2020-02-07 12:57:00  2213231
Don't put politics above education

Sin Chew Daily

Prime minster cum acting education minster Tun Dr Mahathir mentioned about possible return of the policy of teaching science and mathematics in English while having a discussion with education officials last week. Since then political parties, educational bodies and members of the public have been voicing up their very divergent views on the PPSMI policy. While some are fully supportive of it, others argue that it may not be the best solution for the country's education problems. Basically, these views have not changed much from what were held in the past.

Mahathir said yesterday he regretted that many had concluded the government was reinstating PPSMI. As a matter of fact, he said the government was still exploring the viability of this issue. Many are of the opinion that the video was purposely leaked out to gauge public reactions towards the reintroduction of PPSMI.

No one will doubt the prime minister's determination to bring back PPSMI. He reiterated yesterday that the subjects of science and mathematics have to be instructed in English, or students would not be able to catch up with the rapid evolving scientific knowledge. He also urged the Malays to change their attitude and strengthen their command of the English language to move in tandem with the times.

As for the insistence by local Chinese educational bodies to teach science and maths in the mother tongue, Mahathir feels that while mother tongue makes the knowledge easier for the students to absorb, it does not promise easy access to most updated information. He has also expressed his resolution to reintroduce PPSMI in all schools irrespective of language stream.

Sure enough it will not be easy for Mahathir to reintroduce PPSMI this time, especially with powerful resistance from Umno, PAS and even Amanah and other parties in his PH coalition, not to mention other Malay parties and NGOs.

As for objection from the local Chinese community, that understandably would not be of much concern to him. Anyway, in the face of such a strong dissident voice, the prime minister should at least demonstrate some degree of respect for public views.

As such, he has announced to set up a cabinet committee which will include the education minister to look into this matter. He also said scholars, students, teachers and parents are welcome to give their opinions. Notably, Mahathir never said anything about consulting the vested interest, saying that doing so would require at least five years!

Mahathir has everything meticulously plotted inside his head. He will set up a cabinet committee to collect public views and then the cabinet will discuss and decide by a majority vote. PPSMI is a major educational issue that should have been explored in great lengths by professional educators and scholars before it is put into implementation. PPSMI was previously introduced and later withdrawn purely on political decisions.

Mahathir's arrow is now on the bowstring and the question now is when he will release it and how to make it hit the bullseye. The cabinet is headed by him, and he is doubling up as acting education minister, which clears the way for him to force through his pet project without much difficulty. With politics once again superseding education, we will soon see how far the project can go.

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