The study did not begin with science & math but instead ended with them
Posted by page-azimah on December 22 2015 15:22:48
Why new English policy can succeed where others have failed
BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA
Published: 15 November 2015 6:59 AM

Azimah said the working group found that the teachers most cut out for it were those who taught Science and Math, compared with those in other subjects such as history or religious studies.
Extended News
Why new English policy can succeed where others have failed

BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA

Published: 15 November 2015 6:59 AM

Pupils from Year 1 to 4 in 300 schools across the nation will be taught a number of Science, IT and Maths subjects in English. The move is in response to parents’ demands. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 15, 2015.

Pupils from Year 1 to 4 in 300 schools across the nation will be taught a number of Science, IT and Maths subjects in English. The move is in response to parents’ demands. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 15, 2015.

Choice, readiness and support are key inter-related concepts in the two new programmes to boost English proficiency among pupils next year. And these could see them succeed where previous efforts have failed, said two groups which crafted the dual-language programme (DLP) and the high-immersion programme (HIP).

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said there was also data to back up the fact that parents wanted policies to boost English proficiency despite pressure from anti-English groups.

A 2014 survey by IDEAS among 1,200 low-income individuals showed that more than two-thirds would send their children to private schools, where almost everything was taught in English, if they could afford it.

Ultimately, said Wan Saiful Wan Jan of IDEAS, the policy added to the debate on reforming schools to give them greater autonomy and parents the choice of education they want for their children.

English exposure

Under the DLP and HIP pilot project next year, 300 primary schools across the nation will teach Science, Math, ICT and Design in English between Year One and Year Four.

Planning for the DLP and HIP was started by government delivery unit Pemandu, which consulted a diverse range of groups from trade and employer associations to educationists to the Education Ministry, said PAGE chairman Datin Azimah Abdul Rahim.

Some of the education groups involved include PAGE and Teach for Malaysia, while IDEAS was also invited because of its extensive work on education issues.

The workshops to plan the policy, said PAGE and IDEAS, were based on research on the technical aspects of boosting English levels and how to get the maximum buy-in from parents, schools and society.

Azimah said one study showed that “operational proficiency” in a language could not be achieved if pupils were only exposed to it for 15% to 20% of their school hours.

“During PPSMI, (Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English Policy) the exposure rate was 40%. Since there is much resistance to adding more English subject hours, the solution is then to teach more subjects in English.”

DLP would bring the exposure rate up to 40% again and the more exposure and practice children get, the better they would become at the language, said Azimah.

Choice and support

The 2014 IDEAS survey indicated that most parents would have no problems with their children being exposed to more hours of English.

This support was crucial to convincing administrators and school officials to adopt the policy.

“When we introduce a policy like this, we must ensure schools and teachers are ready, and that the schools and parents themselves want the scheme,” said Wan Saiful, who is IDEAS chief executive.

“This is where the element of voluntarily choice is important. When there is strong support, parents, schools and administrators would be more invested in making it work.”

It is these characteristics of the DLP and HIP that make it different from the controversial PPSMI, which was phased out after six years.

“We must learn from the PPSMI debacle. If you impose it top down like PPSMI, without giving any room for autonomy and decision-making at the school level, we will fail again,” said Wan Saiful.

The importance of choice was also mentioned by Pemandu CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala who said DLP and HIP were “bottom-up” approaches, which allowed schools and parents to choose whether they wanted it.

“They are now empowered to decide what they want for their children’s future without compromising BM proficiency,” Idris wrote in a November 9 column on Pemandu’s website.

Freedom to choose

The schools’ willingness to adopt the initiatives is also tied to how ready the principals and teachers were to teach more subjects in English.

Azimah said the working group found that the teachers most cut out for it were those who taught Science and Math, compared with those in other subjects such as history or religious studies.

“Many of them had graduated with minors in English in their teaching degrees. We didn’t deliberately start by looking at Science and Math teachers but their skills were already there.”

The majority of the 300 schools in the pilot programme are in Sabah and Sarawak, said Azimah.

Many are also still teaching Science and Maths in English to Year Six pupils, who are the last batch of PPSMI classes.

Whether it would succeed where other initiatives failed would depend on the government’s persistence and consistency in implementation, said Wan Saiful.

“We must work based on data. The data says parents want their children to have better opportunities in life and English is the lingua franca today.”

However, since choice and support are crucial to the success of DLP and HIP, the same freedom should also be given to parents and schools who want to opt out.

“We must admit that there are people who want to focus on Malay. This must be respected, too, and if they want their children to be restricted to just the Malay community in Malaysia.

“The key here is we all must respect each other’s choices and we must find a policy that does not impose the beliefs of one group over another.

“Those who want English must not deny the right of those who don’t, and vice versa. We must have a policy that respects the right of parents to educate their children the way they want to.” – November 15, 2015.

- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/why-new-english-policy-can-succeed-when-others-have-failed#sthash.ZOsv5OYZ.dpuf

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