KUALA LUMPUR: A DAP MP today questioned the hasty introduction of imported English language textbooks by the education ministry, saying the use of such books should be reconsidered.
The books in question are “Super Minds” from Cambridge University Press for primary school pupils, and MacMillan’s “Pulse” for secondary school students.
They are meant to replace local English textbooks, to align the curriculum with the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR).
Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari said however the sudden policy decision by the ministry has raised consternation and concern, especially over the issue of cost.
He said the new textbooks were far more expensive than the existing ones, with “Super Minds” priced at RM38.80 a copy, and “Pulse 2” going for RM38.
Based on the current enrolment figures of 450,000 students in Year One and 400,000 in Form 1, he said the total cost of providing these textbooks for each child would amount to RM33 million.
This was in contrast to locally published textbooks, which cost less than RM10 a copy.
“The prohibitive cost of these books is also questionable as these supposedly imported books are not actually imported but printed locally and supplied through local publishers Pan Asia Publications for ‘Super Minds’ and Desa Fikir for ‘Pulse 2’.
“Are these books then purposely labelled as imported in order to justify the high price paid for them?” Zairil asked at a press conference in Parliament today.
The Star previously reported that starting next year, imported English textbooks will be used in schools instead of locally produced ones.
This is part of the education ministry’s move to implement the new CEFR-aligned curriculum.
The CEFR is a guide developed by the Council of Europe to gauge foreign language proficiency.
Beginning next year, preschoolers, Year One and Two pupils, and Form One and Two students will follow the curriculum.
Zairil, who is also the DAP parliamentary spokesperson for education, science and technology, claimed that the textbooks were copied “word for word” from the original versions and hence carried a very strong British context with zero local content.
He gave an example from page 75 of Unit 7 in the “Pulse 2” textbook, which features an article about Andrew, an Amish teenager from Mississippi, US, who is going on a visit with other Amish teenagers to London.
The article said Andrew would also visit a sports club, attend a music festival and try his hand at some traditional British sports.
Zairil said the article ended with this instruction: “Watch Channel 4 on Friday at 8pm to see how Andrew gets on!”.
This was followed by a question on whether Andrew would enjoy his trip to Britain.
“Aside from the fact that the content, which describes the visit of an Amish teenager to Britain, is incredibly foreign and meaningless in our Malaysian context, how are our students supposed to refer to the TV programme in question when the channel, a British TV station, is not available here in Malaysia?
“At the same time, how are our students expected to respond to the question of whether Andrew will enjoy his trip to Britain when almost all our students cannot even imagine what Britain looks like?” Zairil asked.
Adding that the use of such content made no sense, Zairil said local cultural references should be used to facilitate the learning process.
“In this case, the extensive use of foreign cultural references will only confuse students and teachers. In the end, the learning and teaching of English will be even more difficult,” he added.