PPSMI is the abbreviation for Pengajaran Dan Pembelajaran Sains Dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris or the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English. It is one of the government policy that purposed at improving the command of English among Malaysian students. PPSMI was introduced in 2003 the brainchild of the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohammad at two levels of primary and secondary school. This policy at the first stage is introduced in year 1 of primary school level and the second stage is the stage of secondary school in form 1 and lower 6. It is fully implemented in 2007 in Secondary Schools and Primary School in 2008. PPSMI is also executed in Brunei, Singapore and Hong Kong where the intermediate language is not the same as the native language of the students. Jason, L. & Lai, P. Y. (2012) say that in Malaysia, PPSMI is formulated by the expectations that students can master Science and Mathematics in English for more competitive advantage as English has become a crucial agenda for the modernization of the country. The PPSMI debate has been charged with a lot of distinct sentiments, both good and bad of its implementation which is the focus of this essay. The advantages of PPSMI in my point of view are, it helps to improve English efficacy among students and provide bilingual education, meanwhile the disadvantages of PPSMI are, teachers having a weak English command and cause rural students to have difficulties understanding Mathematic and English.
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There are a few reasons why PPSMI should be view positively. It is well said that using English in science and mathematics in some way help to improve students’ capacity in English language. M. Bakri Musa (2002) in his book states that to compete effectively in this K-economy, Malaysians must be fluent in English, science literate, and mathematically competent. In other words, have a good command of English, students are able to transfer the information with expertise in that language and this capacity will expose students to the competency to compete in the era of globalization. The use of English in science and mathematic subjects if judged from positive outlook help students who wish to further their study abroad and vice versa, because even at the international level, English is used as a medium of communication with other people. It also acts as a medium of interaction between people who utilize two distinctive languages. People should conceive this issue from the long-term effect. PPSMI is not intended torturing students, but to enhance the quality of English proficiency and increase our national prestige in global education. In addition, the policy is a good platform that open the opportunity for students to learn English more easily. If PPSMI is abolished then the children will be restricted to well explore the language within a week. English subject is taught only for a few hours in a week, it is obviously not adequate for students to master English. What is more important is that we are living in a world with information documented written in English. Most information from the internet is in English and students will not understand the information properly if they do not have a good command of English.
In order to build students with high attribute of human capital, it is necessary for them to have a good proficiency in English as these students are the future generation that contribute to the country’s vision 2020 and PPSMI is hoped to realize the vision. Vision 2020 was established to the nation headed for the long-term goal of Malaysia evolve into a “fully developed country” by the year 2020. The surging of the economy towards the border where the population of Malaysia needs to speak English especially in science and mathematics is crucial for economic growth as well as to thrive our country based on its own model. According to M. Bakri Musa (2002) , learning of science and mathematics in English lead to the issue which study shows that bilingual students have more excellent cognitive skill including problem-solving and have the ability to think more sophisticated. In fact, the personality of bilingual students is better than monolingual. PPSMI implemented gives a broad chance for students to have an equal ability to communicate in two languages. Researchers have concealed that students with bilingual brain provide better attention and task-switching abilities that lead to good grade achievement rather than monolingual students. Furthermore, Malaysian students who are conversant with the English language will be able to acquire important technical knowledge. This knowledge will assist student to obtain necessary skills that will turn them into a professional career such as doctor, engineers, architects, industrial designers and so on.
PPSMI implemented also brought disadvantages to Malaysian school instead of the advantages. Since the policy was introduced in 2003 until the decision to abolish it starts in 2012, this issue often gets complaints from various parties and demanded PPSMI to be abolished immediately. The repeal of PPSMI was made by the government after much thought and deliberation. This issue is compounded by the problem of teachers having a weak English command that cause teaching and learning of Science and Mathematic become more complicated. They suppose to have a strong pedagogic competency as students’ learning will still be effected regardless of the medium of instruction. Most teachers of these technical subjects have been trained under the Dasar Bahasa Kebangsaan. When PPSMI was established, they are required to teach in English, something they have never trained for and within a short time period. According to Keow (2011), the aim of EteMS was to ensure that the learners have good quality of English language skills. Even though they are provided with intensive courses through the EteMS, the outcome is far from ultimate standard of excellence. There is another implication behind this policy. Teachers who teach these two technical subjects need to master the English language, both oral and written. They have to take the initiative to master the language. If necessary, they have to take English tuition class in order to enhance their English eficacy. The quality of teachers that we have today is far more important than the choice of using English or Malay as a medium of instruction. Teachers are under pressure and dissatisfied with their own teaching. Thornes (2009) in his book states that, the student respect the teachers in his or her teaching skills, personal qualities, knowledge and professionalism. Rather than just making short cuts and introduce English for difficult technical subjects, things like better teaching methods, more experience or qualified teachers should be addressed first. If the teachers themselves do not understand the information they try to convey during the learning process, how would they expect the students to comprehend the subject too. As a result, students will easily feel bored and less respect toward their teacher.
Besides that, the implementation of PPSMI had cause rural students faced difficulties to learn Mathematics and Science for the early stage of PPSMI. In many regions of Malaysia, English is considered a foreign language by the students. Some students who live in the area like Malaysian borneo, Sabah and Sarawak, states with dialects such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis, they have their own native language apart from Malay. Thus, English will certainly become their third language. The same phenomenon also happens to Chinese and Indians students. This circumstances otherwise gives a big gap between rural students and urban students whose English is their first language. Fundamentally, Students who speak English as their second or third language, PPSMI give a big challenge to them as they are just about to figure out the language. Those who does not encounter the situation will never know how complicated the issue is which in reality these students are the victims of the system. Moreover, urban students are provided with good facilities and educator that assist their learning. On the contrary, it is not rural students’ fault if their grade decline as the qualities of accommodation is not as good as urbanites. This system has resulted tons of problem to the rural students that cause their achievement decrease and lack of good educators to educate them.
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As a conclusion, PPSMI has its own good and bad. From my point of view, the government’s decision to abolise the policy is a wise resolution. Many parties are insist to revert PPSMI and use Malay language as medium of instruction in Mathematics and Science. This matter is disclosed during the round table meetings held in 2008. This move is congenial with the linguistics theory and more compatible to nationhood. Sociolinguistically, Malay language will once again serve as a tool to unite the entire nation. It is being understandable by all Malaysian without considering age, social and economic status. Logically, a nation must posses its own national language and becomes the identity of its citizen. Officially, the the national language of Malaysia is Malay language. The suggestion to introduce English as medium of instruction in these technical subjects is afraid that it might affect the credibility of Malay language. I think in order to improve English command, the effort to increase more hours to English periods should be executed. The ministry is really serious to empower the national language and at the same time strengthen the acquisition of English language among students. In the spirit of 1 Malaysia, we shall work together to the fullest to unite our nation.
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