PETALING JAYA: A Sarawak assistant minister says the national debates over the teaching of science and mathematics in English, as well as recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate shows the importance of Sarawak’s autonomy over education.
Annuar Rapaee, the state’s assistant minister for education, science and technological research, said Sarawak stood by its decision to implement the teaching of science and mathematics in English, known as PPSMI.
Putrajaya has said it will not reintroduce PPSMI in schools, but Sarawak is continuing with its implementation for Primary 1 students, which began this year.
“We reintroduced PPSMI in Sarawak starting this year with Primary 1 students. We have studied the criticisms and weaknesses of the previous implementation at the national level, and taken the necessary steps to address them,” he said.
Critics of PPSMI, Annuar said, have cited research saying the policy had failed to improve English proficiency, performance in the two subjects and even led to racial polarisation.
“I have not yet read or scrutinised the research papers but to me we should look at why the policy failed rather than just dropping the notion of learning science and mathematics in English.”
Annuar said Sarawak believed PPSMI’s original implementation in Primary 1 and Form 1 had been rushed.
“If you introduce it for Form 1 students, those who have been learning the subjects in Bahasa Melayu from Primary 4 to Primary 6 will struggle. This time we are doing it step by step, starting with Primary 1 and moving onwards.”
Teachers had also been retrained to teach the subjects in English.
Annuar said the federal government does not provide allocations for the PPSMI programme in Sarawak. “We’ve spent nearly RM10 million to develop the modules, print the textbooks and workbooks, training the teachers and providing them with supporting materials,” he said.
Annuar said Sarawak opted to reintroduce PPSMI in the interests of the state and its people.
“Many local graduates fail to get jobs in the private sector due to their poor command of English, this is the age of technology, the Industrial Revolution 4.0, mastery of English is not an option.
“Like it or not, English is the lingua franca of knowledge and if we cannot master it, how will we compete.”
Similarly, he said, the state maintained its recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) for the application of state-sponsored scholarships and jobs in the state government as it benefitted the state and its people.
“When it comes to Sarawak’s rights, autonomy in terms of what the state wants for education is very important. We are a state rich in natural resources and to leverage on that we need talent and advanced technology.
“If we do not prepare our people to have this knowledge and master technology, we will have to rely on foreigners and this is not good for the state nor the people. We don’t want them to lose out.”
Education should not be politicised, he said. “Take the UEC for example, it has played a role in developing human resources so we accept the UEC for scholarship applications. We should not discriminate against students based on their educational background.
“Where Sarawak is concerned, what is important is that they want to contribute back to the state and the country. We should not deny them the opportunity to do so.”
The UEC which the previous administration had vowed to recognise has come back in the spotlight following Chinese educationist group Hua Zong’s claim that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin hoped the government would one day recognise the UEC.
But the Prime Minister’s Office said he did not give any commitment that his administration would recognise the UEC.
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