Keng Yaik’s answer “We will cross the bridge when we come to it” when asked whether UPSR maths and science from 2008 would be fully conducted in the English language the height of Ministerial irresponsibility and political cowardice as he would not be around in 2008 “to cross the bridge”

Media Conference Statement (2)
when launching the DAP’s 46th National Day Celebrations and the “Defend Secular Malaysia” campaign in Tanjong parliamentary constituency
Lim Kit Siang

(PenangMonday): Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik was being utterly irresponsible when both he and the Gerakan 32nd National Delegates Conference failed to address the “Islamic State” nation-building crisis created by their full support for the undemocratic, arbitrary and unconstitutional  “929 Declaration” by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the 2001 Gerakan National Delegates Conference that Malaysia was an Islamic State. 

But this Ministerial  irresponsibility and political cowardice was matched if not overshadowed yesterday when he answered “We will cross the bridge when we come to it” (Malaysiakini) when asked whether UPSR mathematics and science from 2008 would be fully conducted in the English language. 

Keng Yaik should not kid himself and bluff the people   as he would not be around in 2008 “to cross the bridge” or bear any responsibility whether as Cabinet Minister or Gerakan President  if the UPSR mathematics and science subjects from 2008 onwards are fully conducted in the English language, as had been revealed by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia on 9th November 2002. At that interview, Musa had remarked that the bilingual formula of 2:4:3 for Chinese primary schools to teach science and mathematics was not an “advantage” but a “loss” for the Chinese primary school students! 

Keng Yaik would no more be in the Cabinet or in the political arena come 2008, but would he surrender all the honours and titles conferred on him, such as Datuk Seris and even a Tan Sri which would have come his way by then, if the UPSR mathematics and science are fully conducted in English in 2008? 

It is no surprise that the Dong Jong President,  Quek Suan Hiang has recently raised the alarm that the implementation of the 2:4:3 formula for the teaching of mathematics and science from Std. One in Chinese primary schools would result in the  change of character of Chinese primary schools. 

On the 2:4:3 formula,  Keng Yaik said yesterday that a new approach was needed to teach the subjects in English in Standards Four to Six as there will be increased number of subjects while the number of subject periods for Chinese primary schools pupils under the 2:4:3 formula had already been extended from 45  to the maximum 50 for primary one pupils from this year. 

Keng Yaik was most irresponsible in putting off the problem by claiming that there are two more years to “work on it” as well as failing to re-assess the eight-month implementation of the 2:4:3 formula, which is not an educational formula for the best interests of the students but a political solution in the best interests of the Barisan Nasional component parties.  

The 2:4:3 formula is in fact the best example as to how education had been totally “politicized” by the Barisan Nasional, where education had been subordinated to  the political interests of the ruling politicians. 

This is because the 2:4:3 formula  was conceived with the  sole  objective to comply  with the arbitrary Barisan Nasional Supreme Council decision that mathematics and science from Std. One in all 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 am still waiting for Keng Yaik or even  the Education Minister to 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? 

Keng Yaik cannot evade his responsibility and pass off the problem  until 2008 to see whether the UPSR mathematics and science subjects would be conducted fully in English, but should raise the issue as a matter of urgency at Wednesday’s Cabinet to get an iron-clad assurance that that the UPSR maths and science subjects in Chinese would not be dropped in 2008 or after, and that this guarantee would have the force of law and written into the Education Act 1996 by way of an amendment introduced and enactment by Parliament during its forthcoming 2004 budget session beginning on September 2.

Furthermore, the Cabinet should commission a study by  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, including the modification of the 2:4:3 formula.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman