English to be used to teach maths, science again, says Malaysian PM Mahathir

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is also the acting Education Minister, said the use of English and mastery of the language in Malaysia's education system must be promoted. PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will once again use English to teach mathematics and science subjects, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Tun Dr Mahathir, who is also the acting Education Minister, said the use of English and mastery of the language in Malaysia's education system must be promoted.

"It is very important that we give time for English, particularly in learning science and maths.

"Geography and history can come in any language but maths and science are not indigenous fields of knowledge (to us). They come from abroad.

"And most of them come to us in English, therefore we are going to use English in the teaching of science and maths," he said, adding that those who studied science in Bahasa Malaysia later found it difficult to work where English was required.

He was speaking during a special meeting with Education Ministry management officials Thursday (Jan 30).

A video of his address was later uploaded on social media.

The Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (or better known by its Malay acronym, PPSMI) was introduced in phases, beginning with Year 1, Form 1 and Lower 6 students in 2003 under Dr Mahathir's first tenure as prime minister.

It was abolished in 2012 under the previous Barisan Nasional administration headed by former premier Najib Razak.

The BN government back then said studies showed that it had resulted in worsening academic results in mathematics and science.

Another reason it gave for the alleged failure of the policy was a lack of staff who could actually teach the two subjects in English.

But critics said it was a political decision aimed at placating rural voters, whose children were struggling to cope with English, an accusation the government has denied.

In the uproar that ensued, Putrajaya introduced the MBMMBI programme, which saw the teaching of mathematics and science revert fully to Bahasa Malaysia from 2012, with more contact hours for English in order to improve students' skills in the language.

Dr Mahathir said on Thursday the country and its people want to see reforms in the education system.

"I have ideas for the role of education in the country and towards this end, certain weaknesses have to be attended to.

"I wish to put my views on record so that we can work together to achieve it.

"Of course, my views are not always popular or acceptable to many people but I feel we have to push certain things so that our children grow up and are able to tackle the problems of adult life - that is the purpose of education."

He said being a multiracial country posed some problems but it could also contribute to the nation's development.

Much of Malaysia's development is based on the good working relationship between the races, he said.

"If the country is not stable - if we are at war - you can forget about development.

"Everything will be concentrated on how to kill each other and the killers will be the winners," he said.

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