Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GO Forward, NOT Backwards MALAYSIA !!

In the last few weeks, I have visited our neighbour, Thailand, twice.. Both occasions were official visits concerning education. And I would like to share facts that I encountered on Thailand's education system.
1.  On the first visit - to Satun - I was acting as the representative from the Perlis Education Department. The Director wasn't present. Neither was the Head of Division. So, I was representing the Director of Perlis at the opening ceremony of the "Education Exhibition of the Southern Provinces of Thailand".
Sitting together with education officers of Southern Thailand, I had the opportunity to ask for the latest development in education in Thailand. This was what I found out:
a) School begins at 8.00am (9.00am Malaysian time) and ends at 4.00pm (5.00pm Malaysian time). That's 8 hours in school from Monday to Friday.
b) There are different types of schools: Primary School (Year 1 to Year 6), Lower Secondary School (until Form 3), Primary + Lower Secondary School (Year 1 to Form 3), Secondary School (Form 1 to Form 5), High School (Form 4 to Form 6).
c) In Primary schools, subjects are taught bilingual (English and Thai).
d) In certain Secondary and High Schools, they have the SMEP (Science Maths English Programme) being carried out since 2007. This is similar to our PPSMI. In fact, the Thais took the PPSMI model back to Thailand after coming to Malaysia to observe the programme in 2006.
e) The SMEP programme is carried out for above average students only. Those who cannot follow the programme stays back at their former school until Form 5 (when they finish school).
f) During secondary schools, students can pick a foreign language to study. They can study English, German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, or even Bahasa Melayu. You can see that Thailand will have a pool of interpreters in the near future !
g) They have special schools too - for Music, Sports especially football, Culture, Science and Technology, etc, etc..
2.  During my second visit - to Phatthalung - I was accompanying the cluster school of SMK Dato' Sheikh Ahmad's official visit to Harn Thao Rangsiprachasan School. And this was what I found out:
At the greeting ceremony, the Director of Secondary Schools of the Provinces of Phatthalung and Nakhon Si Thammarat - Mr. Praksit Pratana Supan - in his speech mentioned that:
a) There will be 500 "World Class Standard" schools beginning next year. In these schools, all subjects will be taught in English, except one - the Thai language subject will be taught in Thai.
b) There are 77 provinces (states) in Thailand and that comes to 6 or 7 such schools in each province/state.
c) The Harn Thao Rangsiprachasan School will be turned into World Class Standard school. Every subject in ENGLISH !!!

From these two visits, we can conclude that Thailand is really, really moving forward in education... They have never been colonised by anybody - not even the British - but they know what is BEST for their children's education. They keep track with today's need in education.
While Thailand is moving forward, Malaysia is moving backwards !! We had the PPSMI and then we abolished it... It's 2011 today and we are going back to 1977... What a joke !!!

Voices of groaning Malaysians are all over the media, newspapers... We want the PPSMI back !!!
See these:

Help, not hobble, our students

EVERY parent, despite seeing their little ones sometimes hurting themselves, falling over and over again, will continue to encourage their toddlers to pick themselves up and try again, hoping to see them soon walking and running all over. None wish to see his or her little ones crawl forever.
It is therefore very disappointing to read that our Deputy Prime Minister was reported as saying the decision to abolish PPSMI was taken upon discovering that pupils, particularly those in the rural areas, were lagging behind in the two subjects.
Apart from having to learn a language which is not their mother tongue, our children were being made to study the two subjects in English as well, he had said “Muhyiddin: Decision to abolish PPSMI made after much thought” (The Star, Oct 16).
This, in essence, is akin to asking our pupils, for fear of difficulty and pain, to not walk or run for the rest of their lives!
Worse, we are actually placing unnecessary hurdles on those students who are capable of, and have excelled in, learning both subjects in English – a fact stated by the Corporate Communications Unit of the Education Ministry recently.
The DPM made no mention at all about the wishes of the main stakeholders – parents and pupils themselves, including those from rural areas who want to continue learning Science and Maths in English.
Right from the beginning, parents had been shut out, to the extent of not allowing the issue to be brought up in PIBG annual meetings when PPSMI was abolished in early
Instead, the Government has been pandering to the “other side”. The focus had been about those teachers who were not ready, the Unesco report favouring learning in the mother tongue, demands by language nationalists to defend Bahasa Malaysia under the guise
of policy to uphold BM, when it was never under any real threat even with PPSMI (statistically proven by PAGE that total teaching hours in BM remained at well over 50%) .
Moreover, despite teaching and learning all subjects in BM since the 70s till early this century, our Government recently acknowledged that “of about 15,700 science and technology books published in the country, only 3,900 are in BM”.
If the outcome in the past 40 years had been miserable, more of the same will likely not be of much help as well.
If we are not ready today, when will we ever be ready to study both these subjects in English? Already, our limited pool of well-trained teachers left over from a bygone golden era still capable of teaching PPSMI will not be around much longer.
The bulk of the current teachers, the products of our education that heavily emphasised on BM in the past 40 years, are the ones our DPM now acknowledged as having “a poor command of English, which made teaching and learning of the two subjects even more difficult”.
Where then are we going to find from among us in future, teachers capable of teaching Science and Maths in English when we adamantly stop them from acquiring the needed skills now while they are in school by not offering them PPSMI?
The answer is so obvious; it’s staring straight at us! This vicious cycle might even turn into a whirpool that will eventually suck in and drown our nation.
While we are proud to be one of the few, if not the only country in the world, to offer education catering to the three major ethnic groups via Sek. Kebangsaan and Sek. Jenis Kebangsaan, one major side of this unique Malaysian mother-tongue coin has continuously been ignored – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, Sabahan, Sarawakian and other Malaysians whose mother tongue or first language at home is English!
It is justifiable, logical and imperative that the Government continues to offer the PPSMI option in national schools if the majority of the parents and pupils in these schools opt for it.
The Education Ministry must act fairly and not disappoint those students who are capable of, and wish to continue, to learn Science and Mathematics in English.
Petaling Jaya. ... The STAR 19/10/11.

