Monday, 14 January 2013


PPMSI: 'We are going to go backwards'

Cyberjaya (Jan 14): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is set to reignite the debate on the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI) when he said the government had made a mistake in reversing the policy.

The former prime minister said the government must not politicise the education system or risk pushing the country backwards.

“I hope the government will change their view but for the moment it is for political reasons... I am proud that I am Malay but I can’t learn this in Malay. I have told the government but they seem to say that we can learn these things in Malay.

“Well, I am going to say that we are going to go backwards,” he said during a discussion on Cyberjaya’s current and future development at The Lodge here.

Mahathir said English is very important in ensuring that the country does not fall behind in the ever-changing world of science and technology.

“I am a great Malay language nationalist but I felt that Science and Mathematics must be taught in English simply because this is a field which changes very rapidly and frequently. What is scientific law today may be debunked through some other research tomorrow.

“If you are not aware then you cannot keep up with knowledge that is coming towards us. We cannot be aware if we don’t master these subjects in English because the papers coming to us are 90% in English,” he said.

Mahathir introduced PPSMI before stepping down in 2003 but the policy was scrapped by deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the teaching of both subjects were reverted back to Bahasa Malaysia last year.

In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011 published last year, Malaysia experienced the biggest drop in scores for every component in both subjects between 1999 and 2011.

According to the TIMSS report – which is a four-year global assessment – Malaysia's average score for Mathematics fell 79 points from 519 in 1999 to 440 in 2011.

By comparison, the next worst country Thailand posted an average score decrease of 40 points for Mathematics.

Malaysia's average score for Science meanwhile dropped 66 points from 492 in 1999 to 426 in 2011.

This decrease is higher than the next worst country, Macedonia whose average score for science fell 51 points.

Malaysia's ranking in Mathematics fell six places to 26th spot in 2011 from 20th place in 2007 while the average Mathematics score decreased to 440 in 2011 from 474 in 2007.

For Science, Malaysia's ranking fell to 32nd place in 2011 from 21st spot in 2007 while average scores fell to 426 in 2011 from 471 in 2007.

The TIMSS study was conducted in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 and compared the average performances of Malaysia's Form Two students with their 8th grade peers.

A total of 5,733 students from 180 Malaysian schools participated in the TIMSS survey.

Countries like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea topped the TIMSS rankings of science and mathematics achievement.

Malaysia dropped six spots from being ranked 20th in 2007 to 26th last year, and fell 11 spots for Science from 21st in 2007 to 32nd last year.


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