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Tag Archives: PPSMI

I cannot agree more with this writer here on the need to be able to speak English well when expressing ourselves at the global level. Not only what  we present  to the international audience  but how we articulate is equally important. The use of  suitable words, the understanding of  technical terms, good pronunciation, body language and appropriate emotion go a long way in making a point.

The first few days of the press briefings chaired by the Head of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) appeared chaotic with him moving here and there while making points though his English is good but his nervous mannerism was stressful to watch. The other three guys could also speak English but at that early stage of MH370’s disappearance they appeared hesitant. I remembered the army guy was saying about a “reciprocal turn back” by the jetliner but the following day he retracted the information.

The DCA Head was restless and at times appeared wanting to get away from the briefings in a hurry leaving reporters exasperated for information. If only he could have been more briefed himself before appearing to answer those questions fired from all around him! I felt there was a lack of coordination between Malaysia Airlines and the DCA. even the last words heard from the cockpit of MH370 are not correct, from the laidback unconventional “Alright, goodnight” now today 01 April has been changed to ” Good night Malaysian 370″,  I really don’t know what to believe now. There were so many so called ” facts” which needed to be changed.

The situation was much better with the Acting Transports Minister leading the press briefings. Many people including the foreign press have praised the Minister for his calm handlings of the international press. His “flawless English” and ability to take unprepared questions in English are admirable. I don’t think other Ministers apart from Khairy Jamaluddin ( the Oxford-educated Minister of Youth and Sports) could carry themselves in such a heated situation. I cringe at the thought of Zaid Hamidi (Minister of  Home Affairs), Liow Tiong Lai (Former Health Minister) and some other ministers with their poor command of English, leading such an international briefing.

If PM Najib who is said to be “leading from behind” doesn’t see the need to equip our children with English, I fear future leaders and civil servants would not be able to handle the international community with such finesse. Well, you can talk in Bahasa Malaysia but imagine your information being lost in translation!

I remember attending an international meeting in Thailand when the Governor of the province’s welcome speech was so badly translated that the he kept correcting the translator and later he just had to speak in English himself  to get his points across. We the audience were roundly confused till we heard it from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

MH370’s disappearance has many lessons for Malaysians to learn from and certainly good communication is one of them. Unless PM Najib thinks laterally, I don’t think he will reconsider the need to make English an important lingua franca in our education system.

English medium schools were ceased in 1982, that is 32 years ago and if a student who learnt in English was 18 then, he would be 50 now and would be among the last who could really speak and interact in English relatively well. In 10 years time, we will have half-baked English speakers. That is why those below 50,  now becoming associate professors in Universities and a few was interviewed on Television about  MH370’s disappearance spoke atrocious English, as lamented by the above quoted writer.

The abolition of PPSMI (the teaching of Math and Science in English) is a shortsighted policy that will affect our future generations facing a fiercely competitive world. The lack of ability to follow technical instructions will surely set us back in the scientific and technological fields.

Just imagine, even the flight simulator of the MH 370’s captain has to be sent to the United States  for analysis. We are just not capable in many hi-tech areas and yet so shamelessly arrogant. As the Malays say “bodoh sombong” (stupid but arrogant).


What have we come to? Where’s the harmony cultivated all these years? We have  been independent for over 56 years but instead of moving towards unity, we are becoming more segregated than ever.

The A word has become a focus of unbridled paranoia, the scale of which  is increasing. The current paranoia about the A word has been attributed to the heightened religiosity, preoccupation with life after death and deepening fear of a divisive flock.

The news on the latest seizure of the Holy Books from inside a premise, picked up by the the International press Reuter and the BBC is disconcerting bordering upon an embarrassment for the country. It reflects  a growing scale of  enforcement by the state-supported faith on another that is  helpless with no one to turn to, except perhaps to the foreign media.

It is sad when faith which is a private matter between an individual and his/her maker, is teased out forcibly in the open as a means to garner support from the indoctrinated masses. It is about us and them and when such an action has the tacit and systematic support of institutions and politicians, then we, Malaysians, are in for a never-ending crisis.

Nope, no light at the end of the tunnel!

Nope, no light at the end of the tunnel!

The issue  of the A word has continued to plague this country. It  won’t die down unless  a genuine effort is made  to manage it. To bring this about we need leaders of Malaysians and not of specific groups. Leaders who mean what they say and say what they mean. In the current context, PM Najib’s silence on this issue is deafening (and frightening). I notice he usually chooses to be silent on major issue like PPSMI. A strange kind of (unopposed) leadership.

By getting the court to decide on the use of the A word, Malaysian political leaders have abrogated their responsibility to  promote a healthy debate and to mediate in a challenging multicultural environment. At the moment, it is either black or white: the grey area is a non-option. The law on sedition, the position of certain man-made rulers and ethnic groups appear to favour a stalemate. And currently there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

A stalemate is dangerous because it fans the perpetual fire of discontent giving rise to an entrenched disharmony and mistrust.

There are countless articles written in the newspapers and online portals  on the need to address the poor English proficiency level in the country since the abolition of English as a medium of instruction in schools in 1982. The reasons given are logical,sensible and practical and yet Malaysian politicians are choosing to be deaf publicly but  privately busy arranging for their children to study in English overseas.

This situation is unfair for the general public, for parents who wish to have their children educated in English so that their future is brighter vis-a-vis employment opportunities in the private sector and Multinational Corporations (MNCs)

There are calls by people who should know better on the advantage of being proficient in English especially in dealing with the mass of information on a technical nature available in English. This call here for the revival of the English Medium Schools  by an ex-Senior government servant should be considered carefully. He should know because he always comes face to face with bad English whenever  his doctors are presenting technical papers at the local and international level. I have also come across medical reports from medical specialists for insurance purposes poorly written in English with a lot of grammatical errors. You would never see this 15 years ago!

I had been there as well. At the international level in the past, the organiser would look for Malaysians to be the chairman or rapporteur of the conference, workshops or seminars. This was due to our peoples’ ability to converse well and enunciate in the language and so guide and promote  interactions among participants of such international gatherings. I believe the situation has now changed. Malaysians now, more often than not  have become only “passengers”  at international level meets.

In the past I noticed the Indonesians,the Thais and the Japanese had beautiful slides but were unable to deliver them coherently as their English was generally poor. They also fared badly during Q&A sessions. It was not a fruitful interaction.

I went to a primary school and learnt in my mother tongue but from  secondary school onwards, I studied in English which has changed my life fortune. I would not be what I am today if not for my knowledge in English. And I wish  Malaysian children today would trot my way and be  as or more successful. I have  managed to achieve financial freedom well ahead and certainly can send my children to study overseas without any problem but what about my poor countrymen?

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to study in English and I really pray that the current government leadership which is perceived to be weak and not visionary to rethink their education strategy because they are not going to be there forever, to quote the French philosopher, Etienne de Grellet ,  “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Ex-long serving PM Mahathir was party to the abolition of English as a medium of instruction in schools in 1982 and he tried to redeem himself by introducing policy on PPSMI in 2005 during the sunset of his political power and only to be scrapped by the flip-flop successor sleepy Abdullah Badawi or more popularly known as  Bodohwi, in 2008 and the succeeding PM Najib has simply cocooned himself from this issue refusing even to talk publicly about it. Being brought up with a silver spoon, he most probably cannot grasp the English medium issue, playing it safe: what kind of a leader is this? A fairweather leader is no leader. A true leader fights and not hides.

Worse comes to worse, why not we have a referendum (letting people decide) on the use of English as a medium of instruction in secondary schools? Before that we must inform  the public sufficiently  especially those in rural areas on the importance of English for a competitive Malaysia.

Having said that, politicians basically fear a referendum because it is too final just like an election, it’s a truly peoples’  choice by popular votes and not one “first past the post” as there are no number of seats! Will this open a Pandora’s box? Well we must have ground rules like not resorting to referendum on  ultra-sensitive issues like  faith and religion.

Let’s have this referendum nevertheless and distract and take the shine off  the current Anwar’s ugly and combative so called Blackout 505 rallies as urban people will prick up their attention toward this novel way of making decision for something really close to their hearts.

The ball is in your court PM Najib.

Chris Hadfield, the 53-year old Canadian astronaut returned to earth on 13 May (local time) with  two others after orbiting in space in ISS (International Space Station)  for nearly five months. Instead of just performing his routine duties in space as Commander of the ship, Hadfield has decided to engage the world during his sojourn. His tweetings and videos sent from ISS on different  space scenarios have captivated many and inspired young people in space science and outer space and beyond.

Commander Chris Hadfield arriving back to earth on 12 May 2013 after five months in ISS

Commander Chris Hadfield arriving back to earth on 12 May 2013 after five months in ISS

He showed us many tasks that we take for granted on earth that cannot be executed easily in space. One of the things that he made us aware in the weightlessness of space is that when one is sad and starts crying, the tears would not run down one’s cheeks. You can go here to see what we have learnt from him about living in space. He also shared with us on how to have fun in space here.

His desire to connect with people on earth facilitated an increase of our knowledge and the quest of man to explore space. Only through science and research can we hope to continue going beyond the perceived boundaries.

Centuries ago man could only afford to watch the moon and in 1969, man finally walked on that very moon. Incidentally Commander Hadfield became interested to become an astronaut at the age of nine after watching on television that historic Apollo landing on the moon.

Who could forget his rendition of Bowie's song "Space Oddity"? in ISS?

Who could forget his rendition of Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” in ISS?

Commander Hadfield’s rendition of David Bowie’s 1969 song, “Space Oddity” with his guitar flying about, on the day before his departure from ISS was apt and touching. I remember unconsciously urging him on so as not to lose his voice as he came to the hard part of the song requiring longer breath. He did not disappoint. That was great Commander!

While this man was inspiring the young of this planet towards man’s dream of space exploration and learn from him what quest for knowledge and tenacity mean, we in Malaysia have a man inspiring the young to protest and attend emotional public rallies and learn from him the art of divisiveness. That’s the problem when there is an overriding personal interest  and relentless politickings.

Thank you Commander Chris Hadfield, your contribution has planted more seeds of scientific learning in curious young people living in supportive environment. They will continue what you and  other space scientists, Shuttle and Soyuz astronauts have started and charted.

An Afterthought:

I cannot say much about Malaysia’s young being inspired in such scientific endeavours because many are handicapped by their poor understanding of English. And the blinking politicians have failed to appreciate the need for English in the study of Mathematics and Science by abolishing PPSMI. The current unfortunate situation is the result of a weak and non-visionary leadership. Is there any wonder BN is almost trounced in GE13?

I want to cry  in space like Chris Hadfield!

It has become the norm as the general election is getting closer, special interest groups have started making demands as if to warn the present government that it would cost them votes if they do not listen and act accordingly. And so you get the establishment of Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) for immigrants in Sabah following political pressure, the lifting of the  ban on Hindraf and the inclusion of written commitment on mission schools in the so-called ” National Education Blueprint”.

Then we read of Sarawak State wanting to work out a new (higher) formula for oil royalty from PETRONAS while the Umno-led Sabah has not been that vocal but the opposition parties are telling local voters that the new Coalition government would give  a 20% oil royalty to the State  from the current 5% if they are voted in.

In short, all are giving this  government an implicit warning: give in or be booted out.

Parents for PPSMI

Parents for PPSMI

So the same with PPSMI. Groups of concerned parents are preparing to march and protest against the abolition of this policy which is seen as contrary to the government’s big talk on transformation. PPSMI or the “Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English” is seen as a tool towards that transformation to make our people more competitive at the global level.

Led by PAGE (Parent Action Group for Education), the push of PPSMI has become more urgent in the run up to the General Election. One of the demands is to let parents have the choice for their children to study under PPSMI and another one is to appoint a professional as the Minister of Education as a precedent has been set in the past.

People morbidly against this present government and are already itching to vote for the Opposition have been commenting on this issue by asking parents to vote against BN (National Front), the coalition in government as they opine that Pakatan Rakyat (PR), the opposition coalition will reintroduce PPSMI! Some parents may emotionally take this carrot and definitely BN is going to lose some votes on this issue.

Anwar Ibrahim - A political Chameleon

Anwar Ibrahim – A Political Chameleon

And yet, had they cared to scrutinise, Pakatan Rakyat led by Anwar Ibrahim, has never expressly stated that they would reinstate PPSMI. This issue is too contentious and PR is not going to expose itself to possible backlash from ultra or conservative Malays bent on the use of national language in the teaching of all school subjects.

Remember the firebrand  Anwar Ibrahim when he was in UMNO and ABIM ( Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia ) or  Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement , and don’t forget he is a graduate of “Malay Studies”, do you think he would have changed his stripes? I don’t believe so.Whatever this man is doing now is purely for his political expediency.

A  parental plea to the government. PPSMI as an OPTION

A parental plea to the government.

I am still hopeful that The BN government will do the right thing by giving parents the option of PPSMI for their children because of the glaring advantages for their future in this globalised world.

Surely the current BN leaders appreciate the importance of PPSMI but like those  “religious” people who are paranoid and  wanting to control even what others should wear and even think, these politicians also unfortunately jump on the bandwagon and  feel the need to control how children should be taught ostensibly for national unity and integration. The reasoning for national identity which educated parents don’t buy.

One of my favourite bloggers is Syed Akhbar because he has such fresh ideas about what is happening in Malaysia culturally and politically. Though I must admit he is an unapologetic BN (National Front) fan, yet he still hentam ( hammers) them when he feels they are not in the right path. He discusses a lot on government policies and religion in perceptively secular mode. His support for and promotion of PPSMI (the teaching of Maths and Science in English) is legendary. He always pokes fun at the government handling on the use of English in schools and while reading on the topic, I came across this piece from one of his readers; (taken verbatim), I would like to share this brilliant “tongue in cheek” comments with my blog readers.


Anonymous said…

See what happened to those who had English ? After frolicking on the world wide web, they now had the audacity to demand for a clean, non-corrupt government, to demand for intelligent, capable MPs and Ministers, demand for human rights and equal rights, demand for removal of apartheid, demand for abolishment of discriminatory treatment, demand for seditious racist leaders to be jailed….macam macam lagi more and more demands every other week !

Thank god at least 70% of our citizens are still on the bahasa mode, unable to speak or understand the English word….they got all their news from TV 1,2,3 and Utusan Meloya and the likes. These are the ‘law abiding’ citizens, who swallowed every word churned out by our great leaders and they feel safe and secure after reading and listening to these right sources which assured them that our country is world champions in so many areas and our future so bright and we will achieved developed status in 8 years’ time. 

How not to be assured…. see, we have the world’s tallest building here ( at one time ) and we have so many modern buildings and other world leaders praised our Putrajaya, green with envy even and we even sent our very own astronaut to the moon, oops, to the outer space, or somewhere in outer space to test our roti canai or something like that.

Learning English might be the fastest route to catch up with the world but at what price ? Imagine putting all sorts of ideas into our obedient citizens and becoming biadap like some of these English educated smart alecks, god forbids.

Hidup bahasa melayu !

Sunday, December 16, 2012 8:16:00 AM


The sarcasm is deep and cutting. While I cannot stop smiling reading this piece, I also feel sad at the reality that is facing our country today. There is a whole wide world of knowledge out there on the internet at your fingertip and yet many of our students and young people are not able to take advantage of and benefit from it due to their inability to understand the language let alone speak it.

The art of investing, financial know-how and wealth creation materials are mostly in English and sadly those not conversant in the language miss out a lot on the very thing which could help them to be financially savvied and improve their quality of life.

Most internet materials in BM (Malay) about investing discuss what happened and in contrast, those in English concentrate on how and why it happened and lessons learnt.

Poor knowledge,less right questions

Poor knowledge,less right questions

And of course, people who don’t read at all will never know anything that has happened!

One cannot help but notice the silence treatment Najib gives to PPSMI reinstatement’s call and that persistent calls for review of the seemingly lopsided deal between MAS and Air Asia. No words have come out from him publicly on the issue of the so-called airlines collaboration. Obviously the people who make noise regarding the two issues are deemed not influential or important enough to change the outcome of the 13th General Election results.

Najib -eerily silent and so it is and so be it.

Who are the people who wanted PPSMI to be reinstated? The educated,urban,socially-conscious and globalisation-savvy citizens and who are the people who are not happy with the unfair share swap between MAS and Air Asia? Yes, it is likely to be a similar group of people ( not the same but similar in awareness and a sense of fairness). The less educated kampong (rural) folk who make up the majority of UMNO supporters are just not bothered.

PPSMI has currently remained abolished as we now care to acknowledge and so too would MAS-Air Asia share swap deal not be reviewed. It’s a done deal people. With CIMB brokering the deal, Najib is in the thick of things for all we know.

