Media Statement by Dr. Chen Man Hin in Seremban on Friday, 17th July 2009:
The crux of the present controversy is which is better, to study maths & science in Bahasa or to study maths and science in English?
So as not to confuse the issue, it is necessary to point out the fact that all are agreed that Malaysian students must study Bahasa Malaysia and be fluent with the language.
It is also generally accepted that students should study English as it is the common language in the world and it is the language of commerce, diplomacy, of business and in science and technology.
For some mistaken rationale, the Ministry of Education has after months of debate and dialogue decided that students should use Bahasa to teach Maths and Science in secondary schools.
This has caused considerable disbelief and distress among many parents who prefer to have their children learn Maths and Science in English. They want their children to fit into the new world which has become global, and where English is the currency acceptable in most countries and in most fields of human endeavour.
In the new world, Science and Technology is the wave of the future. The industrial age is now replaced by the age of knowledge. In the field of knowledge, world libraries and the internet use the English Language as the primary language of communication. It is a sad fact that the libraries of Malaysian universities have failed to provide adequate Bahasa Malaysia reading material in Science and Technology for our university students.
Their parents are very much aware that their children can have a better chance to equip themselves with science and technology if they are well versed in the English language.
Singapore is a good example of the value of English to master maths and science
Asia leads the world for having the best students in science and maths, as shown by the 2007 report by TIMSS (TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY).
The international educational scores for 2007 show that Asian countries top the ranking with 1. Chinese Taipei 2. S Korea 3. Singapore 4. Hong Kong 5. Japan 6. Hungary 7. England 8. Russia, 9. United States and 10. Lithuania.
Sadly, Malaysia came in a distant 20th position in Mathematics, compared to 10th in 2003.
The Ministry of Education should look to Asian countries for solutions to the issue of Maths and Science for students in Malaysia.
Learn from our closest neighbour Singapore which took first position in TIMSS 2003 and 3rd position in TIMSS 2007. Singapore teaches maths and science in English.
No one is questioning the sovereignty of Bahasa Malaysia. Maths and Science can be taught in any language, but parentsí choice should be respected.
To join the new global age of a knowledge society it would be in the best interest of Malaysia to encourage students at secondary schools to learn Maths and Science in English.
This is very true for rural and kampong students who can benefit immensely by learning maths and science at secondary schools. We want them to be in the mainstream of global advancement, and empower them with Science to take a rightful place in a knowledge society.
Ensure Malaysia will join the ranks of top asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, rather then being in the company of third world countries, by allowing Maths and Science in English in Secondary schools from Form 1 to Form 5.
* Dr. Chen Man Hin, DAP Life Advisor