A REFLECTIVE PAPER OF AN ARTICLE ENTITLED: “PPSMI SHOULD CONTINUE” Introduction Learning English is crucial for every individual in this globalization era because it has been regarded as an international language and becomes an essential means of communication. Many people eager to learn English just not for the sake of pleasure or knowing the language, but it also serve as the platform to success because it holds the key to get assess to the technological, scientific, commercial world, pharmaceutical and medical.
Realizing the importance and benefits of mastering English nowadays, Malaysia is moving forward by implementing policies which are believed are able to improve the reputation of English and at the same time, enhancing students’ proficiency of the language. One of the steps taken by Malaysia is through the implementation of PPSMI. PPSMI is learning and teaching science and mathematics in English and it is the outcome of a policy decision made by the Government of Malaysia as the result from the Minister’s Council Meeting held on 19 July 2002.
In 2003, this dramatic shift is implemented in the national education system and it was carried out in stages beginning with the 2003 schooling session. The pioneers were all Year 1 students for Primary Schools and Form 1 and Lower 6 students for Secondary Schools. The full implementation of PPSMI was in 2007 for Secondary Schools and 2008 for Primary Schools. However, after six years of implementation, in 2010, Ministry has decided to abolish the implementation on PPSMI in 2014 following outcry from several quarters who were unhappy with the policy.
Believing the importance and benefits of using mother tongue as the best medium of instruction of teaching, I chose to review an article entitled “PPSMI Should Continue”. It is chosen because some quarters express their opinions and forefront arguments on why PPSMI should continuously being implemented in school and in opposition side, I will forefront solid arguments and prove that abolishing PPSMI is a wise decision. Discussion This could be considered as an ‘ancient’ issue, yet the debates are still oing on because each individual possesses different ideas for the policy. When I read the title of the article, I expect to find solid arguments on why these quarters want PPSMI to be continued, yet to no avail. Their arguments are weak and were more on personal beliefs. The main issue emphasized in the article is the procession done by the citizens who disagree with the implementation of PPSMI. My arguments to show that PPSMI should not continue will be presented in six categories. Language and Education
Language is defined as “a form of communication-whether spoken, written, or signed- that is based on a system of symbols” (Santrok, 2008). The importance of language is proved in Genie case, a feral child who spent nearly all of the first thirteen years of her life locked inside a bedroom strapped to a potty chair. She was beaten by her father with a large stick if she vocalized and he forbade anyone in the house to speak to her. By the age of 13, she was almost entirely mute, commanding a vocabulary of about 20 words and a few short phrases.
She was discovered at the age of 13 when her mother left her husband and took Genie with her. Later on, she “became the focus of an investigation to provide evidence supporting the theory that humans have a critical age threshold for language acquisition” (Wikipedia). After the rescue, attempts were made to make her speak and socialize and her demeanor shifted considerably, and she became social with adults she was familiar with. Obviously, it is undeniable that language serves as a crucial tool in one’s life and plays a major role in character building.
In a paper entitled “The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education” (1953), it appointed out that “it is axiomatic that the best medium for teaching a child is his mother tongue. Psychologically, it is the system of meaningful signs that in his mind works automatically for expression and understand. Sociologically, it is a means of identification among the members of the community to which he belongs. Educationally, he learns more quickly through it than through an unfamiliar linguistic medium”. Simply put, it is easier for learners to grasp the information if the teaching is in their respective mother tongue.
According to Russell Ackoff (1989), in his ‘The Cognitive Hierarchy’ theory, he mentioned that “the learning process that begins with data will evolve into the details of information. Information is then processed into knowledge and then it grew into an understanding”. My point here is how the students could achieve the understanding level if they even cannot absorb and digest the data conveyed by the teachers due to language barrier? My three months experience as a practical teacher in an urban school, SMK Tun Tijah, serves as an eye opener and reveals the criticality of English proficiency among the students.
Some of them did not even understand the simple instructions such as “Please read the passage carefully”. If that is the case, how are they going to understand Science and Mathematics in English? I had the opportunity to meet with a Chinese student who is excellent in Mathematics when he was in primary school and by that time, the medium of study for him is Chinese. However, he often fails his Mathematics papers when he is in secondary school. The main reason is he does not understand English. Answering to Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, yes, this could be one of the threats if PPSMI is continued in the school system.