And so say what you like PM Najib is not going to review this share swap deal as many of us would have wanted. I feel deeply sorry for those MAS employees who have been loyal to the company all these years since the establishment of the company in 1972 only to be treated shabbily by politicians who should know better. They have worked hard all these years and have won several international awards besides promoting Malaysia as a tourism destination.

The failure of privatisation of MAS during Mahathir’s era and successive bad management was actually the start of MAS’s woes. And The establishment of Air Asia in late nineties and the later management of it by the audacious Tony Fernandes and the decline of the global airlines industry following 9/11 seal MAS’s fate.

For people who have a strong sense of dislike against unfair (corrupt) practices, we join in the arena to express our unsolicited views, granted many of us do not really have the full facts of the case. Our perception disturbs us and our conscience would not let us keep quiet.

Should those who make decisions listen to or care to address the controversial issues at hand, then we are rewarded and feel vindicated in some ways.

For my blog readers who would like to follow up on the MAS-Air Asia share swap saga, I would like to give you links here and here and here and my favourite one here which give you more information and arguments to help you decide and reach your own conclusions.

People must not remain silent on issues gnawing at our sense of justice and fair play. We must make our voice heard especially through the ballot box. We must not let politicians with self-interests rule over us. Malaysia will be a better society when served by sincere politicians and not those with a lot of skeletons in their closets!

There is nothing else worth writing on the advantages of English as a global and scientific language. I have read numerous passionate letters and excellent articles related to the use of English in the teaching of Mathematics and Science and I am sure most of you have too.

I cannot help but feel that those recalcitrant politicians also know the supremacy of English as a language of instruction in technology subjects but they have chosen to ignore it for their political purposes and survival. Their misguided and arrogant conviction would prove to be costly for this country in years to come. They love their ideal more than their country.

I am therefore encouraged to read about our ex-visionary Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir who was instrumental in implementing the PPSMI policy, still talking about continuing it. He emphasised that science and maths are progressive and living subjects as opposed to history,geography and literature. You can read it here and his blog written in BM (Malay language) to convince the hesitant Malays, fearful of their language taking a back seat in the name of development.

Tun Mahathir -The Titan of PPSMI

Tun Mahathir is the Titan that can speak on any subject and be taken seriously by Malaysians. He is a Malay Nationalist, a true blue one if you cared to read about his pre-independence exploits and his tiffs with the first Prime Minister on the political and economic status of the Malays in this country.

His legacy will live on for generations as no Prime Minister of Malaysia has gone over an education policy cycle like he has. He was the Prime Minister when English, as a medium of instruction was ceased in 1982 and the same Prime Minister who foresees the need to reintroduce English in 2003 as a language in the teaching of maths and science. The advent of the internet in early 1990s has convinced him that Malaysians have to take giant leaps instead of baby’s steps towards embracing technology and achieving global prominence.

Whose vision was it that propels us into the world of information and communication technology? Even his detractors and political enemies admitted his farsightedness. I remember Uncle Kit (Lim Kit Siang of DAP, an opposition party) praising Tun in an ASTRO TV program on the latter’s singular achievement.

Tun is in his mid-eighties and I can understand his frustration and perhaps sadness and disappointment that the current crop of politicians have not seen it fit to go along with his vision of a competitive Malaysia through human capital development.

I hope Tun would write a memoir of his dreams and thoughts on PPSMI for future politicians to ponder and who knows there might come a leader who could unite all Malaysians and reverse the policy back to PPSMI in the future. As Tun says we cannot afford to be technology consumers indefinitely. We cannot go on buying outdated military technology and expect to protect our country. We need to have people who research, network, create,invent and innovate and English is the fastest vehicle to bring on and mould such people.

Yes, this is the Titan’s last stand in a fight for the future k-generation in Malaysia. I salute the Titan and he is in my prayer in the twilight of his life despite my occasional disagreements with his actions.


Following the cabinet decision in 2009 (overturning the cabinet decision in 2002), of policy reversal on PPSMI, announcements are made regarding the implementation which is supposed to start in 2013 but put forward to 2012. I cannot remember much about what was said by the Minister of Education prior to the cabinet reshuffle in 2010 when Najib replaced Bodohwi who was virtually asked to step down on account of the disastrous 12th General Election results that saw the opposition making massive inroads politically.

PPSMI temperature begins to rise as the implementation year nears and the new Minister of Education, the more mature and confident Muhyiddin comes across as the strong “Terminator”. In the face of public outcry for PPSMI, he seemed to be steadfast in the cabinet’s resolve to cease the policy.We are quoted with studies which are said to paint a negative picture on PPSMI and at the same time not many schools are reported to have implemented the policy. We are in the dark as to when these statistics are collected. Whether the number of schools implementing PPSMI decline after the announcement of policy reversal in 2009 or is it before the announcement. Most PPSMI statistics seem to be rather blurry.

The motivation of teachers to continue with PPSMI would have been affected greatly following that cabinet decision in 2009. School text publishers are already getting ready with books in Bahasa Melayu (BM) in anticipation of 2012. And now that there is some breathing space being given to those children who are already into PPSMI for them to continue till form Five and those in primary Three (2012) can opt to be in PPSMI till they complete their form Five in 2021. I am sure many parents who are concerned about their children’s future sigh with great relief at this last minute temporary reprieve.

PAGE (Parent Action Group for Education) and its gutsy President should be commended for their singular resolve to submit that memorandum to PM Najib just before he flew to Mecca late October. Without a doubt his hidden hand must have contributed to the decision to let the current PPSMI cohort of students continue till the final year of their secondary schooling.

