KUCHING: Sarawak will be the first state in Malaysia to teach Mathematics and Science in English for primary one pupils from January next year, its state education minister announced on Wednesday (May 29).
State Education, Science, and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin said the state introduced the programme so that children would be more competitive, and confident to speak up and express themselves in English.
“We are not going to make any u-turn,” he was quoted as saying by the Star, indicating that the state would not back down even if it attracts criticism for its decision.
A total of 1,265 primary schools in Sarawak would participate in the programme, while 2,657 teachers would be trained by next year, Mr Manyin added.
Chinese vernacular schools, however, would be exempted from teaching the two subjects in English.
“The ministry respects their decision and they have the right to choose,” the state minister said.
Teaching the two subjects in English is not a new policy in Malaysia, where standards of English are perceived to be declining.
In 2003, the government implemented the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy to improve mastery of English among students.
It was later scrapped in 2009 after in-depth studies revealed that it was ineffective, and that 500,000 students, who had poor command of English, “fell victim” to the policy each year.
The federal government then explained that these students could not learn mathematics and science when they were not proficient in the language that the two subjects were taught.
Subsequently, the Education Ministry rolled out the Dual Language Programme (DLP) in 2016, which allows selected primary and secondary schools to teach Science and Mathematics in English.
A total of 1,303 schools nationwide offered the DLP, which is not compulsory, last year.
However, like its predecessor PPSMI, DLP had also attracted backlash for eroding nationalism and the mastery of national language.
Sarawak’s Wednesday announcement came after a February meeting between its chief minister Abang Johari Openg and the federal Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who conveyed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s intention for Sarawak schools to reinstate teaching these subjects in English, according to the Star.
Dr Mahathir is a supporter of teaching Mathematics and Science in English.
In an interview with New Straits Times last month, he said: “We need to teach Science and Maths in English. The idea that the Malays cannot learn in English is stupid. It’s not true at all.”
“I am a Malay, I can speak reasonable English. Why can’t other people?” he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is attempting to enhance English proficiency among teachers and students through the English Language Education Reform in Malaysia: The Roadmap 2015-2025, which is part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint.
The Education Ministry is addressing shortage of English teachers with a series of measures, including accelerating the appointment of new teachers, appointing contract-based English teachers, and increasing intake of students for English language at teacher training institutions and public universities.