Plus, is it wrong to use students respective mother tongue as the medium of instructions? Japan, Korea, France and Germany teach Science and Mathematics in their own respective language and yet aren’t they competitive on the world stage? Examinations Official results for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) for 2007 showed an increase, especially for the subjects of Science and Mathematics. According to the Acting Director of the Department of Education in Johor, Ramlan Sariman, subjects Biology approvals increased by 4. 87%, Mathematics Extension 6. 81%, Physics 8. 6%, Mathematical 1:04% and Science Extension 4:29% , thus proving that the language barrier in the medium is not success in secondary education (Wikipedia). However, please bear in mind with the fact that “the exact grading scale used every year has never been made public “(Wikipedia). To simplify, only “respective people” know how the grading is done for the respective examination. One of my lecturers told me a story about her friend who works as a teacher. She is teaching in a primary school and she confessed that most of the students in her school have low commands of English.
Majority of them scored B and C for the Science and Mathematics subjects in the tests prepared by the school. However, when the result of UPSR was announced, most of the students received good score and shockingly some students who usually obtained C for the tests, received A for these subjects. Apparently, what does it show to you? Do the students really deserve to obtain the good results for their efforts or there is a hidden agenda done by the ministry of Education in order to prove the effectiveness of PPSMI to the public?
Another issue is whether the Examination Syndicate ready to take the venture as the examinations paper are offered in both languages. The questions addressed are; Are there enough officers who are competent in English to undertake the preparations of such examinations? Are there enough Bilingual markers to take the task since the candidates are given the options since they are given a range of option to answer either in Bahasa Melayu or English or both languages? Resources
In the national budget for 2003, the Prime Minister announced that RM 5 billion would be allocated between 2002 – 2008, for the implementation of PPSMI. A laptop would be given to every teacher from national schools who are teaching Science, Mathematics and English subject, and all Standard One, Form One and Lower Six classes will be equipped with a LCD projector, a screen and a trolley with speakers and an UPS system. A launching grant of RM5000 to RM15000 will be given to each school to acquire additional materials. However, issues of maintenance and security have not been adequately addressed.
Undoubtedly, the maintenance will cost a lot of money and could be a burden to the schools. The other great concern is security. There are a number of schools, which do not have a 24 hour security system in place. Hence, the schools have to ensure that there is a better security system in place in schools as more expensive equipment comes in. Again, to provide schools with better security system will cost money too. The other issue is the necessity of equipping schools with all these hardware. Acquiring hardware is easy, however acquiring suitable software is not that easy.
Institutions sometimes make the mistake of acquiring hardware without making adequate provision for acquiring software. As the result, the hardware is left, unused and obviously, the money spent for all of this, is wasted. Equity and Access Equity and access is one of the issues that need to be addressed. As the policy to teach Science, Mathematics and technology related courses in English reaches the Upper Secondary level, there will be inequality with regards to the number of subjects that will be taught in English between the Humanities and Science streams.
Arts students will have two subjects taught in English whereas Science stream students will be taught at least five subjects in English. This will create a language divide between those who from the Arts and the Sciences and employability will be less for those who have had less exposure to English. In terms of access, students from the upper and middle class families are in better position since they are better resourced and have better family environments to take advantage of this shift in policy.
Compared to rural schools, urban schools have greater access to monetary sources that could help complement the school budget in acquiring materials and extra support. There is also greater likelihood of finding a greater number of teachers who are competent in English in urban schools than in rural schools and students in urban areas have greater exposure to the use of the English than their counterparts in rural areas. Directly, these inequalities will affect the performance of implementation of PPSMI and at the same time, creating the massive injustice between urban and rural schools.
National Education Philosophy states that “Education in Malaysia is an on-going efforts towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manners, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonic, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. Such …….. the nation at large”. Are we able to produce these individuals when the equity and access received by urban and rural areas students are different? Findings of the Studies
Many studies have been done to investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of PPSMI. Most of the findings concluded that PPSMI should be terminated and the system returns the instruction before the policy was introduced in 2003. In another study done by the National Alliance, it shows that (i) PPSMI rise to multiple losses to the students, especially the 75 percent of students who belong to the category (performance) and low average in the three affected subjects and (ii) PPSMI has and will kill the enthusiasm and motivation of pupils to study Science and Mathematics.
