(Petaling Jaya, Friday):
Sin Chew Jit Poh today
reported that the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad would on Monday
answer 32 questions from MPs in
one go on the new policy to use
English to teach mathematics and science
in primary schools.
would be seeking the permission of the Speaker to answer all the 32 questions in
one go during question time on Monday, so that he could give a
“comprehensive” explanation on the subject.
Speaker should refuse permission for such a request, as Parliament will be
reduced to a joke if the Education Minister is allowed to answer 32 questions in
one go on the “hot” issue on the use of English to teach mathematics and
science, taking about 20 to 30 minutes, which would deny
“comprehensive” questioning by
MPs on the subject.
may regard his answer as “comprehensive” enough, but this
may not be shared by MPs. In any event, the purpose of parliamentary
question time is to allow MPs to have the opportunity have a
“comprehensive” scrutiny of the Minister’s performance and conduct, and
not to allow the Minister to give what he purports to be
a “comprehensive” answer.
proper thing for Musa to do is one of two things:
the 32 questions into at least six groups, depending on the various aspects of
the issue, to be answered on six separate occasions during question time in
the budget meeting, which would mean the possibility of six Ministerial
answers on different aspects of the issue, together with 12 supplementary
questions instead of one “Big Bang’ answer followed by at most four
supplementary questions on Monday.
a Ministerial statement on the
issue followed by a three hour
whole principle of these two alternatives is to do justice both to MPs who have
asked 32 questions on the subject and to the issue, which is of great public
importance to all Malaysians.
there are past parliamentary precedents where Ministers had been allowed to
answer some 30 questions on the same topic in one go, this is a bad precedent
which should not be followed or upheld.
are many aspects of the issue about the new policy to use English to teach
mathematics and science in schools which must be given ample time for
parliamentary scrutiny of the conduct or performance of the Education Minister
in the past three months, such as:
this issue being decided primarily as an
educational or political question and if the former, why had
the UMNO Supreme Council usurped not only the Education Ministry but
even the Cabinet on this question?
this issue has been allowed to be such
a divisive national question, as to elicit
threats to use the Internal Security Act
and allegations of “extremists”, “anti-national” and “traitors”
and unprecedented media control
and censorship to shut out national debate and discussion when there is a
national consensus across all political parties, whether government or
opposition, and communities, regardless of race or language, about the
urgent need to raise English proficiency in schools and universities to
restore Malaysia’s competitiveness?
is the objective of the new policy to use English to teach mathematics and
science in primary schools from Std. One, is it (i) to raise the standard of English; (ii) to raise
proficiency in mathematics and science or (ii) produce
“bilinguals who are
academically better than monolinguals”?
the 10-year Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010, which was never
presented to Parliament, made no mention about the objective of turning
Malaysia into a powerhouse in
mathematics and science, the teaching of these two subjects in English in
primary schools from Std. One, and why no Parliament reports on Malaysia’s
performance at the Third
International Mathematics and Science Study – Repeat (TIMMS 1999) or the
annual International Mathematics and Science Olympiads which benchmark
Malaysia’s rather poor international
standing in these two subjects.
four studies used by Musa to justify the new policy to use English to teach
mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One require at least
three full question-and-answer
sessions, especially as the four studies are on the effects of bilingual
education and academic performance of language-minority students and not
language-majority students in the United States. There are over 80 diverse
ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minorities in the United States.
About three-fourths of these students speak Spanish; the nine other largest
groups, in descending order of size, are: Vietnamese, Hmong, Cantonese,
Cambodian, Korean, Laotian, Navajo, Tagalog and Russian. A 1993 US
Department of Education report estimated a total of about 2.3 million
limited English proficiency (LEP) students in grades K-12. The first session
should focus on how appropriate are such studies on the performance of
language-minority students in the US to national primary schools where the
Malays are the language-majority students in the Malaysian education system.
second session on the four studies are their vindication and
implications for mother-tongue education in Malaysia, in particular
Chinese and Tamil primary schools, whether the Education Ministry is
prepared to review and implement a “New Deal for mother-tongue
education” by according equal treatment for the development of Chinese and
Tamil primary schools on par with national primary schools.
A third session on the four studies will focus on Musa’s comment in Malaysiakini yesterday advocating the “broader definition” of bilingual education – whether Malaysia should introduce bilingual or trilingual education to take full advantage of Malaysia’s multi-lingual and multi-cultural diversity. MPs should be allowed to question Musa as to what type of bilingual education he has in mind – whether as in some European countries which develop the children’s speaking and literacy abilities in three languages, inclusive of their mother tongue, but do not teach maths and science in English or the American model which comprises a variety of programmes for language-minority (LM) students, such as 90-10, 50-50 or 10-90 bilingual programmes where the second language occupies 10, 50 or 90 per cent of the academic content.
are many other aspects of this issue which warrants fuller Ministerial scrutiny,
and to allow Musa to answer 32 questions in one go on Monday is to allow him to
abdicate from his responsibility to fully account to Parliament on one of the
most important issues with
far-reaching implications about the future competitiveness and prosperity of