Maths and Science in the Mother tongue – A mother’s perspective

Parents, what do you feel about the reverse in the policy to teach Maths and Science in English?

For me, personally, I am “neutral”. You see, of course I am  unhappy that a policy that is only 6 years old is being reversed. It is an utter waste. Waste of money, time, resources. Even though I would prefer that the subjects be taught in English, on the other hand, I am happy that now my child will have less books to bring to school and now there is more focus. It may sound very simplistic to say this but its true.

You see, my girl studies at a Chinese school. She is required to study Maths and Science in BOTH English and Chinese. A terribly ridiculous situation as far as I am concerned. This is a heavy burden to the students … and I am not only talking about the burden of the added weight of the books to their bags. It is a burden because they have to spend time doing homework and tests in BOTH papers in BOTH languages. It is a burden to their time when there is no focus.

Now, although she is required to study BOTH the subjects in TWO languages, I can see that the educators are half hearted in their attempts to teach it in English. So half hearted that, naturally, at the end of the day, most would almost have no choice but to CHOOSE to do the exams in Chinese. It was reported that most students CHOOSE to do it in Chinese anyway so there is no point doing it in English. Oh really? Hmm….

I would prefer it that the subjects are taught in English because English is our first language at home so it would naturally be easier for my kids to understand the subjects. Perhaps a rather selfish reason but that is a fact. I only choose Chinese school for my kids because I do not think there are any better options. They say that if you do not do Maths and Science in the mother tongue than you can not truly appreciate your mother tongue or learn it fully in all its beauty and totality and this applies to all mother tongues, not only Chinese. Hmmm…. Really? I think the mother tongue is a beautiful language, any mother tongue that is and it can be appreciated in the study of the language itself. Maths and Science need not necessarily be added into the equation for you to truly appreciate and understand a language.

So, though I would prefer that it be taught in English, I am relieved. Relieved that this farce is finally over. If they have to study the subjects in the mother tongue so be it. At least there is more focus now. I chose for my kids to study in a Chinese school so even if the subjects were taught in Chinese I can’t complain even though I would prefer it to be taught in English. I believe that those subjects being taught in English would not take away the study of Chinese as a language. My kids study in a Chinese school because I want them to know some Chinese so even if Maths and Science were taught in English, I would have achieved my objective.

However I must add that the standard or level of English taught at my girl’s school is rather pathetic so English would go down the drain if Maths and Science in English were taken away. So I have to spend more time teaching them in English to make sure their standard of English do not deteriorate. Now, I have to be the one to educate and teach my children in English so that their standard of English will not drop. I cannot afford to leave it to the school to teach. Crazy isn’t it?

I read that some parents are so unhappy over the decision they now want to pull their child out into international schools or send them to schools elsewhere. To me, that is rather drastic. What about the child? Wouldn’t this be unsettling to them? International schools or private schools need not necessarily be better. There will be other issues and challenges you have to face. Besides, this option is only available to a handful who can afford it so such talk is irrelavant to me.

We can’t depend on the schools to teach English anymore. You either teach them yourself, send them for extra tuition (and extra burden) or send them to international schools. So what else is new? We’re in a sad state.

Though my preference is English, as I’ve mentioned a few times, at the end of the day, I do not really care either way. All I care about is a good environment, with dedicated teachers who are experienced and trained and believe in what they are doing. So, to me, the language issue is secondary.  I also do not want my child to be unnecessarily burdened by the study of TWO subjects in TWO languages. I suppose you could say that I am pass caring. I do not care either way because I do not have faith in the system.

I think the policy failed because choices were given. If no choice were given like in those days when everything reverted to BM, then it would not fail. You cannot please everyone, so if you think that a certain subject should be taught in a certain language, then stick to that language and that alone.

