Saturday, November 01, 2008

English, Science and Maths.... BM?

This debate on the teaching of Science and Maths in English may carry on and on without any fair conclusion.

Whilst our passion in fighting for the already elevated position of English in the "Hall of Language" should receive positive response from every corner of the society, please bear with my humble opinion that our purposeful actions should also be predicated on practicality and effectuality of the original purpose itself.

If teaching English is meant to improve the proficiency of our students in Science and Maths, mainly those in the areas where English is hardly spoken, and produce our new generations who with their English proficiency can easily access technical knowledge and know-hows, and eventually contribute massively to our economic growth especially amid the unprecedented kinda global economic challenges, then forgive me to say that we should also teach our school students Accounting, Finance, Economics and other subjects in English. The reason being, there are lotsa subjects contributing to our economic growth, not just Science and Maths.

When we continue teaching Science and Maths in English yet the expected proficient level of our students still leave much to be desired, we start blaming those who champion the status, importance and usage of Bahasa Melayu (BM) despite their noble cause being well guarded by our most supreme law, the Federal Constitution re its Article 152. My humble opinion again, the cause to promote the wide usage of BM must not be condoned by all means mainly in the current of discontent among certain quarters with regard to certain provisions in the Constitution and in the undercurrent parallel to it. And some of us are taking the opportunity to blame the policy as a wrong move by the Government. There a vast difference between using BM at home and in formal communications. At home, our Malay students speak their mother-tongue in a casual way with slangs and dialects intertwined more often than not. This way of using BM got no place at work or when they attend classes, hence the reason to preserve and promote the usage of BM as an official teaching medium. Failing which, BM will one day become a dead language.

Promoting the teaching of Science and Maths in English is a good cause. The Government just sowed the seeds a few years back, but most of us seem to expect the fruits overnight, which sounds a bit unfair as the policy could only yield the expected results when those students who joined the program at its inception begin to demonstrate their proficiency in the job market, or earlier at their tertiary training grounds. Correct me if I’m wrong, but now most of us are arguing based on complaints in the job market where our university grads speak poor English during interviews or at work. Question, were these bunches part of the program? A KPI must be established at the tertiary level to gauge the success of the said program. Of course those who are left behind due to their bad results in school will not be scoped en. Let the market assess them, while we focus on those who start with the program from the beginning and assess them through our national examinations ie SPM, PMR and UPSR (although the third one may not provide the adequate testing grounds.)

In my early days, I always tell my friends or juniors or anyone who wanna know that language is what one uses to communicate and it develops along with the frequency of using it in one’s daily life. Consider Tarzan’s ability to speak the language of the monkeys. Although Tarzan is only a fiction, the lesson we could learn from his life is that when we use a language everyday, our brain will dictate the words of the language to flow through our mouth as quick a speed as the brain controlling our endocrine system in producing saliva in our mouth. Doctors here, please correct my fact. Try leave a Malay baby with a Chinese family, and the baby will speak fluent Chinese subject to the family’s dialect and usage of the Chinese language.

In all, I contend that we may continue the program with the notion at the back of our mind that teaching Science and Maths in English does not solely contribute to our nation’s economic growth, nor will it deprive our national language of any efforts to promote its usage and protect it position at its rightful pedestal. I’m not expert in this area. My tots over here are of my personal views, and they have no association whatsoever with my organizations and those professionally connected with me. And.. owh.. Forgive me for breaking my promise to compress my views. The subject matter is just too important to ignore.


iris ixora said...

love your entries...keep it up :))

Anyway, I truly admire those who think, dream, converse, read, write and count in English; on the other hand, BM tetap dijulang kerana bahasa menunjukkan bangsa...:))

Popular opinion said...

Teaching mathematics and science in English will not be fair to the Semelai people from Kuala Lipis or the Jahud people from Temerloh. We are not democratizing education among our fellow Malaysians if we keep on championing PPSMI. The Japanese succeeded in their modernization efforts using Japanese. They discarded Chinese language and replaced them with Japanese. The Japanese language we all know today is actually the language of common Japanese women. It is the most widely spoken version of Japanese languages as compared to four other choices including the palace version.

Today, Japan has prospered. But not India and the Phillipines. India is now known as the major supplier of IT workers to US companies. The Phillipines meanwhile is the biggest supplier of domestic maids in the world. Both of the countries adopt English as the main language for teaching science and technology instead of their own local language. The Japanese invented Manga cartoons, quartz occillator, rice cooker and etc.

After the 1894-1895 China-Japan War, the Meiji Government discarded Chinese language. Now Japan can do what India and the Phillipines can't. The brightest in India and the Phillipines can't even invent simple things like the rice cooker even though rice is their staple food.

And if you think Thomas Edison is the person in history who registered the most inventions you'd be wrong - he actually only had about 1,093 patents. Outdone by Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, who at 78 years old is still going strong and now has more than 3,200 patents to his name.

Indigenous creativity only happens through mother language. Only through mother language can we see the Semelai people from Kuala Lipis or the Jahud people from Temerloh develop and prosper. We cannot teach them science and mathematics in Malay because they are not Malays. Also not in English.

Some Malays like those in Bukit Damansara can choose to have science and mathematics taught in English but not those from Bukit Besi or Kuala Klawang.