(Updated 7 March 2009, 7.25pm)
KUALA LUMPUR, 7 March 2009: Police fired tear gas and arrested several people during a march to Istana Negara today to protest the use of English in the teaching of maths and science.
The march, involving more than 2,000 protesters, was organised by the Movement for the Abolition of the Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, known by its Malay acronym of GMP.
The group had originally gathered at the national mosque before 2pm. By 2.15pm, marchers broke through the police shield after a brief tussle to make their way to the highway. They were joined by other groups who had gathered at Sogo and Central Market.
At 2.30pm, the police began firing tear gas into the crowd. At least three people were arrested in the ensuing pandemonium.
Despite the police warning, GMP representative, national laureate A Samad Said, together with GMP chairperson Datuk Hassan Ahmad and Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall president Datuk Bong Hon Liong, were escorted into the palace to hand over their memorandum to the Agong.
The crowd began dispersing after the memorandum was delivered at 2.50pm.
GMP representative Prof Abdullah Hassan defended the movement’s right to make its voice heard. “This is our last effort,” Abdullah said.
He added that groups against the teaching of mathematics and science in English had been petitioning the government for some time, but to no avail.
“Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein asked us to wait until the end of 2008, promising to study the issue. [The government] should keep their word,” Abdullah said.
GMP, which was launched on 31 Jan, comprises 50 organisations, ranging from political parties such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS; student groups such as the Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia; and language stakeholders like Persatuan Penulis Nasional and Persatuan Linguistik Malaysia.
On 17 Feb, GMP had marched to Parliament to deliver a memorandum to Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat leaders with the same demands.
Parties join forces to fight PPSMI
Looks like Umno will use the demonstration as an excuse to force all schools to use Bahasa Malaysia to teach science and maths including those in Chinese and Tamil schools.
So, it is very obvious.
Bariusan Nasional has used English as an excuse to chop down Chinese and Tamil teaching.
Mark my words.
keng tiong hai says
The police are cruel, the way they treat normal people. Go after the real criminals. The BN is making use of the police.
Of late, demonstrations, protest walks, illegal gatherings and all sorts of peace-disrupting programs have been organised by irresponsible Malaysians whose only intent is to disrupt peace and create chaos in the country. Scenes like these have become a norm ever since the late 90s and have been that way maybe until someone achieves his dream of becoming PM?
I would like to address my big thanks to Pak Samad (Bapak) and Dr Hasan Ahmad for leading us in today’s protest. Big thanks to both our beloved fathers for leading the nation especially the young generation of Malaysians.
We love you Bapak.
Terima kasih Bapak kerana terus mendidik kami.
Tshiung Han See says
I don’t agree at all with the GMP. If students are expected to learn science and math in Malay how can they stay competitive with students worldwide when almost all the academic journals are published in English.
That is not to say that I want the Malay language to die out. If some public forum existed, if students were encouraged to express opinions rather than taught to rely on rote lessons. If the education system was, say, process-based rather than exam-based, Malay would be a more vibrant language.
Regardless of my opinion, it’s a hot-button issue and it needs to be discussed. I wonder if the police are aware that in responding harshly to a protest that is hardly seditious, hardly anti-government, it stands to politicise the issue further and rally more people to GMP’s stance. Sometimes, it feels like the police are obligated to break up riots with water cannons every couple of months in order to top-up the level of outrage of the general public.
sometimes i'm amazed at the... says
How can learning science and maths in English kill BM? There is Pendidikan Moral, Kemahiran Hidup, Geografi, Sejarah, PJK, BM 1, BM 2, agama. Only two subjects in English is a threat? Probably they want English taught in bahasa too.
Let’s just be HONEST. The only crux of the matter is the rural kids can’t cope. So let them study in Bahasa. Let selected schools continue in English. Tak boleh? Then they’ll scream unfair advantage. ADVANTAGE? They’ll then need to be reminded that they are screaming it’s a disadvantage to study in English. Let the disadvantaged kids continue their English for science/maths. After all, according to these people,the ENGLISH-speaking ones are going to lose out in the long run.
tengku mohd faizal says
We should abolish English altogether from national schools to please these demonstrators on the street. And let the Chinese schools revert back to their mother tongue. Basically, teaching English in science and math in national schools is a total waste of time. I don’t think anybody wants to read science or math journals in Malay. Better let students in national school suffer, so that the BN government can control them when they reach voting age again.
TNG kata 2,000. Malaysiakini kata 8,000. Faisal Tehrani kata 100,000. Walau apa bahasa yang digunakan, diharap rakyat Malaysia dapat buat kira-kira dengan betul!
With respect to teaching maths and science in English instead of Malay (I’m not going to comment about the teaching of math and science in other languages):
I’m a practising Malay Malaysian engineer.
I’d be interested to know how many protesters are actually PRACTICING scientists, engineers, actuarists, computer programmers, or anyone who makes a living using REAL science and math. I know a lot of Malay people in this line in Malaysia, people who’ve had equations named after them and are regulars at international seminars, and I don’t think I see any of them protesting.
I assume the protests are an emotional response to the issue, i.e., the preservation of the Malay race and culture hinges upon the medium of instruction of these subjects.
I did my math and science in Malay in secondary school. And despite English being my functional language (i.e. I had my early education in the US and I count in English in my head), I got proficient at using Malay to understand and describe mathematical and scientific concepts. Enough to do well in the SPM exams.
When I went to university in the US, I spent the first semester mapping Malay technical terms, like sudut tirus, and haba pendam peruapan to the English acute angle and heat of vaporization.
It wasn’t rocket science and after a while I made the transition and translated all my math and science knowledge to English. It helped having a basic etymological understanding of English, so it was possible to break down the English terms and map to Malay words.
This translation step was a problem for many Malay speakers who were taught in Malay, and only had English as a couple of subjects in school.
Many Malay students did not participate in class discussions or mix with anyone other than themselves (there were self imposed religious and general cultural issues with regard to mixing with other races in addition to language).
Those who insist on math and science to be taught in Malay, need to also insist on a “remove” class for those who are going on to continue their studies in English or enter the employment market (unless they plan on joining the civil service).
In addition to that, the protesters are going to have to insist on getting some budget (which will come out of public funds) to translate several Exabytes of mathematical and scientific literature for the students to use. In this day and age, I assume most advanced educationists are moving away from the chalk and talk and rote memorization style, and going towards facilitating learning, which generally entails students doing research and discovering things on their own. Thus, in addition to texts, they’ll also have to translate websites and professional journals into Malay.
Back in the early days of independence, the medium of instruction was English, then it was switched in the 70s and there was a transition for teachers to start switching to Malay. In the 80s most of the teachers became proficient enough to teach math and science in Malay. In the current situation, one of the things they needed to do was to make sure there was a smooth transition from Malay to English. Which I understand didn’t happen. But is this a language issue?
Actually, from my experience with my young relatives who are in national primary and secondary schools, the main problem appears that the teachers lack fundamental understanding of the subjects they’re supposed to teach in the first place, so it doesn’t really matter what language they teach in, if they don’t understand these concepts in the first place – but that’s a different problem that’s best addressed separately.
From a practical perspective, I think math and science should be taught in English, by teachers/facilitators who are proficient in the subject matter AND English. I don’t see any practicality of these subjects being taught in Malay, but if that decision is made, then the students STILL need to be proficient enough in English so they can access information and assimilate it. I.e. you’ll have to make sure that the students are FUNCTIONALLY BILINGUAL.