In the light of the recent debate here on the teaching of Mathematics and Science in BM, I had a piece to say, maybe not a piece but a whole chunk of it since I am in the front line of education and have been for almost a decade already. BUT. Someone from Georgetown Penang said it ever coherently, everything that I wanted to say, almost everything is in there. So Yap Sue Huey, whoever you are, I’m with you. Totally. You hear that?
Taken from The Star Online
Monday September 8, 2008
English not the medium
IWRITE to add to the current debate on the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.
I graduated in 1999 from a small school in Penang where Science and Mathematics were taught in Bahasa Malaysia. Now, I am a scientist in a leading medical research institute in Australia and will be completing my PhD at the end of this year.
Since starting my PhD candidature in 2005, I have won five awards, including two awards at national conferences for Best Speaker (most other speakers were native English speakers) and one young investigator award at a prestigious international conference.
I am also an author in a major scientific publication and have more publications in the pipeline.
I am not alone in such success. There are two other Malaysians in the institute where I work, as well as senior scientists from Albania, Argentina, Armenia, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.
All of them are successful despite schooling in their respective national language!
Hence, my main points are:
1. It is not important for English to be the medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics. Stop wasting money and resources trying to implement this.
2. The standard of English in our schools has been deteriorating for so long that many of the teachers we have in schools are themselves not proficient in English.
3. The problem is the teaching of the English language itself. Don’t send Science and Mathematics teachers for English courses when some English teachers themselves need English courses, and English teachers who don’t need English courses need a useful syllabus from which to teach!
5. Don’t make the use of Bahasa Malaysia the scapegoat. It is important for Bahasa Malaysia to remain the medium of instruction in schools for the sake of national identity, which is vital for genuine national unity.
Finally, please identify and address the real problems in our school system.
A student competent in English and Science/Mathematics separately can communicate Science/Mathematics in English even if he/she learnt it in Bahasa Malaysia.
I have had no formal Chinese education, and both my parents barely speak Mandarin. The extent of my Chinese education is weekly tuition classes when I was in primary school.
Yet, with my minimal proficiency in Mandarin, I’ve engaged in lengthy scientific discussions, mainly in Mandarin, with scientists from China and Taiwan on many occasions with good outcomes.
Make sure Science and Mathematics are taught properly, and don’t discriminate against students who are poor in English but may have the aptitude for Science or Mathematics.
Communication can come after understanding has been established.
YAP SOO HUEY,