The Government has decided to reverse the Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English policy and revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools and Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.
More emphasis would also be placed on English, including the hiring of retired teachers, assistant teachers for bigger classes and having additional periods.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this meant that from 2012, students in Years One and Four and Forms One and Four in national primary and secondary schools would study the two subjects in Bahasa Malaysia while those in vernacular schools would be taught in their mother tongue (Chinese and Tamil).
“We want to have a ‘soft landing’ which is why we will begin only in 2012. This will allow us time to make the necessary preparations,” he told a press conference at the ministry when announcing the reversal of the ETeMS policy or better known by its Malay acronym, PPSMI.
Asked why the ministry was not starting with a new cohort of Year One students, Muhyiddin who is Education Minister, said there was time to fine-tune the policy.
“There is still two-and-a-half years to prepare.
“Some members of the Cabinet made an observation that those in Form Four may be affected but that’s okay because we can still make changes so they continue their studies in two languages,” he said.
Muhyiddin said the ministry would do “whatever we can to make it as soft as possible for these students.”
“This is why the ministry is staggering the changes that will happen.
“It was quite sudden when the PPSMI was introduced previously,” he said.
The PPSMI policy was implemented in phases, beginning with Year One, Form One and Lower Six students in 2003, under former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure.
The first cohort who completed six years of primary schooling and studied the two subjects in English received their Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results last year.
Muhyiddin said that to ensure the implementation of the new policy did not affect the first batch (who started studying the two subjects in English in primary school in 2003), they would continue to study Mathematics and Science bilingually (in English and Bahasa Malaysia) until 2014.
He stressed that the reason for the reversal in policy was due to objective considerations and not political ones.
“It was based on empirical studies and other specialist reviews,” he said.
Based on studies conducted in 2008, he said, the ministry found that only a small percentage of teachers fully used English to teach the two subjects.
“On average, the percentage of those using English during Mathematics and Science periods was around 53% to 58%,” he said, adding that only a small number of teachers were proficient.
Muhyiddin said studies carried out by local universities found that students’ mastery level of English during the entire policy was around 3% while the level among rural students was low.
“Based on these observations, the Government is confident that Mathematics and Science should be taught in languages understood by students, which is Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, and Chinese and Tamil in the respective vernacular schools,” he said.
On whether the decision goes against Dr Mahathir’s vision, Muhyiddin said he and senior ministry officials had a three-hour meeting explaining the problems faced by those involved.