Landing softly, hardly taking off | Selangor Times
Tuesday
21·11·2017
Issue 118

 

Senedi
Landing softly, hardly taking off
Writer: Lee Hwok Aun
Published: Fri, 18 Nov 2011

So the teaching of maths and science in English, and acronym of the year PPSMI, has been piloted to a soft landing. There’s a bit for all interested parties in the final give and take.

Schoolchildren who started with PPSMI will continue until they complete secondary school; families will be relieved that their progress is not linguistically disrupted. Teaching science and mathematics in Malay will be phased in, to the satisfaction of its proponents, under agenda MBM-MBI (soon enough, if not already, you will know what this stands for). And schools may determine for themselves whether to teach science and maths in English or Malay.

Many parents, especially urbanites, will welcome this overture – albeit cautiously – since their stake in schools’ deliberations has not been guaranteed.

The government’s decision to abolish PPSMI and the backlash over the past few years stirred up many issues, which now seem to be put aside in the spirit of moving on. Maybe every side got enough of what they wanted.

Two ideas have taken hold of the public mindset. First, reverting to Malay instruction will boost maths and science achievement in rural areas. Second, retaining PPSMI will move us up the technological ladder.

Both are questionable, desirable as the objectives may be. Indeed, a fundamental flaw of the PPSMI process, from conception to decommission, is that the government and society have not examined the problems with enough breadth and depth.

Take the measures we have used to gauge the outcomes of PPSMI. National exam results are a popular, and easily accessible, reference point. Pass rates for SPM maths and science have steadily risen in recent years. In November 2008, then Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was quoted extolling these results as evidence of PPSMI’s success.

However, the credibility of SPM scores hinges on the extent the syllabus, level of difficulty and impartiality in setting cut-off points have remained constant. On these matters, we have not received assurance, and it is safe to say many doubts linger.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a standard test across various countries of 13- and 14-year-olds, presents a more reliable, consistent and internationally recognised benchmark. According to this, Malaysia’s achievements declined. In 2007, Malaysia scored 474 for mathematics and 471 for science, down from 508 and 510 respectively in 2003.

Irony won the day when Hishammuddin’s successor and current education minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, referred to the TIMSS results in July 2009 as proof that PPSMI was faltering.

No one can be too sure. TIMSS was administered in English in 2007, Malay in 2003. Perhaps it was the language switch; perhaps it was truly a decline in Malaysian students’ aptitude that played a role. Between 1999 and 2003, our mathematics score declined, while our science score rose.

An academic study published in 2010 by Parmjit Singh, Arba Abdul Rahman and Teoh Sian Hoon of UiTM sheds interesting, and somewhat surprising, light. They conducted mathematics tests on Standard Four children in Maran – one in English and another, of identical content, in English with Malay translation.

They found that in rural areas, there is no significant difference between the two tests. The potential aid of Malay translation did not improve scores as one might expect. In contrast, urban participants did better with the bilingual format. In other words, rural students did as poorly in maths in English as in Malay.

Such studies demand further enquiry to be more broadly applied. But its central finding must be noted: deficiency in mathematical achievement in rural schools is due primarily to lack of mathematical knowledge, not language difficulties.

To be fair and apologetic, various countries have also seen the TIMSS performance dip recently. To be fair and dynamic, top performers like South Korea sustained high points across 1999-2007.

Incidentally, in 2007 a South Korean teacher with 15 years of experience earned on average 2.2 times GDP per capita – the highest among the OECD club of high-income countries.

I am not suggesting that we need only pump teachers’ salaries – yet there could be something to it, and related issues that we ought to probe.

Is it about language of instruction, or highly capable, well-remunerated and presumably self-motivated teachers? Can we aspire to be technologically advanced like South Korea without more in common with its education system?

It looks to me that we have switched from Malay textbooks and canned answers, to English textbooks and canned answers, to Malay or English textbooks and canned answers. A gradual phasing out of PPSMI softens the landing, but I struggle to see if and where we are truly taking off.

