PETALING JAYA: An academic consultant says the use of Spanish words in imported English textbooks is a minor issue, and that the bigger concern is the overall content of the books which are meant for foreign students.
Tan Ai Mei said while the use of Spanish words raised questions over the relevance of the text, the issue at hand was in fact the relevance of the books’ content.
“I am questioning the relevance of the content,” she told FMT.
“They want our students to have a good command of English, but our students are at a different level, which makes it illogical.”
She said using a textbook whose content differed completely from the socio-cultural experience of students was a matter beyond their readiness to learn.
“It is tough for students to digest the content and acquire the language at the same time. This is a barrier to effective learning.”
Tan also questioned the cost of the new books, at RM37 for the primary school textbooks and RM78 for the secondary school textbooks.
“This involves hundreds of thousands of students across the whole country.
“The ministry involved needs to account for the money spent, whether it is justified,” she said.
She added that she had found numerous grammatical flaws when she went through the imported English textbooks.
The books in question are Super Minds from Cambridge University Press for primary school pupils, and MacMillan’s Pulse 2 for secondary school students.
They are meant to replace local English textbooks, to align the curriculum with the Common European Framework of Reference Language (CEFR).
DAP’s Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who has been vocal on the issue, recently said that a check of the books showed the publishers had designed it specifically for Spanish students.
He also said the books had “zero local content” as they were copied “word for word” from the original versions and hence carried a very strong British context.
Although advocates of the imported textbooks encouraged greater global exposure, Tan warned against using material that was “100% different” from the local context.
“It would be too much for students, as they would need to learn the language, content and a different environment,” she said, adding that it was best to link new learning materials with a familiar context.
Although students from the upper class might be able to cope, she said, those from rural areas might struggle.
“I hope the use of imported English textbooks does not involve the issue of rent-seeking, where a similar textbook including workbook is imposed on all students without taking into consideration the students’ learning ability and level of English command.”
Meanwhile, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chief Noor Azimah Rahim said it was “blatantly obvious” that officers from the education ministry had not vetted through the books.
Although it was all right to use foreign published books, she said these must be relevant and appropriate, and meet the standards for quality English teaching.
“It is quite obvious that proper due diligence was not done.”