Another one in the newspaper today:

English Language: Go for old-style schools

UNITED Nations educational, scientific and cultural organisation (Unesco) advocates mother-tongue education for all subjects as their studies have shown that children learn better in their respective mother tongues, i.e. the language, in which, they first learnt to speak in. Based on my own experience of schooling in the 1950s, I find Unesco's finding to be untrue in Malaysia.
We need not leave our shores to refute Unesco's finding. After the war and into the 1950s and 1960s there were numerous English medium schools in Malaysia, even in rural areas. Children attending these schools were not English children.

They were Malays, Chinese, Indians and others. All subjects were taught in English and these local children did very well. Very few children in these schools came from English speaking homes. The rest did not know a word of English when they started.

So how did these children go on to sit for their Senior Cambridge Examination, which was set and marked in England? A large number of these candidates would pass, some with flying colours. Many entered universities and went on to become professionals -- doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, etc.
Why is it that children of that era could learn all their subjects so well in a foreign language, i.e. English? Why are we being told nowadays that children cannot study well in English? The children of yesteryear and today are born the same.

It is not as if children in the 1940s and 1950s came into this world with an inherent ability to learn in English, and that children are no longer born the same today. In these English medium schools, the teachers were very proficient in the language. And with this proficiency, came the confidence to teach in English.

They didn't use the translation method that has crept into English lessons in primary schools today -- where to explain a short phrase or sentence, many sentences of the mother tongue are used. Thus in a 30-minute lesson, children may only be hearing and using English for 10 minutes.

The rot started with the drastic lowering of the standard of English required of candidates entering teacher training colleges. Candidates who could hardly speak or write a sentence correctly were taken in to be trained as English language teachers.

I remember a trainee, doing practical teaching in a school in Penang, teaching a lesson on past-tense. Children were given written work to change sentences in the present tense to the past tense. One of the sentences was "The hunter shoots the tiger". A pupil wrote "The hunter shot the tiger". The trainee teacher marked it wrong, cancelling the word "shot" and writing "shooted".

Decision makers of that time in the education system held the view that primary school teachers need not have a high standard of English as they were going to teach in primary schools only.

This was completely wrong but that view has resulted in the shameful standard of English today.

Unesco's finding is not relevant to Malaysia as we have evidence that teaching all subjects in English to non-English speaking children was very successful in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bring back the English medium schools, staff them with teachers who have a very good command of English, who are experienced and mature, with the confidence in not having to use the child's mother tongue to explain English words and sentences, and get master teachers to head these schools.

To do this, all political obstacles must be removed. Evidence from the past indicates that all manner of excuses given for not wanting to have English medium schools were lame excuses.

English medium schools would also foster ethnic harmony, just like it used to. Let us stop kidding ourselves about the ability of children to learn all subjects in a foreign language.
RAVINDER SINGH, Batu Maung, Penang

You see... these grouses are in the papers EVERYDAY !!!!
Over to you, Mr. Prime Minister of Malaysia....

Have a nice day.. 

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