KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — Putrajaya’s dual-language programme (DLP) — a federal initiative to reverse the decline of English proficiency at national schools while upholding Bahasa Malaysia — was rolled out last January at 296 schools nationwide.
Although still in its pilot phase, the programme has triggered some controversy — Malay language activists and some education groups want the DLP shelved entirely, while English language advocacy groups are lobbying just as fiercely in support of it.
Supporters of the programme like the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), a staunch proponent of the now-abolished Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy, believe the DLP, which gives students the option of learning Science, Mathematics, Information Technology and Communication, and Design and Technology in either English or Malay, is a step in the right direction to better equip youths for the future.
“Parents who are level-headed and thinking adults will not want their children to add to the 400,000 unemployed graduates. Or do you?” PAGE chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said recently.
Those against the DLP, however, believe the methods of the programme can weaken students’ overall test grades and possibly result in failure like the PPSMI policy.
One opponent claimed that Malay students would end up getting “victimised” by the DLP.
“Tyranny happens when Malay students are being forced to study several subjects in English,” said National Education Action Council chairman Datuk Zainal Abidin Borhan at a recent press conference.
These dissenters, who count among them several lawmakers from the federal opposition, recently staged a rally in the city to protest the DLP. Another rally is in the works for April 9 — a bigger one, according to Prof Emeritus Shaharir Mohamad Zain who heads the Gerakan Mansuh PPSMI group.
But let’s put aside the orchestrations of these opinion leaders for a moment and ask the more pertinent question: What does the rest of Malaysia really want?
To get a clearer picture, Malay Mail Online hit the streets recently to find out what the average citizen really thinks about the DLP and about English language education in general.