Teaching While on the opposition side, the debate

Teaching Science and
Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia or English?


PPSMI or the policy ‘Pengajaran dan
Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris’ was introduced in 2003
by our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. PPSMI refers to the
government policy in Malaysian education towards implementing the process of
teaching and learning science and mathematics in English. Many issues have
arises due to its implementation in Malaysian education system. Thus, the
policy of PPSMI has lasted only for nine years and being abolished in 2012 as
announced by Malaysian Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during the
time. As we are the generations that have been through the PPSMI policy,
therefore, teaching science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia or English has
become as the issue for our mini debate.

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The PPSMI policy issue has been
debated on 20th December 2017 by two parties which is the government
and also the opposition side. This mini parliamentary debate consists of one
initiated and controlled speaker, Siti Bazilah binti Bilak, the time keeper,
Nur Atiqah binti Akhyani and also three members for each the government side and
also the opposition side. At the government side, the debate is lead by Zalia
Shamila binti Sharifuddin as the Prime Minister, Tuan Aifa Fatini binti Tuan
Putra as the Deputy Prime Minister and also the government whip, Siti Farhana
binti Zafian. While on the opposition side, the debate is lead by Leader of
Opposition, Nur Afiqah binti Abdul Rashid, followed by Ainul Nadiah binti
Salehuddin as Deputy Leader of Opposition and the opposition whip is Azlin
binti Azman.

The debate is started and being lead
by the Prime Minister that proposed the sciences and mathematics subjects
should be taught in Bahasa Malaysia. It is because the implementation of PPSMI
has been experimented through the years. From the research done by many
educators and Ministry of Education, the implementation of PPSMI is said to be
failed due to lack of teachers that have proficiency in English. Therefore,
teachers who teach the sciences and mathematics subject with low proficiency in
English will have poor commands in teaching sciences and mathematics in English
language. Therefore, it will affect the students’ understanding in science and
mathematics knowledge if teachers are unable to deliver the meaning of the
contents due to the difficulties of the language that is being use by teachers.
The situation also will be the same if teachers have good proficiency to teach
science and mathematics subject in English, however, students themselves are
not proficient enough to understand the language. Therefore, students will face
the difficulties and having hard time between understanding the language and
also knowledge delivered to the students.

English has become as the second
language after our mother tongue language, Bahasa Malaysia. By learning science
and mathematics in English can cause the difficulties among the students as
they encounter English language for the first time during the school. It means
they are not used to the language as Bahasa Malaysia has become as their
mediation language with the daily usage most over the time. Thus, students find
it is hard for them to adapt with English language in learning new knowledge
about science and mathematics. Later, students are affected by the
implementation of PPSMI on their academic performance as they are struggling
with the language used in the learning process and also struggle with the
subjects itself. It has been reported in the news (The Star, 2006) where
implementation of PPSMI has been concerned by parents and also the educators as
it affect the quality of science and mathematics subjects.

Besides, the difficulties of
teaching science and mathematics using English language also come by other
factors. Prime Minister of the debaters shows the failure of execution of PPSMI
is not fully under attack towards the teachers but also factors from the
preparation of its implementation. This is supported by Ong (2004) where there
was lack of good Science textbooks that helps teachers to improve their skills
and knowledge to convey the science and mathematics contents in English.
Therefore, PPSMI cannot be implemented in Malaysia as teachers do not have
solid background to teach science and mathematics in English since they have
been trained with the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia in Dasar Bahasa Kebangsaan.
Thus, it takes longer time to retrain teachers to have good commands in English
as in fact, the training takes up to 10 years for the teachers to be skilful
enough and teaching science and mathematics in English.

However, the points of teaching
science and mathematics in English by Prime Minister had become the arguments
by the Leader of Opposition that oppose the government. Afiqah as the Leader of
Opposition in her arguments said that keeping the students to learn science and
mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia will reduce their critical thinking. This is
because in schools, students are only learning English during the English
subject but not in other subjects. Later, their knowledge in English also will
not be practices outside the schools as their environment are using the mother
tongue language. Hence, students are not exposed to English language that will
create the empty, inactive, unoccupied, unused and the laziness (idle) to think
about the national language due to their comfortable zone. This idle mind
cannot breed the thinkers in our country.

