from too early stages can impede the  development of thinking skills  of students resulting in low achievements in mathematics, science and languages. 


This is why internationally-acknowledged educationists and researchers of bilingual education are of the view that in the early years of  primary education, mother-tongue or home language education  is imperative to achieve a higher level of mental maturity, which can then be transferred into a second-language education – a position which is vindicated by the long list of Nobel Science Laureates and distinguished mathematicians and scientists who received their initial groundings in mathematics and science in their non-English first mother-tongue languages, whether Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (Nobel Physics 1930 - India), Abdul Kalam (Father of Missile Technology, India), Chen Ning Yang and  Tsung Dao Lee (Nobel Physics 1957 - Chinese), Loo-Keng Hua (Father of Modern Mathematics, China),    Albert Einstein (Nobel Physics 1921 - German) or Marie Curie (Nobel Physics 1903 – French).


Can Keng Yaik name the books, working papers and eminent local and foreign academicians as his authority  to justify the abandonment of the Gerakan Central Committee stand on August 17 and to give  support to  the “2:4:3” decision, which is a pure political  compromise reached by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council and  rubber-stamped by the Cabinet with  no educational justification whatsoever!


What is the use of  the Gerakan Central Committee spending one month to consult “12 books and working papers by eminent local and foreign academicians” when the Gerakan leadership could disregard them and abandon its August 17 decision to oppose the use of English to teach Mathematics and Science from Std. One and to  support  the “2:4:3” formula without any sound educational support, whether in theory or practice?


Isn’t it  the height of political opportunism and total lack of political principles that Keng Yaik and the Gerakan leaders can simply throw the “12 books and working papers of eminent and foreign academicians” into the waste-paper basket  and to adopt a political compromise which is educationally unsound?


What is doubly outrageous is that Keng Yaik could claim political righteousness not only by attacking Dong Jiao Zong, but  also to give tacit encouragement to the UMNO, UMNO Youth and other extremist attacks on Dong Jiao Zong by not condemning or even dissociating from such extremist attacks, including calls for the closure of Chinese primary schools.


Is Keng Yaik, for instance, prepared to support the DAPSY demand that the UMNO Youth Education Bureau chairman, Dr. Adham Baba should be arrested and charged in court for sedition for his statement yesterday calling for the closure of Chinese primary schools in view of Dong Jiao Zong’s opposition to the “2:4:3” proposal?


Adham’s statement, which also appeared on the UMNO Youth website of 13th November 2002,, said among other things:


“Pengerusi Biro Pendidikan, Pergerakan Pemuda UMNO Malaysia, Dr Adham Baba berkata penutupan semua SJKC ini wajar memandangkan sikap prejudis berterusan kedua-dua pertubuhan terbabit terhadap apa jua rancangan pendidikan yang ingin dilakukan kerajaaan.”


Keng Yaik’s outburst against Dong Jiao Zong in Sungai Petani yesterday is not the first time he is in the vanguard against these two educational organizations  while maintaining total silence  when UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders made extremist statements or took extremist actions, in utter disregard of Malaysia’s distinctive character as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and mutli-religious nation.


Malaysians can still remember that Keng Yaik was the first to give full public support when a few months back, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad warned  “cultural and education extremists” among  Chinese educationists to stop “playing with fire” or face action! 


On Tuesday, Gerakan secretary-general Chia Kwang Chye said that everyone agreed that the standard of English needed to be improved in the country but it was only a question of how. He claimed that neither the Opposition nor Dong Jiao Zong had made any constructive proposal on an alternative method of implementation.


Either Chia was  talking from sheer ignorance or he was being most dishonest politically.


DAP, for instance, had  proposed “Formula 1-2-3” to be the overriding criteria in primary schools  to achieve the triple objectives of enhancing English proficiency, maintaining traditional high standards in mathematics and science and preserving mother-tongue proficiency, and three specific proposals for Std. One in Chinese primary schools,  with  English becoming a medium of instruction for  mathematics and science in secondary schools, viz:


  • Scrap the “2:4:3” formula and use all the nine new periods for the teaching of English  if the new 50-period-per-week cannot be further modified, in order to meaningfully  raise  English proficiency in Chinese primary schools; 

  • An 48-period-a-week time-table for Std. One for Chinese primary schools distributed among Bahasa Malaysia (9 periods), Chinese (14), English (6), Mathematics (7), Science (3), Moral (2), Music (2), PE (2), Arts (2) and Weekly Assembly (1); or 

  • An alternative distribution of the 48 period-per-week, as follows: Bahasa Malaysia (9 periods), Chinese (14), English (9), Mathematics (7),  Moral (2), Music (2), PE (2), Arts (2) and Weekly Assembly (1).  


Anyone of these three alternatives is better and superior  than the “2:4:3” decision of the Barisan Nasional to achieve the triple objectives of “Formula 1-2-3”.


Is Keng Yaik prepared to submit these three DAP proposals, which are more in tune with international educational studies,  to the Cabinet next Wednesday to replace the “2:4:3” proposal which has no educational merit whatsoever?


* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP National Chairman