Picture credit - sxc.hu
Picture credit - sxc.hu

Advocates of PPSMI (Teaching and learning of Mathematics and Science in English) have not conceded defeat despite the Education Minister’s pronouncement that PPSMI is abolished effective January 2011, starting with Year 1. Though doors for appeals and discussion seem to be shut tight, PAGE’s (Parent Action Group for Education) resolve is undiminished; the quest to reinstate PPSMI will continue, with greater urgency no doubt.

On 11 April an open dialogue session organised by PAGE Ipoh Chapter under the leadership of Datuk Dr Anwar Hassan was held in Ipoh. Aptly titled PPSMI – The Never Ending Quest, the gathering attracted a crowd of students, parents, educators and concerned citizens. What transpired reflected the enthusiasm and passion of the community towards PPSMI, enough to give us hope that all is not lost where this issue is concerned.

Datin Noor Azimah Rahim, Chairperson of PAGE Malaysia and an active proponent of PPSMI was present to lend support to a matter which is close to her heart. She and her team, who are fierce advocates of the principle ‘pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents’ as stated in the Education Act 1996, made no bones about where they stand on the issue.

Chairman of Malaysian Employers Federation, Perak branch, Mr Soong Kok Hong was also present to explain that English was a decisive factor in job recruitment, and anyone with adequate proficiency has an edge over those who don’t. Also, the abundance of available literature for Science, Technology and other technical subjects is written mainly in English. And we know only too well that employers lament over how wanting our local graduates are, especially where English communication is concerned.

The Education Ministry may keep touting the MBMMBI (Upholding Bahasa Melayu, Strengthening English proficiency) policy in replacement of PPSMI, but as far as English is concerned, its words are pure rhetoric and ring hollow. The MBMMBI catchphrase is oft repeated but the policy is one we know little about, and see no evidence of, to date.

Though PPSMI is still in force for those who started with the policy back in 2003, the reality on the ground is quite the opposite. The complaint heard at the meeting is that secondary school teachers are teaching Mathematics and Science in BM, and school principals are not doing enough to direct these teachers to stick to English.  Mind you, these teachers receive a critical allowance meant for PPSMI. The lack of moral obligation and accountability reflect poorly on this group of educators in our midst.

Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) also have to take the initiative to ensure that PPSMI still lives on for those who started with it. Since they are obliged to be objective and impartial in matters of education, abandoning this duty is not an option. Dr Anwar urged parents to use the PTA platform to voice their concerns openly and explicitly, to ensure no deviation from what is right.

A glimmer of hope came from a PPSMI supporter who detailed how a group of parents succeeded in convincing their children’s school principal to continue with the policy (the school had initially switched to BM) through the PTA platform.

PAGE Ipoh Chapter has proposed a number of reforms for the Education department to act on. They are:

  1. The PPSMI option to be given to Year 1 and 2 students; a PPSMI class to be set up if there are 30 or more students willing to take up this option.
  2. Education authorities to make public a list of schools offering PPSMI.
  3. English books for Mathematics and Science to be made easily available in schools offering PPSMI.
  4. Designate a cluster of permanent PPSMI schools in each district to allow parents to relocate their children there if they so wish.

It would have reflected well on education authorities (or even school principals and PTA chairpersons) if they had attended the PAGE Ipoh dialogue. Some interest shown would have been welcome; the opportunity to express their stand on the matter was given but was ignored.  The authorities’ failure or reluctance to engage or consult with the community on matters of public concern, speaks volumes.

In civil and advanced societies, any establishment worth its salt will welcome not only any occasion for interaction and engagement with the public, but also itself create avenues for open communication. If people who should know better don’t know better, on whom should we place our faith and trust? In which direction are we being led? If people in power pave the road to educational progress with coarse, uneven and sharp stones, the walking will be tricky indeed.

Perhaps for some people, the PPSMI chapter is already closed, and it is business as usual when the noise dies down at the end of the day. But just because you keep your eyes shut, it does not mean the issue is settled. For those who think that proponents of PPSMI will yield and close the chapter on this policy, think again.

Sandra Rajoo

Contributing Editor


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