Teaching Science andMathematics in Bahasa Malaysia or English? PPSMI or the policy ‘Pengajaran danPembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris’ was introduced in 2003by our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. PPSMI refers to thegovernment policy in Malaysian education towards implementing the process ofteaching and learning science and mathematics in English.
Many issues havearises due to its implementation in Malaysian education system. Thus, thepolicy of PPSMI has lasted only for nine years and being abolished in 2012 asannounced by Malaysian Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during thetime. As we are the generations that have been through the PPSMI policy,therefore, teaching science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia or English hasbecome as the issue for our mini debate.The PPSMI policy issue has beendebated on 20th December 2017 by two parties which is the governmentand also the opposition side. This mini parliamentary debate consists of oneinitiated and controlled speaker, Siti Bazilah binti Bilak, the time keeper,Nur Atiqah binti Akhyani and also three members for each the government side andalso the opposition side. At the government side, the debate is lead by ZaliaShamila binti Sharifuddin as the Prime Minister, Tuan Aifa Fatini binti TuanPutra as the Deputy Prime Minister and also the government whip, Siti Farhanabinti Zafian.
While on the opposition side, the debate is lead by Leader ofOpposition, Nur Afiqah binti Abdul Rashid, followed by Ainul Nadiah bintiSalehuddin as Deputy Leader of Opposition and the opposition whip is Azlinbinti Azman.The debate is started and being leadby the Prime Minister that proposed the sciences and mathematics subjectsshould be taught in Bahasa Malaysia. It is because the implementation of PPSMIhas been experimented through the years. From the research done by manyeducators and Ministry of Education, the implementation of PPSMI is said to befailed due to lack of teachers that have proficiency in English.
Therefore,teachers who teach the sciences and mathematics subject with low proficiency inEnglish will have poor commands in teaching sciences and mathematics in Englishlanguage. Therefore, it will affect the students’ understanding in science andmathematics knowledge if teachers are unable to deliver the meaning of thecontents due to the difficulties of the language that is being use by teachers.The situation also will be the same if teachers have good proficiency to teachscience and mathematics subject in English, however, students themselves arenot proficient enough to understand the language. Therefore, students will facethe difficulties and having hard time between understanding the language andalso knowledge delivered to the students.English has become as the secondlanguage after our mother tongue language, Bahasa Malaysia. By learning scienceand mathematics in English can cause the difficulties among the students asthey encounter English language for the first time during the school. It meansthey are not used to the language as Bahasa Malaysia has become as theirmediation language with the daily usage most over the time. Thus, students findit is hard for them to adapt with English language in learning new knowledgeabout science and mathematics.
Later, students are affected by theimplementation of PPSMI on their academic performance as they are strugglingwith the language used in the learning process and also struggle with thesubjects itself. It has been reported in the news (The Star, 2006) whereimplementation of PPSMI has been concerned by parents and also the educators asit affect the quality of science and mathematics subjects. Besides, the difficulties ofteaching science and mathematics using English language also come by otherfactors. Prime Minister of the debaters shows the failure of execution of PPSMIis not fully under attack towards the teachers but also factors from thepreparation of its implementation.
This is supported by Ong (2004) where therewas lack of good Science textbooks that helps teachers to improve their skillsand knowledge to convey the science and mathematics contents in English.Therefore, PPSMI cannot be implemented in Malaysia as teachers do not havesolid background to teach science and mathematics in English since they havebeen trained with the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia in Dasar Bahasa Kebangsaan.Thus, it takes longer time to retrain teachers to have good commands in Englishas in fact, the training takes up to 10 years for the teachers to be skilfulenough and teaching science and mathematics in English.However, the points of teachingscience and mathematics in English by Prime Minister had become the argumentsby the Leader of Opposition that oppose the government. Afiqah as the Leader ofOpposition in her arguments said that keeping the students to learn science andmathematics in Bahasa Malaysia will reduce their critical thinking. This isbecause in schools, students are only learning English during the Englishsubject but not in other subjects.
Later, their knowledge in English also willnot be practices outside the schools as their environment are using the mothertongue language. Hence, students are not exposed to English language that willcreate the empty, inactive, unoccupied, unused and the laziness (idle) to thinkabout the national language due to their comfortable zone. This idle mindcannot breed the thinkers in our country. The implementation of PPSMI thatemphasize the use of English command in teaching and learning science andmathematics will prepare the students for the future. As Malaysia former PrimeMinister, Tun Dr. Mahathir introduces PPSMI policy not only to learn scienceand mathematics in English but he also aims for the preparation of younggenerations to face the new world of globalisation that need our people toimproves themselves in many aspects.
