KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Putrajaya’s move to make English mandatory for the SPM examinations come 2016 could harm Malays students, a pro-English lobby said today even as a group representing the community praised the move.
Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, a teacher herself, argued today that Malay students stood to lose out if the government focused on examination results instead of genuinely improving the English skills of the students.
This could be done through teaching subjects such as mathematics and science in English, she said.
“Yes the idea is good but the question is, how are we preparing the children for that? If we keep doing the things the way we do it now then we’ll see more Malay students end up failing,” she told The Malay Mail Online.
Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced that English would be made a mandatory subject for SPM middle secondary examinations from 2016, according to Putrajaya’s Education Development Master Plan 2013-2025 launched today.
The step appears to be a nod to English language education lobbyists pushing for the return of English language education as an option, following the reversal of a previous policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in the language in 2010.
As part of preparations for the implementation, Muhyiddin said the revamp in education would also include increased contact hours in English classes.
But Noor Azimah argued that the move would not help the government achieve its target of improving the mastery of English.
She insisted that the best way to help students improve their proficiency in English was to teach more subjects in the language.
“You can also teach other subjects (in the language) like art and music,” she said, adding that as long as more subjects were taught in English, this could help Putrajaya achieve its 100 per cent proficiency in English in schools as laid out in its education revamp plan.
Separately, the Malay Consultative Council (MPM), a nationalist group, said they welcomed the move.
“It is good that the government wants to strengthen Bahasa Malaysia (BM) but at the same time improve students’ English skills,” its secretary-general Dr Hasan Mad told The Malay Mail Online.
“BM is the national language while English is the language of knowledge.”
He said the move did not contravene the Federal Constitution, which stated that BM was the official language but Malaysians were free to learn the language of others.
“We are not just obsessed with preserving BM. We understand and recognise the importance of English,” Hasan added.
The teaching of English and Science in English (PPSMI) was reversed by the government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2009 — a move that many parents, teachers and politicians from both sides of the divide described as short-sighted and detrimental to students’ learning process.
In its place, the Education Ministry introduced a policy to “Uphold Bahasa Malaysia and to Strengthen the English language” MBMMBI that critics contend was made to appease Malay conservatives and nationalists ahead of the general election.
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