 

 Selangor Times

 

 

Also by Lee Hwok Aun:

Voting by manifesto

I REALLY want to compare two election manifestos, but as I write only one exists.

The bounteous taking before generous giving

Sunnier days for workers?

Guarantee or speculation?

COME Dec 31, if Planet Earth continues orbiting the sun and twirling on its axis, 2012 will run its full term.

Dr Syed Husin – Justice For All

Don’t address him YB. If there is one who deserves to be honoured by us the rakyat, it’s him. But Dr Syed Husin Ali prefers not to be called Yang Berhormat, especially outside of the parliamentary chambers where he is Senator. You will not find a whiff of false modesty in his words. 

Education blueprint falls short

At last, some official confession of how bad things really are in our schools. 

Janji Dinanti

My secondary schoolmates gathered recently for a reunion. Many of us hadn’t met in 20 years, and in some cases couldn’t match names to faces.

Poser over NEP exit

Are we ready to exit the New Economic Policy?

Stop bullying tactics

Is Vision 2020 delusionary?

Looks like Vision 2020 is riding back into the limelight. With elections around the corner, as they have been for about a year, and destiny’s date now just eight years away, UMNO-BN fires a cocktail canister of pleas: so little time, so much to do, and only they will get us there, only they know how. It almost brings tears to my eyes, tears of…

Good conduct Bill for MPs?

Let’s say we table a Members of Parliament Proper Conduct Bill, and inserted sub-section 15(4) of the current Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) Amendment Bill. Why not? Both are institutions meant to pursue truth and generate debate.

Minimum wage still in infancy

It looks like we are rather conscious these days of lowly incomes and lofty inequalities.

What educational reform?

You might think, as we get closer to the promised reforms to the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), that public authorities and education institutions would want to show some change of heart and mind. Think again.

Why settle for minimum wage?

THE lowest- paid workers in Selangor’s state agencies stand to gain from a wage boost next year. The state government’s recently announced RM1,500 minimum wage moves us in a fair and progressive direction.

Malaysia should focus on education

2011 will have to go down as the year of the occupied square. The Occupy Wall Street month-long encampment at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan follows a motif painted from Tunis’ Kasbah Square to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, among the more epic places of revolutionary gathering.

Subversion and division

A subversive document lies before me. Brazenly, some Malaysians think “only those countries that undertook a systematic programme to transform the underlying structure of their economies … were able to rise from middle-income status to become high-income countries”. And these people say we should do likewise.

Whither BN’s logic?

When Nick Leeson, the infamous rogue trader, was convicted in 1995, his lines of defensce did not include “I lost money, how could I have committed fraud?” When professional cyclist Bernard Kohl was found guilty of doping in the Tour de France, he did not plead: “I didn’t win the race, how could I have cheated?”

Wither minimum wage bill?

In my last column I wrote about our rush to meet grandiose targets and end up with partial or delusional solutions. Right on cue, Datuk Seri Idris Jala disclosed on April 26 that Pemandu is expecting do deliver a modus operandi and quantum of minimum wage by the end of this year.

Country in a hurry

We are a country in a hurry: we want high-income status by 2020. We are also a KPI-driven nation: we speedily devise and monitor a litany of key performance indicators. And we are an ambitious lot: we set high targets and want fast results.

Malaysia’s "Me, too!" mentality

Murderously deforested Sarawak goes to their state polls soon. The world remains transfixed on the frenzy to cool down Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plants. And the Malaysian government refuses to impose a moratorium on its plans for nuclear energy.

The right answers or the right questions?

Did you hear a collective groan last week, emitting from the likes of Pantai Dalam, Serdang and Bangi? It's back to the semester grind for students at Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra, Universiti Kebangsaan, and Malaysia's public universities and their now synchronised calendars.

 

 

VIEWS

 

 

MEDIA

 

 

 

TECHNOLOGY

From Windows to a Mac: A guide

 

 

FOOD

In for a sweet treat

 

 

TRAVEL

A Majestic presence

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Selangor Times. All rights reserved. Designed By Senedi
Twitter