The final battle ended with a small concession.

The confusing point presently is when the Ministry of Education is asking individual schools to make the choice whether to opt for PPSMI or to go full steam into BM. This is where the unhappiness is going to set in. As parents are told to transfer their children to those schools which are offering PPSMI if their current schools do not or opt not to offer. There are already grouses on the ground.

For proper planning for support facilities, the Ministry of Education should be the one determining which schools should continue with PPSMI (having consulted the respective state education departments). Otherwise the ministry will be seen as not really sincere in its “magnanimity”. As “your obedient servant” and sensing the sentiment of the combative Minister of Education many teachers might want to please the reluctant Ministry by opting not to continue with PPSMI. This action would render the concession an exercise in futility.

Schools are not to be blamed should there be problems like lack of trained teachers or text books in PPSMI because they are the ones who “choose” to opt for the policy. I don’t think anyone would like to be in the teachers’ shoes on this score. So the parents hope that the Ministry is the one that needs to be the active implementer of this decision and should not “lepas tangan” (let go) as we are talking about the welfare of the children here. In short, the Ministry should be fully responsible for the outcome of this retro step albeit for only the current PPSMI cohort.

In the meantime, independent studies should be planned to analyse the performance of the PPSMI-cohort in the higher education achievement and subsequent global job market (minus government jobs of course) as compared to those in MBM-MBI. Or are we scared of knowing the truth as always?

Muhyiddin Yasin, Minister of Education 2011

So essentially the Minister of Education, Muhyiddin Yasin says the decision to revert to the teaching Maths and Science in BM is cast in stone ( as if it is God-made!) and he is not for “flip-flopping” and that he has the backing of the whole cabinet and the prime Minister himself. He gives all sorts of statistics and studies done by the Ministry itself as opposed to by independent researchers and quotes figures which are hardly meaningful as they lack the intrinsic value for appropriate statistical inferences.

There is no elegant reasoning like the ones given by the Minister of Education back in 2003 in support of PPSMI (search my blog under PPSMI). This year 2011, the Minister of Education (BN) articulates a decision that is intricately linked to political expediency/ misplaced nationalism. External factors influencing educational objectives like globalisation, liberalisation,competitiveness and modern literacy are all but in the back burner.

At the same time, I cannot help but feel the BN government is reversing this policy as a response to the opposition party’s (PAS and PKR) use of PPSMI as a political issue in the next general election. These two parties are against PPSMI and are playing to the Malay gallery!

Like it or not UMNO, the dominant BN partner (having lost its two third majority in the last general election in 2008) is dependent on the Malay votes especially those in the rural areas, in the next 13th general election to be held before 2013.

I would like to share a keynote address delivered by the Minister of Education in 2003. Tan Sri Musa was a brilliant and respected academic at University Sain Malaysia (USM), its visionary Vice Chancellor (1982-1995). He was roped in by Dr Mahathir, our ex-Prime Minister, to the hot post of Minister of Education in 1999. He was apolitical and had made his name internationally in the field of pharmaceutical research and as you can see in his speech, he is very much a science-oriented person. He understands the important of facts. So you can expect him to have the passion about science and mathematics unlike the present Minister of Education who makes his decision on pure political and cultural/emotional considerations.

You will note that the post of Minister of Education is very powerful politically. He can garner a lot of grassroots support from all those teachers in contact with the voters on the ground. This person could cause intra-political upheavals and creation of factions. So you will notice during Mahathir’s time after Anwar as the Minister of Education, you have the late Suleiman Daud ( A Sarawakian politician and non-UMNO member) being appointed to the post a couple of times to ensure no power building around the personality (had it been held by an UMNO man). Mahathir was smart.

Musa Mohamad, a PhD holder, was also the first non-politician to be appointed the Minister of Education of Malaysia from 1999 – 2004. A brief summary of his contribution to education in Malaysia can be seen here.

Under Bodohwi, Hishammudin Hussein was made the Education Minister but he was not that effective and neither was he clever/charismatic enough to develop a power base. And you see now a clever and rather dexterous politician in Muhyiddin as the Education Minister and he certainly knows how to play politics and how to cement his position in UMNO. My guess is, he is put there to oversee the “extermination” of PPSMI. If this were the case, no memorandum or amount of appeals will get PM Najib to change his government’s mind to do away with PPSMI and let everyone “sama-sama masuk longkang” (all going down the drain)…. ooops! Not every one, as children of Ministers and wealthy people can study in international schools where they teach in English. Talk about equity and social justice!

Musa Mohamad, Minister of Education (1999-2004)

I am re-posting the then Education Minister’s speech delivered in 2003, below: (Note- the highlighting in blue is mine)

EteMS is the English short form for PPSMI



11.30 AM

1. Firstly, allow me to bid each and everyone present here today, a very warm welcome and Selamat Datang. I would like to congratulate the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) and the Teacher Education Division (TED) for organizing this conference and to thank them for inviting me to present this keynote address.

Implementation Of ETeMS
2. It has been one and a half years since the Cabinet announced the use of English for the Teaching of Science and Mathematics (EteMS). It is now one year since this curricular innovation has been implemented in our schools. As we stand poised to enter into the second year of implementation of this innovation, this conference is to me both timely as well as apt.

Public Interest On Implementation Of ETeMS
3. No other policy change in recent years has attracted as much media attention, and invited as much public and political debate. Some of the comments and opinions have been unexpected what to others can perhaps be ascribed to apprehension and anxiety. However, many of these comments and opinions do reflect legitimate concerns. It seems to me that the concern for the decline of English, the concern for mother tongue instruction and culture and awareness and concern for the ‘critical’ subject status of English, science and mathematics, have all contributed to this public and political debate.

