Friday, July 31, 2009

[MLE] Malaysia drops English and returns to mother tongue

Dear MLE friends,
Several states in India have decided to make English the medium of instruction at the schools. In the below articles you can read that Malaysia regretted that they made that choice 6 years ago because of a “2008 survey which found that students' performance in maths and science had fallen since it had been taught in English, and that rural children were hit particularly hard”.
More details below (2 brief articles).
Regards,
Karsten

Karsten van Riezen
Education Consultant, SIL Int.
SIL, South Asia Group.

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Malaysia Drops English For Math, Science Classes
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP)--Malaysia said Wednesday it will drop English as the language of instruction for math and science in schools, in a highly sensitive decision that has split opinion in the multiethnic country.
Deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin said that from 2012 the subjects will be taught in Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, or in Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.
Critics of the six-year policy of using English to teach the subjects argue that it has dragged down students' performance and is particularly unfair on children who are not proficient in the language.
"I wouldn't say it's a complete failure but it has not achieved the desired objectives that it was supposed to achieve," Muhyiddin told a press conference.
"The government is convinced that science and maths need to be taught in a language that will be easily understood by students, which is Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, Mandarin in Chinese schools and Tamil in Tamil schools."
He said the government would boost the teaching of English in schools, with more time given to the subject and the recruitment of nearly 14,000 extra teachers nationwide to teach the language.
Muhyiddin cited a 2008 survey which found that students' performance in maths and science had fallen since it had been taught in English, and that rural children were hit particularly hard.
In the months since the government said it was considering dropping English, debate has raged in newspaper columns and letters to media outlets.
In March, riot police fired tear-gas to disperse at least 5,000 Malays who demonstrated in Kuala Lumpur against the use of English to teach the two subjects in national schools.

Malaysia drops English used to teach math, science
Sean Yoong ,  The Associated Press ,  Kuala Lumpur   |  Wed, 07/08/2009 10:59 PM  |  World
Malaysia announced Wednesday it will abandon the use of English to teach math and science, bowing to protesters who demanded more use of the national Malay language.
Malay will be reinstated in state-funded schools starting in 2012 because teaching in English caused academic results in those subjects to slip, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.
The news comes after months of high-profile demonstrations by politicians and linguists, especially from the ethnic Malay majority, who say a six-year-old policy of using English undermines their struggle to modernize their mother tongue.
English was once the medium of instruction in most schools in Malaysia, a former British colony. Nationalist leaders switched to Malay less than two decades after independence in 1957.
In 2003, realizing that poor English skills hurt graduates competing for work against people from other countries, especially neighboring Singapore, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad launched a program to resume teaching math and science in English. Most other subjects are taught in Malay.
Malay activists began to protest the policy after the government recently said it was reviewing the program's success.
Students in rural districts, who are mainly Malay, suffered the most because their English proficiency was low, Muhyiddin said. He said authorities would try to improve students' English-language skills by recruiting more teachers and offering more language classes.
Some in the large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities also oppose the use of English, insisting that math and science should be taught in their mother tongues, Mandarin and Tamil.
Muhyiddin said schools for ethnic minorities that teach most subjects in those two languages will also scrap the use of English for math and science starting in 2012.

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