Put english back in the forefront, Muhyiddin

By Teo Nie Ching

It is recognized in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 that as the ethnic groups move through different primary schools, there are differences in outcomes by ethnicity. Bumiputera students perform very strong on Bahasa Malaysia proficiency with 84% achieving a minimum credit at SPM, in contrast to 63% of Chinese students, and 57% of Indian students.

In order to narrow the gap in Bahasa Malaysia proficiency among these vernacular schools and national schools, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin now plans to raise Bahasa Malaysia lessons from 180 minutes a week to 240 minutes a week.

Though the intention of the government might seem “noble”, it is questionable if extra BM classes will indeed be the right approach and ultimate solution.

Currently, national schools provide more English lessons than vernacular schools. National schools are required to teach 300 minutes per week of English lessons while vernacular schools are only required to teach 150 minutes.

Even though national schools have more English classes than vernacular schools, 23% Bumiputera, 42% Chinese and 35% Indian students score at a level equivalent to a Cambridge 1119 credit or above, based on the 2010 SPM examination results.

If teaching hour is the determining factor of a student’s proficiency in languages, Education Minister must first explain why vernacular schools have less English classes but Chinese and Indian students perform better in SPM English.

We will fail to see the wood for the trees if we over-emphasize the importance of teaching hour. Students of Singapore and Hong Kong excel in PISA assessment not because they have longer hours of instruction. Teacher quality and content of syllabus are the more significant school-based factors in determining student outcome.

As such, we urge Muhyiddin Yassin to review his decision to raise BM lessons to 240 minutes per week in vernacular schools.

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