Implementation Difficulty
4. Though there has been dialogue over some of these issues, misconceptions persist about EteMS. In this multicultural country of ours, there is always a tendency to be suspicious of any policy change that impinges on education and language. These suspicions however grow out of a healthy awareness that education is the driver of economic growth and socio-economic change. Therefore, any potential change to the existing framework of education provision will invite criticism and resistance. Additionally, there is always the fear of change itself and how it will impact on existing structures and beliefs. Researches support the theory that implementation of an innovation is difficult caused partly by the threat to the comfort practice and environment of implementors.

Change Versus Growth & Development
5. However, it is from change that we get growth and development. We cannot get trees if seeds do not undergo transformation. As a nation, we have great hopes and a magnificent vision. We want to be on par with the developed world and we want to be a world-class center of education excellence. However, aspirations cannot be realized if there is no proper and effective action.

Change Versus Vision
6. A great vision demands great change. And great change demands great flexibility. We must develop the capacity to adapt quickly and continually in order to acquire and master new knowledge and skills. We need to actively engage our people in change so that they may own that change. As we work together towards realizing our vision, we require a shift in our mindset. In the words of Peter Senge in his ‘Fifth Discipline’, we need a
“….shift of mind from seeing parts to seeing wholes, from seeing people as helpless reactors to seeing them as active participants in shaping their reality, from reacting to the present to creating the future.”

Change Unavoidable
7. We need to recast our Future in a new mold that we are still in the process of shaping and defining that future. We have to be willing and able to go beyond the mere rhetoric of change.

Increased Rate Of Change
8. Change and chaos are part of the natural order. Paradoxically, it is from change and chaos that we create a sense of permanence and order. It remains a fact that the pace of change in the 21st century will far exceed that which humankind experienced during the agricultural and industrial revolutions. While the agricultural revolution evolved over a period of thousands of years, the industrial revolution took only three hundred years. The technological revolution will take mere decades.

Globalisation Threat – Agenda For Action
9. Malaysia today is a mature developing country but still an infant in the developed world. The impact of globalization, both positive as well as negative, is everywhere in our nation – the rapid growth of technology and service-based industries, the appearance of foot-loose industries that are only too quick to move on to cheaper, more economical pastures, the ubiquitous computer in every home; the people who are deskilled and rendered unemployed by computerization and technological change, etc., etc. If we want to realize our vision, we can neither wait for things to happen nor can we merely react to things as they happen. We have to seize the initiative and strike out on our own, and we must start with the education of our people.

Agenda For Action – Human Resource Development
10. In this new global economy, intellectual capital has supplanted physical capital as the source of present and future wealth. The ultimate resource of any country is therefore its human resource. To assure our Future, we need a skilful, creative, flexible and knowledgeable workforce. To compete and secure our place among the nations of the world, our people must be well trained and highly skilled. To participate meaningfully in the global village, our people must have multiple literacies – linguistic, scientific, mathematical and technological. To succeed, our people must not only be highly trained and highly skilled but also develop emotional competencies that are imbued with logic and rationality. The issue here then is, can traditional or conventional approaches to education fulfill our needs?

Current Requirement For Human Resource – Knowledge
11. One of the greatest impacts of globalization is the heightened pace of knowledge through enhanced technologies. In the 1970s we were able to survive with the use of translated texts. However, in the 1990s, the profusion and proliferation of knowledge proved to be a daunting challenge to our translation industry. Allow me to illustrate this with a few facts and figures:

· In Chemistry, since the beginning of the 1990s, more than 1 million articles have appeared in specialized journals every 2 years (Clark, 1998). Between 1978 and 1988, the number of known chemical substances increased from 360,000 to 720,000, reaching 1.7 million in 1998 (Salmi, 2000)

· In Biology, only in 1977 was the method designed to determine the base sequence of the letters that codify the information in DNA; initially, it was possible to determine the sequence of 500 bases per week. This same method, today perfected and automated, can decipher the 3 billion bases of the human genome in a few years. Presently, a genome center can determine a million bases per day (Brunner, 2001)

· In Mathematics: 100,000 new theorems created every year (Madison, 1992)

· In the discipline of History: In two decades, – that is, between 1960 and 1980 – more publications were produced than in the entire previous period since classical Greece (van Kijk, 1992)

· Finally, in recent years five new Management books are published every day (Clark, 1998)

12. Considered together, it is estimated that knowledge, defined as the disciplinary base published and recorded, took 1,750 years to double in the period between 1 A.D. and the year 1750 A.D. It then doubled in volume, successively, in 150 years, 50 years, and now, every 5 years. It is estimated that by the year 2020, this knowledge base will double in 73 days.

13. Under these conditions, according to Gardner (1999:53),
… the individual (or “intelligent agent”) who can examine these bodies of knowledge and determine what is worth knowing will be at a tremendous premium. Even more esteemable will be the person (or browser) who (or that) can synthesize the exponentially expanding domains of knowledge so that vital information can be made available in useful form to the average citizen and the average policymaker.

14. All of this presents serious challenges to the education systems in general and to schools in particular. Who will be the synthesizers of knowledge of tomorrow? What other areas will be added to the concept of “basic skills” (computers, net surfing, use of multi-media), when, and in what modalities? In terms of curriculum, how can we organize global knowledge that is constantly changing and growing? How do we cope with the fact that a growing proportion of relevant knowledge is trans-disciplinary? How much emphasis should be placed in education on the disciplines

Strategy To Achieve Goal – Facilitate Learning
15. The exponential growth of knowledge that I have described renders translation an untenable option for us. If our national education system is to prepare our people to function in the information-rich world of the 21st century, then we must adopt better ways to facilitate learning at the various levels of our education system. We must consider novel and innovative ways to educate our people even as we develop new ways to live among the very determined and compete among the very strong in the global world. It is only if we do this that we will succeed in developing world-class citizens who are able to compete amongst the best in the developed countries of the world. In order to address this challenge, the government planned and implemented, among others, the Teaching of Science & Maths in English or ETeMS.

