Sunday, March 8, 2009

PPSMI : Which way to go?

Are you confused with the current situation regarding PPSMI?.
Lets study the following three cases:

Primary School : Malay (4A+1B) for Standard 5
Remove Class : English
Form 1 to Form 3 : English - scored 7 A
Form 4 to From 5: English - science school
A-Level : English in UK (3A + 1B) : Maths, Physics. (The lecturer called me "King of Vectors" -not bad for a guy who learned basic mathematics in Malay language)
Degree : English in UK :
Authored two technical papers for International Journal.

My Brother:
Primary School : Malay
Secondary School : Malay
Asasi Science USM : English
Degree : USM : English
Master : USM : English
PhD : USM : English
Authored : Several research papers + 1 patent.

My Daughter:
Primary School : Malay
Secondary School : English (PPSMI)
PMR : PPSMI : 7A + 1B
SPM : PPSMI : 11A1 + 1 A2
A-Level : English :Pre Medic.

I came from very poor family (my father was a rubber taper) but I considered myself lucky since I obtained a lot encouragement for my study from my uncle/unties who were school teachers.

Although I love to see my children learn Maths and Science in English personally I found it difficult to teach them in English at their primary level.

I can imagine how difficult it is for parent of children who are poor and don't use English daily to help their kids with their homework. Parents can help their kids with their Maths and Science homework better if they understand the subject and can explain to their kids in their common language.

I encouraged my kids to talk in English at home but it was not so successful since I married a kampung girl who only speaks a bit of English.

I personally faced a lot of problem when my kids asked me to help them with the Arabic Language homework because I never learn Arabic Language during my school days.

My thought :

Science and Maths should be thought in Malay for the first 2-3 years with minor introduction of basic English technical terms. Until they grasped the basic understanding of these abstract subject then teaching them in any language will be meaningful.

My problem:

I found it very difficult to write official letter to government office in Malay. I also found it very difficult to read technical paper written in Malay.

I had presented technical papers International Seminar in English but I dont think many will understand if the same paper was translated and presented in KL in Malay language since not many Malaysian engineers are familiar with Malay technical terms.

Most of my meetings with government officers were done in English except for the introduction. I even once made a presentation for a study to the previous Prime Minister in English. So Malay language had lost its importance.

My Experience:

I had worked in UK, handled clients from UK, US, China, Korea, Middle East and Japan. English language is not the reason for these people to be at the forefront of the technology. It is their will to learn.

Due to the nature of my work I have to employ either First Class or Second Upper graduates and they came from all kind of races. English language is a problem for some Malay graduates but most of them are determine to improve themselves if proper guidance are given to them. Chinese and Indian graduates speaks English better. Malay Engineers do not speak in English among them.

Somehow I found irrespective of the proficiency in English some Malay engineers performed better than the other races.

My Conclusion:

English language is not the main reason for the Malay to be deprived of sucess in the economic and academic world. There are a lot of British people who write and speak perfect English but did not do well in Science and Maths.

Maths and Science can be thought in any language. Success in these two fields do not depend on good English.

It is not the type of language that you used to teach the children but how you make your kids love and understand what your are teaching.

You can learn Einstein's Theory of Relativity in Japanese , Malay, English, Hebrew, German languages. Similarly, there is no special language for maths and science but I would loved to learn this subjects in Malay.