Looking at the level of English taught at my girl’s school, I think that yes, English would definitely suffer if the two subjects were no longer taught. I think it would have been really good to let the kids improve their level of English by having the two subjects taught in English and English alone. No arguments about it, you cannot please everyone. Then and only then would the objective of improving our childrens’ English be achieved. (The level of English for our local grads are appalling.) As it was, enough time was given for the study of the mother tongue as a language and in other subjects. Not teaching Maths and Science in our mother tongue would not have robbed us of our understanding of the language or our culture. Sadly, I believe that allowing people the right to choose, has contributed to the failure of the policy. However, having said that, I must add that if they had wanted to give us a true choice, then bilingual exam papers should be printed.

So what do you other parents out there think? Now, shoot!

Parents, if you want to voice your opinion on whether you support the decision to teach maths and science in the mother tongue, you can to Dr Mahathir’s blog and participate in this poll.


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13 thoughts on “Maths and Science in the Mother tongue – A mother’s perspective

  1. I was upset too with the gomen decision but after reading your post, I’m no longer upset. I am sending my kids to Chinese school because I have no other option like you; the Kebangsaan school in my kampung is 100% Malays. My SIL also said that the std of English in Chinese school is very low and advised me to brush up my girls’ Chinese and not English so that they can catch up in school.

    Your SIL is right. Its the second half of the school year now and my girl is only learning to spell the numbers “one” to “ten” for her English lessons. I am sure your kids learned that in kindy by now.

  2. i really dont know what the govt is up too.. maybe home schooling, private or chinese school is the way to go..

    Our educational system is pretty messed up. There is a lot of room for improvement and that is putting it rather mildly.

  3. The first thought that came into my mind when I heard the news was…am I glad my kids are not in Malaysia. 😛 Sorry, I know I should not think like this. 😛
    But then again, I still think English is a must, but even here in Thailand, most parents will send their kids to private bilingual schools, where the kids will study both Thai and US or UK English, on Thai syllabus. It’s like double work in our Chinese schools back home, and they study from morning till 3pm daily, or later if they have extra classes at school. It sounded tough, but at least the kids learn more, I guess.

    Well, I think that they should have just taught Maths and Science in English alone instead of Maths and Science in English AND Chinese. Although that I am not very happy that it has been scrapped and we are again doing FLIP FLOPs, at least I am glad that we can now move on with more focus. Improving my kids English will now be MY job and not the schools, I am afraid.

  4. The Malaysian Educational System is FLAWED. They are trying to please everyone because well, now those so called educationist whom are so-called protector of their so-called ….you know what I am talking about…. will be jumping for joy that their hard fought battle is being won. Well, good for them. They should realized by now that English is NOT THEIR ENEMY. Sadly, to them, English is PUBLIC ENEMY NO.1.

    Anyway, later when I have kids of my own, they will be speaking ENGLISH till the end of their lives. PERIOD. And I will be damn if anyone scream “Chinese traitor” at me, because speaking English, doesn’t make me less of a Chinese.

    No, it certainly doesn’t make you less Chinese, I totally agree.

  5. Now I wished there will be more affordable private schools/international schools so I can put my children there. The education systems here is going from bad to worst!

    From bad to worse…. from bad to worse….no doubt about it.

  6. Like you, I am neutral. Maybe becuase I grew up learning Science and Maths in BM anyway and it didn’t stop me from continuing to read Science books in English. I think it is encouragement from parents and the extent the love to read and find out information.

    But then…..this proves our G is a bit pathetic….hahaha….and proves that cannot do it, as usual they will find the easy way out. PM says to introduce Eng Lit to improve English…I think if you teach Science and Maths in English, that does not really improve Eng at all. MOre so that assimiliation into foreign colleges will be easier since they will already be familiar with all the scientific terms in English. And Eng Lit is really NOT for everyone. You have to LOVE it to really enjoy it and really pick up mastery of English from it.

    Well….you did say shoot! I didn’t know I had so much to say!

    Eng Lit is not the way. It is a totally different ballgame altogether.

  7. Like you, I preferred the subjects be taught in English. But am glad that, my girl does not have to study them in two languages, like u said, waste time & lose focus. With this decision, less books to carry – did i mention before that my girl fell in school because her bag was too heavy. But again, it will only start in 2012… I hope they start right away.