The implementation of PPSMI that
emphasize the use of English command in teaching and learning science and
mathematics will prepare the students for the future. As Malaysia former Prime
Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir introduces PPSMI policy not only to learn science
and mathematics in English but he also aims for the preparation of young
generations to face the new world of globalisation that need our people to
improves themselves in many aspects. One of the aspects must be the good
communication in English as English is known as the national language. Learning
science and mathematics in English from the primary levels also will prepare
the students to further their study in tertiary education that might be in
local higher institution or also abroad. Preparing people with good education
especially in science field and also the other fields including their good
communication skills is important. It is because students are competing among
themselves for the best place in education, besides it is also helps the adult
to focus on their commitment on their work with the collaboration with other

As students are entering the higher
institution, there will be many findings that they need to refers in their
study are basically written in English. Good knowledge in English for science
and mathematics can help students to equip more information with lots of
findings around the world. In facts, education in science and mathematics comes
by lots of findings from the foreigners. Malaysia also produces many
researchers in science and mathematics field. However, many other broad
knowledge of science and mathematics field is being found by the foreigners
from other countries. Thus, all those findings and researches mostly written in
English as the language able to communicates people around the world.
Therefore, people are able to acknowledge their understanding by the references
from many other resources that also may helps for their future research.

Again, the arguments expressed by
Leader of Opposition are disagreed by Aifa, the Deputy Prime Minister as
students need to focus on their academic achievement in order to make realize
of their ambition. Teachers should focus on the students’ academic achievement
for them to further their studies to the higher level. As PPSMI is implemented
in schools, it is only benefits on non-Malay students who are majority
residence in urban area. Students who live in urban area prefer the use on English
command in their process of teaching and learning of science and mathematics
subjects. Meanwhile, students who live in the rural areas will at disadvantages
with the implementation of PPSMI. This is because they will face the
difficulties in learning science and mathematics one step above of the level
compared to the students at the urban areas. This is because students at the
rural areas are not having enough exposure on the implementation of PPSMI.

Besides, the factors also come from
the communication between teachers and students during the learning process.
Teachers who are placed in rural areas’ schools are having the difficulties to
understand the dialect of students especially when it comes to the dialect that
sounds different with standard Bahasa Malaysia. Students at the rural areas is
said prefers and comfortable with the use of Bahasa Malaysia in their learning.
Thus, it becomes as the challenges for teachers to conduct science and
mathematics lesson in English and at the same time teachers are struggling to
make the students understand on the knowledge contents. Besides, students are
said to have good memory in memorizing all the science and mathematics concept
in their mother tongue language.

Research on implementation of PPSMI
has been done from the analysis of results in science and mathematics subject.
The outcomes show fluctuation in students’ performance in science and
mathematics subject as students are unable to master the knowledge without
understanding the terms in the crucial subjects due to the use of English
command. Besides, teachers also claimed the preparation and school facilities
provided for the schools at the rural areas are at the poor level. Many
teaching aids and other materials needed by teachers to use in improving the English
command to teach students science and mathematics is not supported by the
government and also the communities. Provision for the good preparation on the
implementation of PPSMI is needed in the schools. Teachers unable to blame the
parents that do not give full support on PPSMI policy that requires more funds
from them as they are not from high income family that able to support all the
things needed for the education of their children. Therefore, the
implementation of PPSMI makes students from the rural areas face the challenges
to compete with those who are studying in the city.

PPSMI is also increase the cost for
education system. In the process of improving the proficiency in English,
Malaysia had spent lots of money to pay teachers from other countries to teach
students in English. The efforts put in encouraging students to have the
interest in English thus enable them to learn science and mathematics in
English is wasting the money. Students who met the new teachers that are from
other countries are excited to greet and have the experienced with the
teachers. However, it does not meant the effort enable to increase the
students’ performance in English and also on science and mathematics subjects.
This is because from the observation that has been studied by other
researchers, students are interested and attracted with the teachers but not
with the knowledge. It is because teachers from the other countries have
different slang of English that cause the students to have low understanding of
the knowledge. Therefore, the implementation of PPSMI should be monitored by
the government by having regularly visits to schools especially the rural area
schools. The investments must be agreed by people and the implementation of
PPSMI must be continuously monitored by the government itself and not put full
responsibilities on the schools.

The focus of Deputy Prime Minister
only on the students’ academic achievement has been resisted by Ainul, the
Deputy Leader of Opposition. On the opposition side, getting an ‘A’ in science
and mathematics subjects does not guarantee the success. In this new era
towards the 21st century learning, scoring the higher performance
without preparing young generations with the global challenge does not enough
to help them survive through this world. People need to come back to the
reality. Within the improvement and development of our country, government need
to prepare students not only to perform in academic but also make the students
to be acceptable at the local and also in the international level. Pursuing
study in the higher institution either in local or abroad requires students to
use English. Previous research shown that students who enter the universities
do struggles to relearn every scientific and mathematical concept in English as
they used to learn the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia.

