By Hafidz Baharom
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 ― The new national education blueprint unveiled yesterday is simply a “rebranding exercise”, according to Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.
Her remarks came after the Najib administration launched the new masterplan running from 2013-2025 that aims to reform the education system and bring it on par with those in developed countries.
PAGE has been at the forefront of a campaign to reinstall English as the medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics, a move endorsed by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but not his successors.
“You expect more when the government uses terms like ‘transformation’ and ‘review’. Fortunately, they (the government) have till December to make it a proper transformation,” she added.
She also criticised the blueprint’s advisory panel for not emphasising the importance of English, singling out the consultants from South Korea and Singapore.
“(South) Korea spent twenty per cent of their education budget to teach their people English alone, and then there’s Singapore, which uses English as their main medium. Why did neither of them speak up for the need of English?” she said.
The masterplan does endorse, however, bilingualism in Malay and English.
Noor Azimah further said she was disappointed that none of PAGE’s three requests was dealt with in the blueprint.
“There were three hot items that we spoke of during the roundtables ― introducing English medium schools, the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, and the need for an independent education minister who is not a politician. None of these were addressed,” she said.
When asked about the absence of UNESCO’s report from today’s unveiling, Noor Azimah said it was evidence that the government lacked transparency.
“UNESCO’s report was done by April this year, and during one roundtable, they specifically mentioned the need for the language for both Mathematics and Science subjects to be reviewed.
“If this government does not want to take the advice of its foreign experts, then they should not bother recruiting them,” she added.
PAGE has actively lobbied for children to be given the option to learn science and mathematics in English — the lingua franca of the two subjects — saying that the repercussion of not doing so could be severe, including a continued decline in the interest in science.
The Najib administration appears, however, to be caught between different language groups each pushing for their own agenda.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak stressed in his speech at the launch that mastery of the English language was a valuable asset and would not come at the expense of the national language.
But the masterplan did not give any consideration for the teaching of mathematics and science in English nor the return of English medium schools.
The full education masterplan report is available free from the Ministry of Education website.