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'Peninsula risks falling behind Sarawak in education'
Published on: Saturday, May 18, 2024
By: FMT, Amirul Aiman
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'Peninsula risks falling behind Sarawak in education'
Introduced in 2016, the dual-language programme allows schools to opt for English or Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction in the teaching of science and mathematics.
PETALING JAYA: Peninsular Malaysia risks falling behind if it fails to resolve issues with the dual-language programme (DLP), even as Sarawak moves to have science and mathematics taught in English by 2026.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Noor Azimah Rahim said the current policy mandating a non-DLP class in schools stifles educational progress and limits students’ access to bilingual education.

“This completely undermines the foundational principle of the DLP, which is to respect and fulfil parents’ choices for their children’s education,” she told FMT.

“Currently, whether or not a parent desires it for their child is irrelevant.”

She added that Sarawak’s proactive approach should serve as a wake-up call to other states, saying the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in English is crucial for students.

“State education department directors need to ensure their students are not left behind in an increasingly globalised economy.

“English is the international language of business, science and technology, making it essential for students to compete globally,” she said.

Azimah warned that without initiatives similar to Sarawak’s, other states risk falling behind in attracting global business and fostering innovation.

On Monday, Sarawak announced that from 2026, secondary schools in the state would gradually begin teaching mathematics and science in English.

The DLP was introduced in 2016, allowing schools to opt for English or Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction in the teaching of science and mathematics.

The initiative follows the controversial cessation of English-medium instruction, which began with a policy in 2003 under then-prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that was reversed in 2012 by the then government.

More than 2,500 schools nationwide are involved in the DLP this year, according to education minister Fadhlina Sidek, who has stood firm against calls for its review.

Meanwhile, Sharifah Munirah Alatas said inconsistent language policies in Malaysian education had resulted in graduates with weak English skills, negatively impacting their job performance and prospects.

“The endless discussions about whether or not to reintroduce the teaching of mathematics and science in English must stop.

“Once and for all, the government must decide on the importance of both languages and commit to the DLP. Translating this into policy requires serious planning and discussion with experts,” said the deputy chair of the Malaysian Academic Movement.

Meanwhile, economist Madeline Berma said fluency in both English and Bahasa Melayu allowed Sarawakians to fully engage with and contribute to the state’s development.

The honorary professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said the move aligned with the state’s active pursuit of global competitiveness, particularly through initiatives like its green hydrogen venture.

“Students who study mathematics and science in English can use their knowledge not only for academic purposes but also in their careers or any profession.”

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