PPSMI policy is also important for
students to compete for their carrier globally. English for communication in
many fields of study especially in science and mathematics is very important in
term of job vacancies. Many graduates are left behind during the job interviews
causes by poor command in English although they achieve good results in science
and mathematics. Many sectors and companies such as in industrial, engineering,
medicine, statistics and many other sectors demand on the graduates not only
have the soft skills on the work but also requires them to have good command in
English. This is because many sectors and the big companies usually have the
collaboration with other companies either locally or globally. Thus, it
requires the workers to have good communication with the good command in

Science and mathematics is widely accepted in the world through many
fields. It is not same as the geography and history subjects. Science discovery
made almost every day. Therefore, Malaysia
former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir said emphasize that PPSMI policy does
not want to against Bahasa Malaysia but the knowledge that people can acquire
by understanding global languages is important. 

Farhana, the
government whip concludes the arguments on the government side that people need
to change their mindset that English does not guarantee the success. It can be
seen in Japan where the country maintain their mother tongue for the daily
communication language either at home or also in the schools. In order to
survive through the global world, people need to focus on improving the
students’ academic achievement and provides much knowledge from many resources.
The policy of PPSMI will only cause the trouble towards teachers and also the
students. Besides, the highly cost investment on the implementation of its
policy is wasted as it still does not resulted students with high proficiency
and good command in English.

Science and
mathematics is known as the crucial subjects due to its level of difficulties.
Students will losses their interest to study science and mathematics if PPSMI
is being continued as its implementation will gain the challenges for students
between understanding the contents of the subjects and also to understand the
using of the language itself. This is due to the performance of students are
decreasing in science and mathematics due to their poor commands in English.
Therefore, it will affect the government itself when the number of students who
pursue their study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
fluctuate over the years. Thus, the students’ success does not guarantee by the
use of English command, but it must be by the efforts of many parties not only
teachers and students to improve the performance in science and mathematics

 As for the opposition whip, Azlin in her
arguments that oppose the government side emphasize that learning science and
mathematics in English does not reduce the English proficiency among students,
but it will helps students to improve their vocabulary. As stated by the
government side of English causes the failure on students in science and
mathematics, Azlin oppose the statement because government should make the
proper research and analysis of the failure in science and mathematics subject
is not totally to be put the blame of English command. The failure in those
critical subjects has been reported in many years since before the
implementation of PPSMI. It comes from many other factors such as the cramped
syllabus of the subject, deficiency of knowledge among the teachers and also
the curriculum management that should be improved. Besides, she also opposed
the point from Deputy Prime Minister that students benefits in memorizing the
contents in Bahasa Malaysia. However, the concepts of learning science and
mathematics by memorizing the facts is absolutely wrong because students are
taught to learn science and mathematics by understanding the knowledge and not
depend on the memorization of the facts. 

She also argued
that implementation of PPSMI not only aims to improve English proficiency
because if the subjects is taught in Bahasa Malaysia command, teachers’
proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia also will be increase. She emphasized again that
PPSMI policy look into the government’s attention of achieving 21st
century learning. Meanwhile, multicultural parents are also proud to speak in
English in facing the challenges of this global world. It is not fair for us to
compare our country with Japan. Japan is known as the country that already
developed while Malaysia is the third country that still needs to enhance and
use of English to reach the level of the developed countries.

Therefore, in
the development of our country, should be aware the children to be out of their
cocoon. Education system is supposed to prepare the young generations in facing
the global challenges. Surviving in the global world is not as simple as being
thought by people. Thus, one of the elements that should be emphasize among the
students are though the science and mathematics education thus with the good
command in English. People need to be realistic by concern our ranking in the
world and about how the world look at us. If we have given so much in this
world, then it will be fine if science and mathematics subjects are being taught
in Bahasa Malaysia.

In our own
perspectives, the policy of implementing PPSMI has its own pros and cons. If
facts, it is reasonable if it were to be implemented. Both the government and
opposition sides have their good arguments about its implementation. In
preparing the students towards facing the global challenges has become the
responsibility among the educators and also Malaysian Education System.
Implementation of PPSMI is seen to be one of the good policies for students to
have the good performance not only in academic but also their performance in
locally of globally thus able to compete with any candidates from the other
countries. However, its implementation must be study by government and come out
with the best strategies of its implementation to avoid the wastage of the
investments. Besides, government also must pay a visit regularly in many
schools over the year either the school in rural area or also in the urban
areas. Implementation of any policies must be continuously monitored by the government
for the greater outcomes.

The policy for
the development of the country such as PPSMI should be put into consideration
and practices much earlier among teachers and also the students. However, it
must not be a burden towards the educators and also the students. Many efforts
should be put in encouraging students to learn science and mathematics and many
things should be done and sacrifice in order to enhance the students’ interest
in learning science and mathematics. Therefore, teachers must always be
prepared in the changing of education system towards the 21st
century learning. The readiness to change must be put the good values and great