The Malaysianinsider news
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Tuanku Muhriz showed his support today for the fight to retain the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in English (PPSMI), along with other parents’ groups. Tunku Zain who is the second son of the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, is also the founding president of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), a libertarian think tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges.
“This campaign is not about being elitist. It is about respecting the rights of parents, rich or poor, who think that their children’s futures are best served by giving them a say. “It is also not about the superiority of one language over another; rather it is about an overriding democratic principle. The idea that parents can shape the education of their children, and that government policies must always allow as much choice to parents as possible,” he said at a Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page) press conference here at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial.
The prince said he had been warned not to speak on this issue as it is considered sensitive and “too political”.
“I have ignored their advice. This issue is too important, at the cost of short-, medium-, and long-term consequences for our children, for our families and for our nation. Tunku Zain also pointed out that a poll on Facebook showed that more than 6,000 students prefer mathematics and science to be taught in English, while 213 others preferred Malay.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin waded into the fierce debate over the use of English in the teaching of science and mathematics in school, saying Malaysians cannot afford to “sacrifice” Bahasa Malaysia for other languages, last month. Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said that while the government recognised the importance of English as an international language, Bahasa Malaysia will continue to be used as the main medium of instruction in national schools.
He said Malaysians needed to cultivate an attitude where they treated Bahasa Malaysia as a “unique” language, and that if no importance was placed on it, the language risked becoming obsolete.
Pro-English lobby groups like Page have sought the reinstatement of the teaching of science and mathematics in English since it was abolished in 2009. Page has urged that schools be allowed to teach science and mathematics in English, citing widespread support from parents who are in favour of it.
PPSMI was first introduced in 2003 but the Education Ministry decided to put an end to it by 2012 after consulting teachers and parents around the country.
In the uproar that ensued, Putrajaya introduced MBMMBI, which will see the teaching of mathematics and science revert to Bahasa Malaysia from 2012 with more contact hours for English in order to improve students’ skills in the language. In May, The Malaysian Insider reported that the Najib administration had decided not to switch back to PPSMI because several Cabinet ministers felt any change would be seen as another embarrassing flip-flop.
“It is important to have stability in our policies. There have been so many flip-flops in recent times and this is damaging and it is in fact immoral I would say, and economically damaging to let the next generation of Malaysians be the victims of these political games,” the prince said. Tunku Zain said Ideas was inspired by Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and in his time, he said he was a strong advocate of the use of English in education. “He also said education, at whatever level, can make or unmake a man, or a woman. In the same way, it can make or unmake a nation. Our leaders are well aware of it and they make sure their children receive the best education possible.
“In contrast, boys in the kampungs do not have the same opportunities. My job is to give them the best possible education,” he said. Like his older brother, Tunku Zain received his primary education at the Alice Smith School before boarding at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England.