Thursday, August 18, 2011

And The 'English Issue Continues To Haunt

Read here about the government's latest stand on the use of English in Math and Science. I thought they had decided. I thought the text books have been printed... in BM. I thought teachers have been sent for 'reorientation' (yet again!). I thought they are removing the Critical Allowance for the Math and Science teachers. There have been much mentioned in meetings, media.

And now, the DPM says they have a committee still looking into it. What is there to look? Or study? In BM or English, the dismal performance in many schools is not due to the lack of English only. It has also to do with the mind set and attitude. It might be a good idea to just take random sampling of the ability in the basic skills before pointing at English being the reason for it. But the policy should be uniform. I cannot understand why MARA colleges are still allowed to teach Math and Science in English. Duh! Privileged and still get to learn in English. English is for those privileged ones? I think that is grossly unfair. If it is to be BM, then let everyone learn in BM.

The position of BM is already secured. It's been over 50 years. At 50, one is supposed to be self assured. Also, a compulsory pass in SPM means that no one can overlook it. Why keep this siege mentality? No one wants to threaten the position of the national language. But we have to be practical. English is important. Period. Just as in knowing Mandarin is an advantage now. Master it or be left behind. It's all economics. What is there to martabatkan if we, as a nation are weak? It seems more like an attempt to keep the 'under-siege' mentality alive, and so BM needs defending.

Improving English... it's an uphill task and the slope is extremely steep. They are calling in experts from the Fulbright Program. I can imagine the amount of hair they're going to pull if they're sent to schools like mine! LOL! English is almost dead because there is no reason for them to pass it. Okay, label me a lousy teacher but I am at wits end, trying to figure out a way to teach English for upper secondary students. You see, when I get students coming in at 16, and they having spent the last 9 years learning English, I think it's only fair for me to expect that these kids can construct sentences. Well, guess what... their vocabulary is so limited that I have to keep downgrading. I am currently using Year 3, (Singapore syllabus) comprehension passages for my Form 4s and guess what? Majority still cannot comprehend. So, I continued going lower.... I've almost hit the floor. Cos yesterday, I had students asking me for meaning of words such as 'seldom, often'. After 9 years of learning English..... It's almost laughable. I find myself more like Primary School teacher very often.

And there is the exam which they must sit.... I am so used to getting blank sheets whenever answer sheets are returned. And yet, year after year, I get 50-60% of passes in SPM. The results seem to heading up most of the time though it doesn't take a genius to see that proficiency is getting worse. And dig this... I met a former student the other day. She said she was doing a TESL course! She can't even hold a conversation properly in English. Such is the quality of English teachers who will be entering the education system... and the Ministry is saying that they are looking into the matter, trying to find a solution. The solution is clear, I would think. Get the right people! Competent ones would be a good start! I went through modules prepared by the so called experts appointed by the Department to help us improve our English. Guess what! Those experts formulated questions which were totally wrong, and with many grammatical errors.

So PPSMI (Math &Science in English).... Either our policy makers are really dumb not to see the reasons for the decline in our English (and also our thinking skills) or they're really smart to make sure that we remain dumb. Or perhaps, we prefer to pull wool over our own eyes that teaching Math and Science in English would threaten the position of our national language. But either way, who would care about what language we use when we languish economically. The politicians still laugh all the way to their banks......

We used to have a good education system. These days, many of our top SPM scorers head across the Causeway filled with confidence that they will do well.... only to leave 2 years later (after their A-levels) with tails between their legs. Even our 10A(s) fare poorly. Not too long ago, our SPM top scorers generally fared well there... these days it's a different ball game altogether. The China Chinese and the India Indians are hungry for success.... They are now a few classes above many of our students, generally. So, the world passes us by, while we mull over something like whether to teach 2 subjects in English... Bah humbug!


Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Depressing news - we are still languishing in the English issue.

AJ7 said...

Yup! Cos I think our leaders still have their heads stuck in the sand.