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Shouldn’t Shafie Salleh bear full responsibility for the failure of the
public universities to implement the 2002 Cabinet decision to switch to
English as the medium of instruction in science and technology subjects in
He said institutions of higher learning that allow dual languages — Malay and English — in their examinations and teaching would have to stop by the end of this year.
Shafie said :"Students have been complaining that they are studying Maths and Science in English at the secondary school level but when they get to the university they go back to Bahasa Melayu."
Shafie was being less than honest for two reasons:
· Putting the whole blame on lecturers for not being ready to fully implement the government’s policy on all Maths and Science-based degree programmes to be taught in English, when he said that lecturers would have to buck up and take it upon themselves to improve their English to teach the students; and
· Not mentioning the Cabinet policy decision in July 2002 that all public universities should switch to English as the medium of instruction for all Maths and Science-based degree programmes by 2005.
Shouldn’t Shafie Salleh bear full responsibility for the failure of the public universities to meet the 2002 Cabinet deadline to switch to English as the medium of instruction in science and technology subjects in 2005?
At the end of July 2002, the Cabinet held a special meeting and decided on a programme of phased teaching of maths and science in English, starting with Year One, Form One and Lower Six students from 2003. Matriculation colleges will also have to teach Science and Maths-based subjects in English beginning 2004.
Why has the Higher Education Ministry, which was set up after the March 2004 general election, failed to implement the Cabinet decision of July 2002 on the switch to English as the medium of instruction for Maths and Science-based degree programmes for all public universities from 2005?
As Higher Education Minister, Shafie should explain what he had done in the past two years to implement the Cabinet decision in 2005, why it could not have been implemented in 2006, and what assurances that it would be implemented successfully in 2007?
Tuesday’s Star report (7.2.06) “Lecturers still using Bahasa” gave quite a hair-raising account of the command of English of some lecturers in public universities:
“According to several undergraduates in UPM, UKM and Universiti Malaya, lectures are still being conducted in Bahasa Malaysia.
“They claim that some lecturers’ English is so weak that what they say is practically incomprehensible, so students have asked them to teach in the national language instead…
“A first-year engineering student in UKM said although he was into his second semester, many lecturers had yet to follow the ruling…
“At the start of the first semester, students had asked two lecturers to teach in English, but their command of the language was so poor that the students implored them to revert to Bahasa. ‘We couldn’t understand half of what they said,’ a student said.”
This is a most adverse reflection, not only on the public universities and their Vice Chancellors but also on the Higher Education Minister about their lack of seriousness and commitment to enhance the nation’s educational international competitiveness at a time when the public universities are churning out tens of thousands of unemployable graduates a year. A local public university was said to have a graduate unemployment rate of 38% in 2004!
The Government rediscovered the importance of English as an important factor of international competitiveness in the Sixth Malaysia Plan some 15 years ago, after allowing the high standard of English proficiency of Malaysians to plummet for two decades.
In 1998, the then Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared when announcing a ten-point plan to arrest the decline of the standards of English: “As we approach the new millennium, we do not want students, be they school-going children or undergraduates, incapable of communicating ideas and messages in English.”
We are now six years into the new millennium and It is tragic that after some 15 years of government lip-service to the need to upgrade the level of English proficiency in Malaysia, and on the eve of the tabling of the Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010 in Parliament on March 31, 2006, undergraduate students in public universities have to ask their lecturers to speak in Bahasa Malaysia as their English is “practically incomprehensible”.
And there is no sense or culture of responsibility and accountability by the Higher Education Minister for this continued deplorable state of our higher education system.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman