- Tunku Munawirah Putra
Why we need the Dual Language programme
The fact that there are more materials and resources available in English for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) is one of the strongest reasons why we need to be exposed to the teaching and learning and STEMM subjects in English at an early stage. The Dual Language programme (DLP) being offered at national schools is a pilot programme, with the subjects of Mathematics, Science, ICT, design technology taught in English. It is a choice for the schools to take up. Only 300 out of 10,000 schools nationwide are participating in the DLP programme this year. Some DLP schools may choose to start with only one DLP class per cohort, depending on the available resources.
Schools are not forced to do DLP if they do not wish to, contrary to what has been alleged by the groups who oppose this programme. The ball is in the parents’ court should their children’s schools qualify for DLP in the coming years. This is why it is of utmost importance that parents play a role in making DLP happen in their schools if they so choose. The Parent Teacher Association of the participating schools may need to be resourceful in trying to source for funds to ensure that there are available teaching resources, despite the allocated budget by the Ministry. In return, the Ministry too must ensure that teething problems are ironed out and support given to the 300 schools to ensure that the implementation of the DLP programme is kept in check and on track.
The Minister of Education is spot on in accommodating the wishes of the parents in accordance with the Education Act 1996. Furthermore, schools are not bound by the Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka (DBP) Act of 1959, of which the objective is for the Board to develop and enrich the national language in all fields including science and technology. By all means, DBP should proceed with this objective, irrespective of the DLP programme.
UKM’s Professor Dr Wan Ramli Wan Daud, who has received recognition as being among the ‘World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2015’ by Thomson Reuters, opposes DLP, ironically. He is not wrong to assume that one doesn’t need English to produce world class science research papers, as his paper and many papers produced in UKM are written in the national language. But in order to publish the research in international journals and have the research cited by the peers, needless to say the research must be in English. Furthermore, since Professor Wan Ramli’s work is at the forefront of technology, and no one has done it in the country, means he needed to conduct his research from other leading next technology works in English (unless of course he understands German or Mandarin). According to the Thomson Reuters Scientific Minds 2015 report, the top 5 countries with highly cited researchers and their corresponding numbers are – USA ( ≈1,500), UK (≈290), Germany (≈180), China (≈140), Australia (≈100). It is of no surprise that 3 of the top countries 5 countries research works are in English, constituting 85.5% of the works cited of the top 5 countries. Professor Wan Ramli of all people should know the benefits of knowing English for STEMM. He was educated in the UK and Australia, and he was brought up in the era where there were still English vernacular schools in the country. He obviously has benefitted from an education in English. So why deny our future generations from studying in the language that evidently has the largest pool of the best scientific minds in the world?
Coming back to our nation and the issue of DLP, and English language per se, depending on how one views DLP. If the view is solely to improve English, it may show variants where it depends on the students and the teachers, hence results may vary. One may have a for-and-against argument for this premise. However, if it is seen as an opportunity to be immersed in the language of science and technology of the world, hence would indirectly improve the vocabulary of English, then the results would surely be positive.
DLP will go on despite the opposition because parents have the right to choose it or move to a school that would offer it. This is how DLP is different from its predecessor, the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI). No Malay language nationalists or opportunistic and selfish Malay politicians or Malay literary laureates would be able to stop this from proceeding.
We have come a long way from Merdeka. History would prove that it would have been impossible to achieve Merdeka if the majority race insists on their silo ways. Our population composition is unlike Japan, Korea or Germany whose societies are largely homogenous. They are not multi-racial, multi-religious and multilingual like us. Hence what works for them cannot be forced upon to work for us. Aside from the national language to unite us, we need English to ensure that we have a greater chance of a good education at a faster speed in tandem with the speed of knowledge progression in the world.
Let’s move on to discuss other topics of importance in the education field, for instance, how to be better in the PISA test or how to get the best in the teaching profession and make it the profession of choice. We cannot afford to dilly-dally anymore. This national language in education war is an exercise in futility and to no end because it is an egocentric, ideologistic battle. Time’s up. Next please.