08 July 2009

Of Maths and Science

The Malaysian government had just announced a decision today, that is to revert the teaching language of both Maths & Science subjects from English to Malay. This applies for both national type primary and secondary schools.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet has decided that the medium of instruction for Maths and Science will revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools and mother-tongue languages in national-type schools from 2012 onwards.

Back in year 2003, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir announced that Science and Maths subjects would be taught in English. Many protested, but the plan goes on for the years to come.

I think this is a STUPID decision. I don't regret saying it. From the point of view of a student, seriously I would prefer the subjects to be carried out in English rather than BM.

I was the last batch of students that learn both the subjects in BM. I entered the secondary school in year 2002 so everything is still in BM. Even when I've reached Form 4 in year 2005, the subjects are still being taught in BM.

Back then I noticed that I had problems to understand the scientific terms in Malay. Some are verbally translated from English to Malay so still understandable, but some of the native Malay words are making the lesson harder to understand.

For example: "displacement" VS "sesaran", "differentiation" VS "pembezaan", "prime number" VS "nombor perdana", "oxydation" VS "oksidasi" etc etc.

Somehow I felt that BM is not suitable to express scientific and technical terms. The original context is in English (materials used to be taken from the British O Levels) and somehow upon translated into BM it just make things more confusing, especially if there's certain mistranslate or misunderstanding in the languages.

I shamelessly admit that when I was in secondary school I had problems to cope with understanding the lesson, especially the Science subjects and Maths. It's not that I struggled badly, but you know when you're in the mid of understanding nothing much, even if someone tried to explained, it's not easy to figure it out eh.

Of all 3 sciences, the weakest would be Physics. For some reasons I did not perform well in this subject as compared to Chemistry and Biology. Mainly is because many of the formulas used in Physics are written in English, and when it's being mixed together with BM it can be confusing.

Another example, the basic formula of acceleration, a = (v-u)/t.
In BM, a = pecutan, v = laju akhir, u = laju awal, t = masa.
In Eng, a = acceleration, v = final speed, u = initial speed, t = time.

The letters in the formula represent certain units and when you have a lot of other formulas to remember, it's not uncommon that students will get everything mixed up.

For Chemistry and Biology, it wasn't that bad as most of the terms are direct verbal translate from English, but it's still twisting the original words here and there would confuses the student easily.

I struggled initially when I continued my study in A Levels. Everything is being taught in English. Anyway, sooner or later when I get used to it I've been doing quite well. That time I can understand most of the concepts easily because of the language used. Few months later I've abandoned the terms in BM and embraced the terms in English.

At the tertiary, or pre-tertiary level of education, the lesson is being carried out in English. For students who had to convert from BM to English, it's quite a challenge and not everyone can pass through it smoothly.

It's best if the students are exposed to the English teaching environment earlier as the days later would be much difficult to cope with. Just like when we first learn those basic knowledge in the primary school, everything seems to be kinda difficult but as we grew up things would be much easier isn't it? Same applies, if the students learn it earlier, they won't be facing so much problems in their later days.

There are people said that teaching those subjects in English would corrode the pride of BM, making the students neglected the importance of BM as the main language in the country. Their points may sounded reasonable but I would snub it.

It's indeed that BM is important to the country, no doubt about it. But for the sake of our knowledge, for the future, the better choice would be taught the Science and Maths subjects in English.

Other than local public universities, most of the private or foreign universities that Malaysian would likely to further study at are being carried out in English environment. Singapore, Australia, UK, and US are popular destinations among the students, this is a known fact.

Tun Mahathir spoken of his opinion regarding the execution of his initial plan to had both the subjects taught in English. Anyway it's written in BM so sorry for those who can't understand it.

It's an open secret that everyone knows how much the government have spent to switch from BM to English last time, and few years to come it's going to be reverted back to the step one again. What a waste of time, resources and money. Sadly, this is how the way they do things in the Malaysian government.

I believe concerned parents would voice out their disagreement with this topic very soon, just take note of the newspapers, especially the reader's opinions column in The Star.

Switching the language is not an easy task eh, what's moreover to change back to the original state in less than 10 years time. It's draining, not just for the government but everyone involved in the education sector as well, including the teachers and students.

Reverting the teachings back to BM is moving a step backward for our future. For those who said that the decision is made at the interest of the kids, maybe they should listen to what the kids say.

I'd say, stick with English!

P/S: Some might argue that the students who can't cope with studying the English language. Given the trend of globalisation, it's better to change the students rather than change for them. Besides, why make the change when it only benefits the minorities?

Malaysia is such a weird country that the concept of favouring majority and minority is being blurred, set place in a gray zone where you don't really obey the universal law eh.


  1. 私も同じ考え方を持っている><

  2. ハハそうそう!英語で授業の方がいいだよ!

  3. you are:
    correct! correct! correct!

  4. I couldn't agree with you more!!!