ETeMS – Facilitating Science & Mathematics Learning and Raising English Standards
16. The implementation of ETeMS has raised several issues. One of these is the persistent debate over whether ETeMS is intended to raise English language proficiency or facilitate the acquisition of scientific and mathematical knowledge. In fact, the introduction has both the aims. As I have mentioned earlier, there is an urgent need for us to recast our worldview. As we take our first steps into the 21st century, I would argue that education may soon not be as compartmentalized and structured as it is now, that the borders between subjects will blur as new knowledge frontiers are opened up for investigation.

17. The debate over whether the Ministry of Education is attempting to upgrade English proficiency or facilitate the learning of mathematics and science indicates that we remain focused on the conventional notion of subjects. I would argue that it is more pertinent and more important that we ponder on the value of what we are teaching at school. We need to realize that in the real world of work, it was not the knowledge of subject disciplines alone that determine success.

18. So what does it mean to be literate in the 21st century? What should we teach at school? Should we continue to focus on subject content or should we infuse content into an instructional programme that fosters the skills needed for growth and creativity amongst the young?

Modern Literacy – Standards For Individuals
19. Let us consider what it means to be ‘literate’ in the 21st century. Traditionally, a literate person is defined as an educated person, one having certain knowledge and competencies primarily related to the linguistic domain. But today, we need to recast this definition of literacy. The ability to read and write has long since been replaced by the more demanding requirements of our fast changing world.

Modern Individuals – Scientifically & Technologically Literate
20. As we move into the 21st century, literacy has come to include knowledge and competencies associated with science, mathematics and technology and their impact on our everyday lives. A scientifically and technologically literate person is one who is aware that science, mathematics, and technology are diverse but interdependent human enterprises. He must understand key concepts and principles of science and mathematics in the natural world; and, applies scientific and mathematical knowledge and ways of thinking for individual and social purposes. Central to these literacies is the ability to understand and explain clearly and correctly scientific, mathematical and technological concepts. Knowing how to read and write is a necessary but not sufficient criterion for literacy in the 21st century. The literate individual must have the awareness and the ability to reflect on our understanding of the world around us, to make informed decisions, and to think clearly and objectively in relation to the impact of scientific advancements on our lives.

Global Citizens
21. An active and critical engagement with science and technology is a fundamental element of scientific literacy. The awareness and understanding that comes from being literate has important implications for our role as global citizens. Responsible citizenship is a global concern because our future citizens must understand the need and the ways to protect this fragile planet. An understanding of science and technology as mere subjects is of little use if there is no connection with real life.

22. The development of scientific literacy, other than an enhancement of subject knowledge is fundamental to good citizenship. The ability to analyze and to criticise the applications of science and technology therefore has to be an important part of education. The new generations of Malaysians therefore must have the ‘knowledge-how’ rather than the mere knowledge about the subjects. Good scientists, technologists or mathematicians too must be as literate. This is consistent with our National Philosophy of Education which aims to prepare citizens who are “knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the betterment of the family, society and the nation at large”.

23. The change in policy is therefore not just about preparing citizens to be knowledgeable about English, Science, Mathematics and Technology as subjects per se. The focus is more on the development of individuals who will be articulate and responsible citizens of the future. This has important implications for curriculum design, evaluation, teacher education and resource development.

Choice Of English Over Other Languages
24. The use of English in the Teaching of Science and Mathematics is not a policy reversal as many people think it to be. It is, actually, a way forward and a response to the emergent needs of the country. We have successfully negotiated the nation-building phase of our national development. Today, the next phase of our development is to prepare the nation to face the challenges posed by rapid regional and global developments. However, this does not mean we will do away or play down the role of our national language or of any of our vernacular languages.

25. We have worked hard to develop our national language and we have spared neither money nor energy to ensure its development. Today, Bahasa Malaysia has evolved into a robust language that will continue to grow and develop. Bahasa Malaysia is already an international regional language in South-east Asia. In years to come it may yet become an important international language if we ensure its wider use perhaps through forging new links and networking with English-speaking countries. We must not be myopic in our vision and accept the status quo. We must view every partner as a potential Bahasa Malaysia speaker. Languages grow and develop through borrowing from other languages. A number of the words that we consider to be English words are, in fact, borrowed from Latin, French, Spanish, Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia, and so on. No language is ‘pure’ in the strict sense of the word. There is every possibility that Bahasa Malaysia will not only contribute words to other languages but be an important international language in its own right.

26. But as we strive to advance into the future, we need a language that will facilitate our communication with the wider world – a language that will enable us to retrieve and to process information in this globalized world. English should be seen as a national asset, which we can use to further our own agenda. The issue of being less nationalistic does not arise. Our fears only serve to reflect our insecurity and lack of trust in our own development over the past 30 years. The challenge is for us to maintain the momentum of our development while we seek ways to promote and document the growth of Bahasa Malaysia as a regional and international language. We should consider the implementation of ETeMS as an opportunity to develop links with the rest of the world who may want to learn Bahasa Malaysia.

Use Of English In Vernacular Schools
27. Yet another issue that has attracted a lot of controversy is the use of English at the primary level in vernacular schools. Research findings on this issue are not totally conclusive. We have conflicting findings depending on the context in which the data was collected. I would suggest that while we need to listen to the experts in the field, we must also not forget the Malaysian multicultural and political context.

