November 19, 2011

My Answer to Prof. Dr.Wan Ramli on PPSMI

1. Recently Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli has published an article supporting the abolishment of PPSMI in The Star newspaper. The article can be read from this link, I’ve gone through the article looking for strong argument that can support his view. Unfortunately, I was surprised to know that, he has made the same mistake done by those who against the policy. This is a glaring mistake that touches the fundamental understanding about PPSMI policy.

2. It is very sad to learn that, most if not all the people that go against the policy are due to their misunderstanding to the main objective of PPSMI. In that article, Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli has mentioned several times that the PPSMI is not the right way of improving the English language of our children. This can be seen in paragraph 4 and 14:-

 “Reverting to the dual education system of English and Bahasa Melayu streams of the early post-colonial years that bred elitism and exclusiveness at the expense of the rest of the rakyat is certainly not the right way of improving the English language of our children.” – Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli

“Learning English through Science and Mathematics, I am sure every educator worth his salt agrees, is not the most appropriate way of learning a language.” – Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli

3. This is a serious mistake in understanding the objective of the PPSMI. The same mistake is done by all the people that against the policy and sadly, this include some of the ministers. I’ve heard the deputy minister to the minister of education said that the abolishment of PPSMI will not weaken the English proficiency as the ministry has replaced it with upholding Bahasa Melayu and Strengthening English language (MBMMBI) policy. This again shows how misunderstood the minister is to the PPSMI policy.

4. It is very important to emphasize that the main objective of PPSMI is not to improve the English proficiency of the children. PPSMI main objective is to teach Science and Mathematics in English so that the children will not have a problem understanding the textbooks or journals when they are at higher education. (i.e. University).  In other word, it is to prepare the students with science and mathematics understanding in a language that will be used in their higher education. PPSMI policy is not meant to improve the English language among the student. The improvement in English language is the indirect outcome or the secondary objective of the policy. It should be clear by now that the policy is not for English language improvement.

5. Another point raised by Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli is the ability of the current system (teaching in Bahasa Melayu) to produce professor, scientist and some other professionals. Yes, I agree that the current system has manage to produce most of the professional in wide variety of engineering and scientific field. However, this is not where we want to be. To this date, we haven’t produce even single technology creator or technology provider. So far, the professionals that we produce are still a user to the technology introduced by others (western). We are not the producer. Are we satisfied with the ability to only be a user? Do we want to be a user forever? Can’t we produce or introduce a new technology and let the whole world learn from us? Producing technology creator is the ultimate target of PPSMI.

6. How PPSMI can be the catalyst or enabler to produce technology creator? Let me explain the concept. As mentioned by Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli, the science and mathematics learned at school is an established subject. Yes, it is true. These are the fundamentals that will be used in the higher education. All the established concept of science and mathematics will be applied in many fields of engineering and science subjects in the university. One of the important factors that we have to admit is, all the references (textbooks and journals) in higher education are in English. This is where the problem comes from. In the university, the student will consume a lot of their time trying to understand the scientific article due to the different language accustomed to them. The process of translating from the English terms into malay terminology is needed before the student can understand the fundamental concept of the article. Sometimes this will take time and can lead to the inability to focus and accurately understand the theory. Failure to accurately grasp the fundamental theory will lead to half-baked understanding and this will not help in securing every aspect of the technology let alone to be a creator.

7. Through PPSMI, once the students have started learning science and mathematics in English, they will not have a problem understanding textbooks and journals during their higher education. Together with strengthening English language policy in school, they can understand the technical aspect of the journals easily and this will encourage them to think outside the box and hoping to come out with new ideas or new technology. We do not want to stop at producing professors or scientists but we want to produce professors and scientists that can create a new breakthrough in future technology.

8. Another important requirement in PPSMI is the policy should be applied as early as possible through out the education system. The best thing is to start the policy in the pre-school. The reason for this is the young children will not have any problem absorbing the knowledge even-though it is taught in alien language. It is a common knowledge that the young children can easily understand anything we throw to them. We can run simple test to justify this theory. Just go and teach any 3 years old children on counting in English. Don’t be surprised that these children will be able to do that without any problem and yes this can happen even if the children are from rural areas. The key is to start early. It is not advisable if the teaching of science and mathematics in English is applied at secondary level because it will create confusion during the transition and translation process. The sooner the policy is applied the better. Starting early will help the students from any background to progress well in the learning process and finally will produce future generation of children that will have good understanding in science and mathematics and at the same time able to applied their fundamental knowledge in the higher education.

9. It is very sad indeed when the policy was abolished due to the misunderstanding about the policy. It is very important for everybody to understand the main objective of the policy and failure to understand the fundamental will lead to a wrong hypothesis and judgment. As a great professor in his field, I’m sure Prof. Dr. Wan Ramli will understand the need to comprehend the fundamental. 


Farah Rahim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MegaBidaman said...

well said bro ! as an engineer i understand the need of PPSMI in our educational system , it's quite confusing when the term use in the lecture hall (in bahasa) and term use in the international reference books

CheWal said...

Thanks megabidaman,

Its quite common for student to request the lecture to be delivered in English.