Stupid, short sighted, fucked up, what can I say. (Pardon my French.) But not for the reasons you may think.
The whole project was doomed to begin with because the government did not have the manpower to pull off PPSMI (Teaching Science and Maths in English).
A friend of mine was teaching her son mathematics one day. She noticed that he kept using the word “push” in place of “minus”, so she admonished him and said, “No, it’s 4 minus 1, dear.”
Her son shook his head and insisted, to her horror: “No, mummy. It is 4 push 1. Teacher said so.”
Push is, after all, the direct translation of “tolak” after all.
You see, if PPSMI was implemented properly, with the right workforce in place, our kids would have benefited from it all. Unfortunately, what we’re seeing now are the urban kids – many of whom benefit from fluent, English-speaking teachers – getting better while the rural students suffer from badly taught English science and math classes.
The government, however, could’ve done something else besides scrapping the entire thing. They could’ve instead aggressively recruited or trained a new batch of English-speaking teachers. Get retirees and expats to work in schools. Heck, if you want import sajalah. But no. They decide to throw in the towel and retreat back into the shell whence they came from. Six years of effort down the drain. Taxpayers’ money wasted. AGAIN.
Apparently they’ll be introducing English literature classes in school. A good idea, but how will it be executed? Will we get half-past six teachers explaining Dickens to students in Engrish?
So, what can you do to improve your kids’ standard of English despite the stupid system in place?
Well, I studied Science and Maths in Bahasa Malaysia, but I still speak and write in good English. If you’re worried about your kids’ proficiency in English perhaps you can copy what my parents did:
1. Encourage your child to read English books. If he wants to read comics, let him – let him discover how fun it is to read English books. My dad really nurtured the reading bug in us.
2. Converse in English at home. My mum told me that before marrying my dad, she spoke mostly Hokkien. However, my dad insisted on speaking with us in English more often and she followed suit.
3. Let him mingle with kids his age who speak English.
Unfortunately … I just don’t know what we can do for the rural folks who probably have limited access to materials (books) and native English speakers. I fear for their future the most.
It’s a pity that some political animals have convinced some people that learning in English is akin to betraying their roots. If this people want to hide in their little rabbit holes and not come out to face the world, they shouldn’t drag others in with them.