Acquiring English In Pre Schools
28. Bilingualism and multilingualism are a fact of life in Malaysia. From an early age, our children are already aware of their multicultural and multilingual backgrounds. By the time they start their schooling, most of our children are able to speak at least two languages. I believe that pre-schools can assist our children in acquiring English. A large proportion of our children already go to pre-school. This trend will continue to grow judging by the large number of agencies applying to set up pre-schools.

Ladies and Gentlemen.
29. The Ministry has formalized the pre-school curriculum focusing on literacy development. We know that literacy development during the early elementary school years has an ever-widening impact on later academic achievement. It is important that we address this need for pre-school education in order to ensure that every child starts on an equal footing. Pre-school provision will continue to be one of the focal points of the Ministry to ensure equity and education for all.

Learning Aids – Current Environment
30. In addition, we must not forget that our younger generation learns in different ways from us. A large number of us did not have access to television when we were young. In fact, there was no television then. Nor were there computers, multimedia and all the other things that we now take for granted. Our learning resources then were static. We developed attentive listening skills and text-bound comprehension. The world of our younger generation is however bombarded with visuals, moving pictures and sound. Many of our children can perform multiple tasks – reading a text, viewing television, talking on the mobile and writing an assignment – all at the same time. If our children are capable of multi-tasking, how will they respond in a classroom dominated by the drone of a teacher’s voice?

31. We have the mechanisms to address both the cultural sensitivities as well as the criticism that ETeMS has attracted. We have taken the initiative to provide various forums to offer the public the opportunity to air their views. Our approach has not been confrontational. We have responded to criticisms and negative comments with logic and rationality. We have demonstrated to our critics that our actions are based on informed decisions. We have also demonstrated that we are capable of seeing the bigger picture as we work towards securing the future of this nation. I would like to assure all of you that the Ministry of Education is indeed aware of the issues attendant to the implementation of ETeMS and that our policy and practice takes account of the views and concerns of all interested parties on the basis of our understanding of the wider context.

32. Although the implementation of ETeMS is already underway, there are however still many issues and questions that we need to continuously review and evaluate.
In Teacher Education, we need to continuosly determine what changes in pre-service teacher education are required to ensure that our new graduates will be able to teach in English? How is this monitored? What changes are there in place for a trans-discipline approach to teacher education and continuing professional development? What is the research base on teacher learning and trainer development? What are the standards set for teacher education? Who or what can we benchmark?
In Assessment, the issue is how will bi-lingual rubrics affect assessment and evaluation? What provisions are there to measure multiple literacies as against subject knowledge competence? What is the progress on alternative assessment?

With regards to Materials and Technology: Do the materials reflect the trans-disciplinary nature of knowledge? How interactive are the materials and how do they allow for teacher intervention? How do they contribute to the development of literacy?

In Curriculum Design: How are linkages established between the disciplines? What provisions are there to foster student learning across the disciplines? What is done to ensure literacy is attainable by all? How loaded is the curriculum? What has been done to reduce the loading? What should be the optimal number of subjects in a school curriculum?

On School Inspection: How proficient and competent are the Inspectors? How much autonomy do teachers have in curriculum interpretation?

On Textbooks: Do we have competent local textbook writers? Will the translation of texts enable us to meet the demand of books in time? How different is the content of published books from our prescribed syllabus? How do textbooks adapt to different student needs in different parts of the country? What is the function of school textbooks in the 21st century?

On School Management: What provisions are there in terms of time and space for teacher collaboration in curriculum interpretation, materials production and teacher learning? What has been done to involve the community and industry? How are the school resources managed for accountability especially under the Smart Schools and ETeMS programs?

On Higher Education: What provisions are there by way of policy to foster multi-disciplinary learning and skills development? How close is higher education to teaching at the chalkface? How many of our academics are trained in education? How many are qualified teachers or trainers? How much does higher education interact with the workplace? Should higher education be merely reactive to the needs of the market or should it be agents of change as in the past and be proactive to affect changes?

33. Some of these questions might have already been addressed. But it does not mean having been addressed; there is no room for review and improvement. There is always the need to respond to feedback and to take account of national and global developments.

Ladies and Gentlemen.
34. Finally let me emphasise again that English is an indispensable tool that will enable us to achieve our aspirations for the 21st century. Fluency in English will enable us to prevail against many of the challenges posed by the effects of globalization. We have to accept that English is a global language. It has the second largest number of speakers in the world. In addition, most of the books and other resources are written in English. The implementation of ETeMS represents our weapon in ensuring that our people are ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

35. I hope this conference will provide the platform for both theorists as well as classroom practitioners to share their ideas and voice their views and concerns. We need to deliberate on further initiatives that can be undertaken to assist teachers and students to cope with this change. We need to develop ideas and forge programmes that will ensure the continued smooth implementation of this innovation. The meaningful dialogue that emerges from this conference will surely enable us to anticipate potential challenges and inform us of new practices and policies to make the second year of the implementation of this program an even more successful year.

36. I wish you a fruitful conference and dialogue. Once again, I would like to congratulate the English Language Teaching Centre and the Teacher Education Division for your commitment and with this I declare the conference open.

Thank you.


That is the full text of the 2003 visionary speech. It looks like in the past when they talked about TRANSFORMATION they really meant it and realised it through actions. Today when they talk about TRANSFORMATION, it is just an empty talk, a political ploy and a mere fantasy!

In 2003 it was THE WAY FORWARD and comes 2012 we are on our WAY BACKWARD.

I feel sorry for our Malaysian children, our future generation.