One of the aspects must be the goodcommunication in English as English is known as the national language. Learningscience and mathematics in English from the primary levels also will preparethe students to further their study in tertiary education that might be inlocal higher institution or also abroad. Preparing people with good educationespecially in science field and also the other fields including their goodcommunication skills is important. It is because students are competing amongthemselves for the best place in education, besides it is also helps the adultto focus on their commitment on their work with the collaboration with otherexperts. As students are entering the higherinstitution, there will be many findings that they need to refers in theirstudy are basically written in English. Good knowledge in English for scienceand mathematics can help students to equip more information with lots offindings around the world.
In facts, education in science and mathematics comesby lots of findings from the foreigners. Malaysia also produces manyresearchers in science and mathematics field. However, many other broadknowledge of science and mathematics field is being found by the foreignersfrom other countries. Thus, all those findings and researches mostly written inEnglish as the language able to communicates people around the world.Therefore, people are able to acknowledge their understanding by the referencesfrom many other resources that also may helps for their future research.Again, the arguments expressed byLeader of Opposition are disagreed by Aifa, the Deputy Prime Minister asstudents need to focus on their academic achievement in order to make realizeof their ambition.
Teachers should focus on the students’ academic achievementfor them to further their studies to the higher level. As PPSMI is implementedin schools, it is only benefits on non-Malay students who are majorityresidence in urban area. Students who live in urban area prefer the use on Englishcommand in their process of teaching and learning of science and mathematicssubjects. Meanwhile, students who live in the rural areas will at disadvantageswith the implementation of PPSMI. This is because they will face thedifficulties in learning science and mathematics one step above of the levelcompared to the students at the urban areas. This is because students at therural areas are not having enough exposure on the implementation of PPSMI. Besides, the factors also come fromthe communication between teachers and students during the learning process.Teachers who are placed in rural areas’ schools are having the difficulties tounderstand the dialect of students especially when it comes to the dialect thatsounds different with standard Bahasa Malaysia.
Students at the rural areas issaid prefers and comfortable with the use of Bahasa Malaysia in their learning.Thus, it becomes as the challenges for teachers to conduct science andmathematics lesson in English and at the same time teachers are struggling tomake the students understand on the knowledge contents. Besides, students aresaid to have good memory in memorizing all the science and mathematics conceptin their mother tongue language.Research on implementation of PPSMIhas been done from the analysis of results in science and mathematics subject.The outcomes show fluctuation in students’ performance in science andmathematics subject as students are unable to master the knowledge withoutunderstanding the terms in the crucial subjects due to the use of Englishcommand. Besides, teachers also claimed the preparation and school facilitiesprovided for the schools at the rural areas are at the poor level. Manyteaching aids and other materials needed by teachers to use in improving the Englishcommand to teach students science and mathematics is not supported by thegovernment and also the communities. Provision for the good preparation on theimplementation of PPSMI is needed in the schools.
Teachers unable to blame theparents that do not give full support on PPSMI policy that requires more fundsfrom them as they are not from high income family that able to support all thethings needed for the education of their children. Therefore, theimplementation of PPSMI makes students from the rural areas face the challengesto compete with those who are studying in the city.PPSMI is also increase the cost foreducation system. In the process of improving the proficiency in English,Malaysia had spent lots of money to pay teachers from other countries to teachstudents in English. The efforts put in encouraging students to have theinterest in English thus enable them to learn science and mathematics inEnglish is wasting the money.
Students who met the new teachers that are fromother countries are excited to greet and have the experienced with theteachers. However, it does not meant the effort enable to increase thestudents’ performance in English and also on science and mathematics subjects.This is because from the observation that has been studied by otherresearchers, students are interested and attracted with the teachers but notwith the knowledge. It is because teachers from the other countries havedifferent slang of English that cause the students to have low understanding ofthe knowledge.
Therefore, the implementation of PPSMI should be monitored bythe government by having regularly visits to schools especially the rural areaschools. The investments must be agreed by people and the implementation ofPPSMI must be continuously monitored by the government itself and not put fullresponsibilities on the schools.The focus of Deputy Prime Ministeronly on the students’ academic achievement has been resisted by Ainul, theDeputy Leader of Opposition.
On the opposition side, getting an ‘A’ in scienceand mathematics subjects does not guarantee the success. In this new eratowards the 21st century learning, scoring the higher performancewithout preparing young generations with the global challenge does not enoughto help them survive through this world. People need to come back to thereality. Within the improvement and development of our country, government needto prepare students not only to perform in academic but also make the studentsto be acceptable at the local and also in the international level.
Pursuingstudy in the higher institution either in local or abroad requires students touse English. Previous research shown that students who enter the universitiesdo struggles to relearn every scientific and mathematical concept in English asthey used to learn the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia.PPSMI policy is also important forstudents to compete for their carrier globally. English for communication inmany fields of study especially in science and mathematics is very important interm of job vacancies. Many graduates are left behind during the job interviewscauses by poor command in English although they achieve good results in scienceand mathematics. Many sectors and companies such as in industrial, engineering,medicine, statistics and many other sectors demand on the graduates not onlyhave the soft skills on the work but also requires them to have good command inEnglish.
