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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 9th July 2009: 

Cabinet decision on PPSMI - not a New Deal but a Raw Deal leaving Malaysia stranded in the march towards global educational quality, excellence and competitiveness

The Cabinet decision on the PPSMI (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik – teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English) yesterday was not a New Deal, as proclaimed by some newspaper headlines, but a Raw Deal leaving Malaysia stranded in the march towards global educational quality, excellence and competitiveness and doing a great disservice to millions of students currently in both the primary and secondary schools.

The Raw Deal of the PPSMI decision of the Cabinet is powerfully highlighted by the Sin Chew report of a national secondary school Form One student in Ipoh who burst into tears at the news of the Cabinet decision, feeling totally lost, worried what would be his future when he had to switch to Bahasa Malaysia for mathematics and science when entering Form 4 in 2012, after mastering both subjects being taught in English from Form 1 to 3 from this year to 2011 – and Form 4 and 5 are the most important years in a person’s education in preparing for Form 6, university and the world beyond.

Did the Cabinet Ministers discuss and envision the disastrous effect of their PPSMI decision yesterday on the half a million of students who would have been taught maths and science in the English medium from Form 1 to 3 from this year to 2011 in having suddenly to switch to Bahasa Malaysia as medium of instruction for these two subjects in 2012 in Form 4 - after six years of being guinea pigs of PPSMI in the primary schools?

If the Cabinet had not anticipated the cruelty and the sheer injustice of such a switch for Form 4 students in 2012, clearly the Cabinet Ministers had not thought through the whole issue thoroughly and they have failed the nation, the people and in particular the 5.5 million school-going generation under their charge!

This is not the only Raw Deal of the Cabinet’s PPSMI decision yesterday. The Cabinet decision yesterday cannot be the last word on the controversial subject and the whole issue must be re-opened for a broader, more liberal and flexible solution which would have far-reaching consequences not only to nation-building, nature of a society we want to build in Malaysia but also whether Malaysia can compete and stand tall with the rest of the world.

I am not surprised that the father of the PPSMI, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, is quite upset about the Cabinet decision yesterday.

I had right from the beginning in 2002 opposed Mahathir’s PPSMI, as it is educationally unsound because educational experience on bilingual education worldwide in the past three decades have shown that using a second language as a medium of instruction from too early stages can impede the development of thinking skills of children resulting in low achievement in mathematics, science and languages – powerful educational arguments against the use of English to teach maths and science from Std. One.

This argument does not apply for children whose home language is the English language or a total immersion education system is adopted with English as medium of instruction.

This is why I suggested a flexible approach to the PPSMI problem which does not allow a “One Size Fits All” solution, by giving parents the choice to decide on the type of education they want for their children – including having classes or schools using English as medium of instruction for mathematics and science.

Six years ago, Mahathir broached the idea of the possibility of the re-introduction of government English-medium school system to arrest the decline of the standard of English. Is Mahathir prepared to revisit and take up this proposal?

While I disagree with Mahathir’s “One Size Fits All” formula in forcing through the PPSMI for national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools from 2003, I share his dismay at the Cabinet decision to abandon the use of English to teach mathematics and science for Forms 1 and 4 from 2012.

As Mahathir said, he was only briefed of the Cabinet decision on the PPMSI but he was not consulted at all.

Mahathir said:

“I was only briefed about it, so after the briefing I gave my suggestions, I said even if it could not be implemented at primary level, at least at secondary level it should be maintained, so it was not a consultation only briefing.

“I am saddened because the future of our children will be affected. They will be the victims.”

It is even sadder to see Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, trying to argue the unarguable – the dismal failure of the PPSMI after six years and some RM4 billion of public expenditures an all-round decline!

The purpose of the ill-conceived PPSMI was to raise the standards of English, mathematics and science for Malaysian students which are imperative if Malaysia is not to continue its descent into a backwater, with one country after another overtaking the country in national development and progress.

The reasons prompting the PPSMI six years ago to transform Malaysia into a global powerhouse in English, maths and science were right, proper and should be supported but the approach in conceiving and implementing the PPSMI from Std. One was wrong.

The Cabinet’s PPSMI decision yesterday sought to address the fallacies of PPSMI – but it has failed to come up with a formula which commands public confidence that English, maths and science proficiency of Malaysian students would be upgraded for Malaysia to become a global powerhouse in these three subjects.

There must be a new round of national consultation and debate to give a genuine new deal to the millions of Malaysian students in schools which will redound to greater national economic prowess and international competitiveness, instead of a Raw Deal which negates the faults of PPSMI without any compensating or redeeming virtue.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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