PETALING JAYA: Teachers and Malay advocacy groups are up in arms over the government’s plan to bring back the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), a pet policy of Dr Mahathir Mohamad to improve students’ command of English which was dropped in 2012 amid strong protest.
The National Union of The Teaching Profession (NUTP), the country’s largest teachers’ union, insisted that PPSMI is not the remedy to students’ lack of proficiency in the English language.
NUTP president Amiruddin Awang said the government should instead address concerns about the quality of teachers and undertake a review of the English subject syllabus.
There has been intense speculation that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is bent on reintroducing PPSMI, especially as its staunchest proponent is none other than the prime minister.
There is also speculation that the Cabinet has already given it the green light.
When asked, Amiruddin told Utusan Malaysia that he had no details on it.
“If true, it would definitely be explosive on social media and we too would issue a statement to oppose it, because NUTP has long rejected PPSMI as it is does not address the real problem,” he told the daily.
Meanwhile, Malay Consultative Council spokesman Hasan Mad said the group would go ahead with a gathering of Malay academics and scholars on July 4 to oppose the move.
He said Malay groups were not against efforts to improve English language skills “but not through Mathematics and Science because this will only create a gap between the rural and urban students”, he told Utusan.
PPSMI, which was proposed in 2002 by Mahathir to his then-Barisan Nasional government, was implemented in 2003.
Mahathir argued that Malaysia was still behind in mastering the English language, saying the language was the primary medium for science and technology.
However, in 2009, then-education minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that schools would no longer be required to teach Science and Mathematics in English, saying the government would be phasing out PPSMI by 2012.
Four years later, then-prime minister Najib Razak announced the Dual Language Programme, under which schools are given the option to teach Science, Mathematics, Information and Communications Technology as well as Design and Technology in English or Malay.
Supporters of PPSMI have pointed to improved English language skills among students, and cited statistics showing better performance in Science and Mathematics after the policy was implemented.
Previously, opponents had also taken the government to court over PPSMI.
In 2006, four students, including the son of PH politician Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, filed a suit seeking a declaration that PPSMI contravened Article 152 of the Federal Constitution as it violated their right to study in the national language. The High Court rejected the suit in 2010.