KUALA LUMPUR, 1 Feb 2009: Literary figures and opposition political parties want the teaching of mathematics and science in English (PPSMI) to stop.
“We think that changing the language of instruction of science and mathematics from Bahasa Malaysia (the official and national language) to English is the wrong decision from every perspective,” said former director-general of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Datuk Dr Hassan Ahmad.
In a statement made on behalf of the Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI (GMP), Hassan urged the Education Ministry to return to teaching those subjects in Bahasa Malaysia, as was done from the 1970s to 2003.
“The issue is that we are teaching knowledge in a language 90% of our students don’t know,” Hassan added.
Members of the various groups at the GMP launch on 31 Jan 2009
The GMP, which was launched on 31 Jan, comprises 50 organisations, ranging from political parties such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and PAS; student groups such as the Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (PKPIM); and language stakeholders like Persatuan Penulis Nasional (Pena) and Persatuan Linguistik Malaysia.
The launch also saw literary luminaries such as national laureate Datuk A Samad Said, poet Che Shamsuddin Othman (Dinsman), and writer and publisher Ainon Muhammad showing their support.
The movement plans to deliver a memorandum to Parliament on 17 Feb, and will undertake a roadshow, beginning with Pahang on 13 Feb, to raise awareness of the issue. Their activities will culminate at a massive “100,000 Monster Gathering” on 7 March in front of the National Palace.
Conspicuously absent from GMP is Gabungan Penulis Nasional (Gapena), an organisation that had previously considered taking the government to court on this issue. Gapena has since been relatively silent on the issue.
“Maybe they disagree with our actions. They take a more gentle approach,” PKPIM vice president Faisal Aziz told The Nut Graph.
Faisal stressed that the movement was multiracial, saying that the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) had been formally invited into the coalition. Representatives of the Tamil Foundation Malaysia were present at the launch.
The problems of PPSMI
PKR Youth exco Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said that PPSMI compromised constitutional sovereignty.
“This is treachery to the spirit of the Constitution, which affords special status to Malay as the national language,” he said.
Nik Nazmi added that the current policy prejudiced students from poorer backgrounds and widened the gap between the middle and lower classes, as those proficient in English tend to live urban areas and are more likely to come from higher-income families.
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (Upsi) director Prof Abdullah Hassan rebutted arguments that PPSMI would help students to both master the English language and understand math or science.
He cited a recent study by Upsi that showed that 87.3% of Malaysian students were not proficient in the English language and were also found wanting in their grasp of the science and mathematics subjects.
“If you wanted to learn French, you wouldn’t do it by studying math in French,” Abdullah said, pointing out that the transfer of knowledge is best done in one’s mother tongue.
Abdullah added that the movement supported the cause of mother tongue education. “If some of us want to learn in Mandarin, we have no problem,” he said.
All parties stressed that the GMP wasn’t against the English language, or its instruction.
“We want the government to improve the teaching of the English subject,” Hassan said. “This is another problem. The current policy is not the way to do it.”