No flip-flop, stick to 1 language, educationist says on teaching of Science, Maths

Veteran educationist Arshad Ayub says the government must decide on the language to teach Science and Mathematics ‘from kindergarten to university’.

PETALING JAYA: Veteran educationist Arshad Ayub has questioned whether research has been carried out to determine whether English or Malay is a more effective medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics.

“We’ve been going back and forth on this. I don’t know if the government has done any research on whether it is more effective to teach in English or Bahasa Melayu,” he said.

Arshad, who was the director of Institut Teknologi Mara for 10 years before it became Universiti Teknologi Mara in 1999, told FMT he favoured the use of English for teaching the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, but added that he believed it would be better to stick to one medium of instruction for an extended period.

“We must make up our mind. Whether it is English or Malay, the government must stick to the decision. From kindergarten to university, it has to be consistent.”

Veteran educationist Arshad Ayub.

He said it seemed to him that “we just keep changing for the sake of changing”.

The teaching of Science and Mathematics in English was first implemented in 2002 but dropped in 2012 amid protests from teachers and Malay advocacy groups.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is acting education minister, announced on Thursday the policy would be reintroduced, and a few groups have backed the decision.

Arshad said an important question to answer was whether the teachers currently serving had the proficiency to teach in English.

He suggested that the government first study how many years it would need to get teachers ready to teach in English. “Then, set the following year as the year you start teaching in English.”

He said any review of the medium of instruction should be carried out only after 10 years or so, “otherwise, you won’t see the results”.

One of the groups that has voiced support for Mahathir’s decision is the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers.

However, the National Union of the Teaching Profession and former deputy education minister P Kamalanathan have spoken of concern over the English proficiency of Science and Mathematics teachers.