Zairil: Why should imported textbooks be taught over 2 years?

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PETALING JAYA: DAP’s Zairil Khir Johari today questioned the education ministry’s plan to teach the content of imported English textbooks over two years instead of one, asking how this will improve students’ proficiency in the language.

Calling the plan “hare-brained”, the Bukit Bendera MP said the textbooks were designed to be taught in one academic year.

According to circulars distributed by the ministry in August and September, however, the Super Minds and Pulse 2 textbooks will be divided into half, with Year 1 students taught units 1-4 and Year 2 students learning units 5-9.

Likewise, Form 1 students will be taught units 1-5 while Form 2 students will be taught units 6-9.

Zairil asked what would happen when these students entered Year 3 and Form 3.

“Will they continue using the new foreign curriculum? What about the new cohorts of Year 1 and Form 1 students beginning 2019?

“Will they continue with the current policy of learning only half the module, or will they be taught the whole textbook?

“If the ministry decides to make the new cohorts learn the whole textbook instead, won’t the original guinea pigs in 2018 be left behind compared to their younger peers?” he said in a statement.

He added that Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon had said just a few days ago that the number of English classes would be increased next year when the new textbooks are used.

“In other words, despite having longer hours for English lessons, our students will be taught only half a textbook in one year.

“Does the ministry’s right hand know what its left hand is doing?”

Zairil first drew attention to the use of imported textbooks last month, when he said the Super Minds and Pulse 2 books from Cambridge University Press and MacMillan were far more expensive than locally published textbooks.

Superminds is priced at RM38.80 a copy while Pulse 2 goes for RM38. Locally published textbooks meanwhile cost less than RM10 each.

Zairil said based on the current enrolment figures of 450,000 students in Year 1 and 400,000 in Form 1, the total cost of providing these textbooks for each child would amount to RM33 million.

He also questioned the strong British context of the books, saying it was “incredibly foreign and meaningless” in the Malaysian context.

Zairil said the education ministry had admitted that the imported textbooks were procured at four times the price of local textbooks and without an open tender.

He asked if the ministry had also purchased the same textbooks twice over for the Year 2 and Form 2 students, as well as Year 1 and Form 1.

“If this is the case, then the total expenditure would be about RM66 million for four cohorts in total, all conducted without open tender.

“While local publishers have to tender for each cohort of students, why were these ‘imported’ books approved for use over two years without any tender process?”

Zairil said the education ministry should immediately announce its long-term plan for students with respect to the use of the new books.

“The more uncertainty there is, the more confused our teachers and students will be and this will only cause more harm than good to our nation’s future.”

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