The finding from a study done by Tan Yao Sua shows that the students’ general attitudes and achievement motivations towards learning of Science and Mathematics in English do not indicate that the policy has achieved its objective. Ebata (2005) stated that “Motivation is vital in learning and it makes learners positive about their own learning”. Hussin, Maarof and D’ Cruz (2001) stated that six factors influence motivation in language learning are attitudes, beliefs about self, goals, involvement, environmental support, and personal attributes.
Unfortunately, most students (especially in rural areas) confessed that their motivation to learn these subjects decline and as the consequence, students are not able to show their full potential due to language barrier and this indirectly, will effect the students’ performances in the future. Throughout the six years of implementation of PPSMI, RM4 billion public-expenditures has been spent by the government and apparently, all the efforts and money spent are to no avail. Training of teachers Due to the implementation of PPSMI, Science and Mathematics teachers are sent to attend courses to prepare themselves for the new policy.
The importance of training are in term of productivity, team spirit, organization culture, organization climate, quality, healthy work environment, healthy and safety, morale, profitability, optimum utilization of human resources, development of human resources and development of skills of employees (Naukrihub, 2004). They are not only being introduced to the new and effective teaching pedagogy for teaching Science and Mathematics in English, but are also given English courses in order to allow them to familiarize themselves with the language. Logically, some of the English teachers do mistakes for the anguage and need to attend courses to improve themselves, and now we are giving training for teachers who mostly do not have English background in their certificates to do multiple tasks – teaching English and their respective subject? Unlike any professions which start at 8 am and finish at 5 pm, most of the teachers’ time are spent preparing for the teaching aids, conducting good lesson plans and evaluating them, focusing on the students’ learning needs, marking students’ books, and now we want to burden them by ‘forcing’ them to attend all of these courses?
A research done by UPSI students shows that “Over 80% of the students stated that teacher of Mathematics and Science use a mixture of English And Bahasa Malaysia to teach the two subjects and students achievement in these two subjects are low, especially on items that require students to read the instructions in English and problems solving”.
The finding of the study confirmed the often-heard anecdotal evidence that one of the key problems is that teachers are finding it difficult to teach in English and consequently students are having a hard time understanding these lessons that are conducted by teachers who themselves are not proficient in the language. As a result, it exposes a fundamental flaw in the implementation of the policy. How do you expect the students to answer exam questions in English when it is not entirely taught in English in the first place?
Do you think students can master English in this classroom atmosphere? Conclusion The content of the article has failed to present the solid evidence on why PPSMI policy should continue in our education system. I have presented my arguments and strongly believe, the decision done by the Ministry of Education to abolish PPSMI is definitely a wise move and should not be argued by any quarters. There is no use to create a new policy because what we really need is improvements on the existing education system.
If our students are given a sound foundation in the English language itself with proper instruction given to grammar, vocabulary and syntax during English lessons, they will have few problems understanding Science and Mathematics reference books and journals in English at universities. They don’t need to be taught Mathematics and Science in English to read reference books in English later on but what they really need is to be proficient in English, which clearly this policy has failed to achieve.
References Ebata, R. (2006). Motivation. Retrieved September 25, 2010 from http://iteslj. org/Articles/Ebata-MotivationFactors. html PPSMI should continue (2009). Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://tunkuaisha. blogspot. com/2009/03/ppsmi-should-continue. html Santrock, J. W. (2004). Educational psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Sua, T. Y. (2007). Attitudes and achievement orientations of students towards learning of science and mathematics in english.
Retrieved on September 24, 2010 from http://www. usm. my/km/25%281%292007/KM%20ART%2025%281%29_2. pdf Teaching science and mathematics in English (2009). Retrieved 22 September, 2010 from http://ms. wikipedia. org/wiki/Teaching_and_learning_Science_and_Mathematics_in_english The use of Vernacular languages in education (1953). Retrieved September 22, 2010 from http://unesdoc. unesco. org/images/0000/000028/002897eb. pdf