Erosion of Dual Language Programme punishes children who are good in English
Two renowned primary schools have been coerced into turning their Dual Language Programme (DLP) classes into non-DLP ones midway through the term. Parents are aghast.
The affected schools, Convent Bukit Nanas (1) (CBN1) and Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Damansara (SKBD), both in cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur, have explicitly and expressly met all criteria set by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to become full DLP schools offering DLP classes since 2016. These are therefore not new schools wanting to adopt the DLP. The criteria set include schools having enough resources, the school heads having a plan to make sure the programme is sustainable, parents’ consent being obtained and schools meeting the national average achievement for Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
When the DLP was formulated in 2015, the intention of the stakeholders was to make it as welcoming, easy and simple as possible for as many schools to adopt it. In fact, over time, it was targeted that all schools should eventually become DLP schools offering at least one class at every level. Thus, the BM requirement was a shock to us as it deprived at least half the schools from being eligible.
The question that begs to be asked is: What is being done to help the schools that cannot meet the national average achievement for BM and therefore do not qualify for the DLP? In spite of being fully immersed in BM (aside from English language lessons), these schools still fail to meet the national average. The irony of it.
School leaders, district education offices (PPD), state education departments (JPN) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) should therefore be given enough support to improve the BM outcomes and be made accountable to achieve given targets. Yet, schools such as CBN1 and SKBD that have met the BM criteria are still being robbed of their liberty of learning science and mathematics in its lingua franca.
According to the MOE website, there are 7,779 primary and 2,452 secondary schools, and there are 1,613 primary and 815 secondary schools offering DLP. While it may look significant at first glance, it actually translates to 20.2% of primary schools (in most cases, only one class) and 33.2% of secondary schools (in most cases, only pure science classes) offering DLP classes. This is a staggering shortfall. By examination standards, it is a fail.
MOE says the DLP continues to be expanded. There were 1,554 secondary schools offering DLP in 2020. As at June 30, there were only 815 DLP secondary schools, a significant contraction of 48% rather than an expansion. Effectively, this means that students who started with the DLP at primary level are unable to continue with it at secondary level, as there are not enough schools nor classes to enrol into. Some students are told that they can continue with the DLP only if they are in the pure science stream. So, if a student is in an applied science class, then he has to do it in BM. The answer is to increase DLP secondary schools and classes to accommodate the numbers from primary feeder schools.
The answer is not to reduce the number of primary school DLP classes. This is exactly what the ministry has done with CBN1 and SKBD. By reducing the number of DLP classes without lowering the number of DLP schools, claiming that the programme is being expanded, MOE has created an illusion. The number of CBN1 DLP classes has been reduced from two to one. In six years’ time, it would have lost 50% of its DLP classes. SKBD has lost one DLP class of six. In six years’ time, it would have lost at least 17% of its DLP classes. And it goes on.
We would like to see the figures concerning this development in terms of the number of schools, classes and students involved from 2016 to date. We urge MOE to make these figures public so parents are assured that it has the students’ best interests at heart and not the minister’s political survival.
The only wrong the innocent six-year-olds have done is to be proficient in the English language. And it is because of such a proficiency that these children, whose parents exposed them to the English language from birth, are presumed not to be proficient in BM. And it is because of such a presumption that these outstanding children are put in a non-DLP class because it is again presumed that if they do not focus on BM, they will fail it at SPM. Yet another ignorant presumption.
Since the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia’s (PAGE) media blitz began, all we have heard from the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Department of Education (JPWPKL) and MOE is, “we won’t budge, no matter what”! How cruel can our policymakers be to force six-year-olds to accept their fate?! We pray that our prime minister will overturn the decision as he reassuringly tells us parents, “Rest assured, we will look into it.”
When you have power, do the right thing, Honourable Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.