PETALING JAYA: Zairil Khir Johari says the education ministry has continued to deflect the main issue behind the “import” of English Language textbooks by giving excuses that are not true.
The Bukit Bendera MP referred to responses from the two deputy education ministers, P Kamalanathan and Chong Sin Woon, on the issue of why locally-produced English Language textbooks are not being used.
“Kamalanathan issued a written reply in Parliament explaining that it was due to the fact that there were no CEFR-compliant (Common European Framework of Reference for Language) textbooks available locally. Chong gave the same answer on separate occasions.
“Why is it now claimed that local textbooks do not align with CEFR when the education ministry themselves believed otherwise just one year ago?” Zairil asked.
Zairil said the foreword by Paridin Jais, who is the director of the ministry’s textbook division, last year made specific mention of the locally-produced books conforming to the CEFR.
The foreword reads as follows: “By the end of December 2016, the English textbooks for Standard 1 and Form 1 (for usage in 2017) would have been distributed to schools throughout Malaysia.
“In order to ensure that the teaching and learning of English language using the textbooks provided are geared towards alignment to the CEFR, the Textbook Division has taken the initiative to publish a handbook to assist teachers in the classroom.”
Zairil added that the ministry had also published two teaching handbooks to be used alongside the new Standard 1 and Form 1 English textbooks chosen for the school year 2017.
“These handbooks provide very clear guidelines for teachers to plan and conduct lessons utilising the local textbooks in conformance with CEFR standards.”
Zairil, who is the DAP parliamentary spokesman for education, science and technology, said this proves his point adequately.
“The ministry themselves clearly felt that the new editions of the local textbooks for 2017 were not only good enough but also compliant with CEFR standards. Why else would they have published handbooks to assist teachers in utilising the books?” he said.
He demanded the ministry give the real reason for its “U-turn halfway through the year” by deciding to replace the local textbooks with the “imported” ones, which cost four times as much as the locally-produced books.
“Why throw away the RM7.1 million already spent for the new editions of the English textbooks for Standard 1 and Form 1 last year?
“And why waste all the effort to produce the handbooks if the textbooks were not suitably aligned to CEFR standards?” Zairil asked, adding that the education ministry has much to explain.
‘English language experts’
On Nov 23, Zairil questioned the hasty introduction of imported English language textbooks by the education ministry, saying the use of such books should be reconsidered.
“Superminds 1”, published by Cambridge University Press for primary school pupils, and “Pulse 2” by Macmillan for secondary school students were selected by the ministry on the advise of “English language experts” according to the ministry.
The local publishers hired to adapt the books for the ministry, Pan Asia Publications for “Superminds 1” and Desa Fikir for “Pulse 2”, were also said to have just transferred the entire contents of the books, for printing locally, Zairil had previously said.
He had also claimed that the books seemed to have been made especially for students in Spain with questions that asked for the English equivalent of Spanish words.
“Even if only foreign textbooks are compliant, why was not a tender called to select the best and most cost-efficient ones? Instead, millions have been spent on textbooks that contain references to cultural contexts that are alien to our students,” he said.