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A compromise is possible on using English in Maths and Science

Nkkhoo | Dec 12, 08 4:27pm

The long-debated issue of teaching Maths and Science in English seems to be in a deadlock, with opposing views from two major groups of parents – those from urban areas and those from rural areas.

Students from urban areas are coping well, what with all the resources available to them. But most parents in rural areas and new villages are complaining that learning Maths and Science in English is a very heavy burden for their children.

These parents are fully aware of the importance of English in today’s world, but due to a lack of resources in guiding their children in mastering English, they cannot help but feel that their children are being disadvantaged.

Things are not being made easier for them especially as their often objective voice is ignored by both the government and the media.

Our government is barking up the wrong tree in solving the problem. Those in power must first tackle the problem of students’ poor grasp of the English language. Improving the level of English amongst our students must come from learning the language itself, not from learning Maths and Science.

The sensible way to prepare our students for future challenges is by reintroducing English as the teaching medium for all subjects except languages in secondary and tertiary institutions. At the same time, we must maintain vernacular and Malay primary schools which are valuable assets to all Malaysians.

Being bilingual or multilingual is a great asset for students, and like it or not, vernacular education provides students with the valuable asset of being proficient in more than one language. However, seeing as how this issue has been politicised, I doubt the people who have slammed vernacular schools will take this fact into account.

The next question is how to prepare our students for a world dominated by the English language, especially the technological fields, if we revert to mother tongue languages for Maths and Science?

A compromise will be to use English technical terms in Maths and Science textbooks. Technical term memorisation can be made a vital part exams to force our primary school students to absorb and understand English technical terms at an early stage.

With the proper teaching of English and a focus on English technical terms in Math and Science, our students can easily explore and acquire technical and engineering knowledge from vast resources chiefly written and published in English.

And more importantly for our policy makers, such a solution is politically correct and will not jeopardise the future of our next generations.

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