This is because many sectors and the big companies usually have thecollaboration with other companies either locally or globally. Thus, itrequires the workers to have good communication with the good command inEnglish. Science and mathematics is widely accepted in the world through manyfields. It is not same as the geography and history subjects.
Science discoverymade almost every day. Therefore, Malaysiaformer Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir said emphasize that PPSMI policy doesnot want to against Bahasa Malaysia but the knowledge that people can acquireby understanding global languages is important. Farhana, thegovernment whip concludes the arguments on the government side that people needto change their mindset that English does not guarantee the success. It can beseen in Japan where the country maintain their mother tongue for the dailycommunication language either at home or also in the schools.
In order tosurvive through the global world, people need to focus on improving thestudents’ academic achievement and provides much knowledge from many resources.The policy of PPSMI will only cause the trouble towards teachers and also thestudents. Besides, the highly cost investment on the implementation of itspolicy is wasted as it still does not resulted students with high proficiencyand good command in English. Science andmathematics is known as the crucial subjects due to its level of difficulties.Students will losses their interest to study science and mathematics if PPSMIis being continued as its implementation will gain the challenges for studentsbetween understanding the contents of the subjects and also to understand theusing of the language itself.
This is due to the performance of students aredecreasing in science and mathematics due to their poor commands in English.Therefore, it will affect the government itself when the number of students whopursue their study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)fluctuate over the years. Thus, the students’ success does not guarantee by theuse of English command, but it must be by the efforts of many parties not onlyteachers and students to improve the performance in science and mathematicssubjects. As for the opposition whip, Azlin in herarguments that oppose the government side emphasize that learning science andmathematics in English does not reduce the English proficiency among students,but it will helps students to improve their vocabulary.
As stated by thegovernment side of English causes the failure on students in science andmathematics, Azlin oppose the statement because government should make theproper research and analysis of the failure in science and mathematics subjectis not totally to be put the blame of English command. The failure in thosecritical subjects has been reported in many years since before theimplementation of PPSMI. It comes from many other factors such as the crampedsyllabus of the subject, deficiency of knowledge among the teachers and alsothe curriculum management that should be improved. Besides, she also opposedthe point from Deputy Prime Minister that students benefits in memorizing thecontents in Bahasa Malaysia.
However, the concepts of learning science andmathematics by memorizing the facts is absolutely wrong because students aretaught to learn science and mathematics by understanding the knowledge and notdepend on the memorization of the facts. She also arguedthat implementation of PPSMI not only aims to improve English proficiencybecause if the subjects is taught in Bahasa Malaysia command, teachers’proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia also will be increase. She emphasized again thatPPSMI policy look into the government’s attention of achieving 21stcentury learning. Meanwhile, multicultural parents are also proud to speak inEnglish in facing the challenges of this global world. It is not fair for us tocompare our country with Japan. Japan is known as the country that alreadydeveloped while Malaysia is the third country that still needs to enhance anduse of English to reach the level of the developed countries.
Therefore, inthe development of our country, should be aware the children to be out of theircocoon. Education system is supposed to prepare the young generations in facingthe global challenges. Surviving in the global world is not as simple as beingthought by people. Thus, one of the elements that should be emphasize among thestudents are though the science and mathematics education thus with the goodcommand in English.
People need to be realistic by concern our ranking in theworld and about how the world look at us. If we have given so much in thisworld, then it will be fine if science and mathematics subjects are being taughtin Bahasa Malaysia. In our ownperspectives, the policy of implementing PPSMI has its own pros and cons.
Iffacts, it is reasonable if it were to be implemented. Both the government andopposition sides have their good arguments about its implementation. Inpreparing the students towards facing the global challenges has become theresponsibility among the educators and also Malaysian Education System.
Implementation of PPSMI is seen to be one of the good policies for students tohave the good performance not only in academic but also their performance inlocally of globally thus able to compete with any candidates from the othercountries. However, its implementation must be study by government and come outwith the best strategies of its implementation to avoid the wastage of theinvestments. Besides, government also must pay a visit regularly in manyschools over the year either the school in rural area or also in the urbanareas. Implementation of any policies must be continuously monitored by the governmentfor the greater outcomes.The policy forthe development of the country such as PPSMI should be put into considerationand practices much earlier among teachers and also the students.
However, itmust not be a burden towards the educators and also the students. Many effortsshould be put in encouraging students to learn science and mathematics and manythings should be done and sacrifice in order to enhance the students’ interestin learning science and mathematics. Therefore, teachers must always beprepared in the changing of education system towards the 21stcentury learning. The readiness to change must be put the good values and greatknowledges.