    I think it hit the hardest on National School. For Chinese school, the consolation is less burden.

    Though i voted ENGLISH, being in Chinese school, i prefer they study the subjects in Mandarin. I am of the opinion that it will help them to master the language in totality. This is the only point I differ from you. But I’ll have problem coaching them these subjects at home later, like you. I voted English for secondary level.

    So, it’s a mixture of SAD & HAPPY for me.

    I oso of the opinion that learning attitude & teaching attitude is the most important – language secondary.

    Yeah, if they must do it this way, then why not start right away?

  8. You know what the biggest worry should be? The almost certain fact that this ding-dong will continue for many years to come. I can foresee another big announcement after a couple of years.

    It is this uncertainty that is driving everyone up the wall.

    Yes, its the uncertainty. You nailed it.

  9. For myself, the most annoying fact remains that our education system is forever on an experimental stage – change of syllabus, method of evaluation, language for math and science. Yes, at the end it’s the kids who suffer.

    The people in the ministry may have many good ideas, excellent ideas even, but it cannot be implemented because they have first Failed in acquiring Good Teachers who are interested in teaching regardless of what the orders from the top may be. If the teachers cannot see the bright spark in a new method/change in syllabus, they are already telling the students that it’s stupid (I only use this word among adults), hence the students will already have the pre-conceived notion to not bother to learn.

    Sorry to rant, but it’s this pont that usually drives me crazy about our schools… and my boys are not even there yet.
    *sigh*

    Wait till your boys are in, you’ll rant even more.

  10. I think it’s better for the kids to learn Maths (not sure about Science) in Chinese because the Chinese have an ingenius way of teaching Math!

    Seriously, each time I see the teachers in action here in China, the heavier my heart feels about having to go back to Malaysia. I really hope I can find a good Chinese medium kindergarten back home so he can continue with the progress he’s making in Chinese…

    I agree with you too that international schools are not the answer. A different bunch of problems there too! But most parents are just happy if their kids pick up an American or British accent.

    Wanna know what an English teacher thinks about the reversal? Just hop on to my book reviews blog :-)

    I don’t think you’ll have a problem with that. More and more parents are turning to Chinese school these days, so you’ll have no problem picking a kindy that prepares your child for it. In my girl’s school, there is a special class just for the non-chinese to make it easier for them to catch up and go for their own religious classes etc.

  11. My daughter is less than 2 years old and she can understand both English and Japanese, and later will introduce Malay, Mandarin and Cantonese.

    http://daddyparentingtips.blogspot.com/2009/07/tip-161-reading-in-both-languages.html

    I can’t see why we cannot take 1 step forward to integrate the BM textbooks few years back with the current English science and maths text books. Its a lot of effort, but why move backward instead of forward. We can allow students to use either English or BM to answer in the exams as long as the maths and science principles are correct.

    Some good will surely come out of the dialectics at work between both languages instead of choosing either one. We need new advancements. We need Malaysia Boleh. Not some power struggle between languages.

    When will Malaysia advance and not hold on to race and language as stumbling blocks but embrace our differences as advantages?

    Yes, having bilingual books and exam papers is the way to go!

  12. My daughter is less than 2 years old and she can understand both English and Japanese, and later will introduce Malay, Mandarin and Cantonese.

    http://daddyparentingtips.blogspot.com/2009/07/tip-161-reading-in-both-languages.html

    I can’t see why we cannot take 1 step forward to integrate the BM textbooks few years back with the current English science and maths text books. Its a lot of effort, but why move backward instead of forward. We can allow students to use either English or BM to answer in the exams as long as the maths and science principles are correct.

    Some good will surely come out of the dialectics at work between both languages instead of choosing either one. We need new advancements. We need Malaysia Boleh. Not some power struggle between languages.

    When will Malaysia advance and not hold on to race and language as stumbling blocks but embrace our differences as advantages?

    Totally agree with you. Bilingual is the way forward.

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