Dec 22, 2006

emphasize on reading skill and keep teaching Maths and Science in English

In these four years, we have seen so much effort being contributed by teachers to adapt to the current policy of teaching Maths and Science in English. Officers from the Education Ministry travelled the whole country to train and provide support to these Maths and Science teachers to ensure the effectiveness of the policy. Publishers, too, worked diligently with the Ministry who spends millions of ringgit to publish new textbooks to compliment with the new syllabus.

All parties including decision makers and parents each played their roles to realize the policy because we all believe students must have strong command in English language to acquire knowledge.

Hence, the idea of reversing the policy to tackle current concern of disparities in achievement between urban and rural schools is not a positive suggestion. Instead, we should evaluate the programme development and find effective ways to raise the level of English language proficiency among students and teachers.

By expanding the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) or importing teachers from overseas are good strategies to enhance learning. However, improving students reading skill in English is far more practical in achieving our main objective.
Many students particularly in the rural area are struggling to learn Maths and Science without having mastered reading, the most basic and essential skill. Hence, they will encounter great difficulty in understanding mathematical and scientific concepts conducted in English language, which are using real life problems.

For example, in teaching Maths, a teacher or the textbook presents many problems that must be read, instead of just equations. The same use of language is present in the Science subject when students are reading from the textbook, making hypotheses or draw conclusions. Hence, reading deficit will eventually lead to lose of interest in learning and inability to express their answers verbally and in written form.

Reading skill is highly emphasized even in the most developed countries. Hence, our Education Ministry should conduct research to assess students reading skill to determine if this is the main reason students not able to cope with Maths and Science in English.

If the result of this research is positive, the Ministry must provide professional development in reading instruction for teachers, implement reading curricula and adopt diagnostic reading assessments for students particularly in the primary level to determine where they need assistance. The Education Ministry must also re-evaluate and reinforce the current 3M (Membaca, Menulis, Mengira) programmes to improve students' literacy levels with priority to the rural area.

To improve students' proficiency in English language requires huge effort and time. As they said, Rome is not built in one day. If we are determine to take remedial action against the lack of the language proficiency among students, we must start focusing on emphasizing the development of reading skills in parallel with the policy of teaching Maths and Science in English.
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