English Corner

1.English-medium options


THERE seems to be a greater interest in private and international schools following the government’s decision to reverse the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (better known by its Malay acronym PPSMI) policy.

With the year coming to an end, many parents are seriously contemplating placing their children in these schools as they are unhappy over the policy decision.

Several private and international schools when contacted said that they had been inundated with calls from Malaysian parents in the weeks after the decison was made.

They were obviously upset and frustrated after the decision, and were looking at alternative to continue with their children’s schooling, said a private school administrator who declined to be named.

Meanwhile, Garden International School’s marketing and communications manager Rebecca Arulsamy said that the school received numerous calls from many Malaysian parents but there had been no significant surge in new enrolments as yet.

The PPSMI policy, which was implemented in 2003, required all national and vernacular schools to teach Science and Mathematics in English.

However with the policy reversal which will take effect in 2012, national schools will revert to Bahasa Malaysia while vernacular schools will switch to Chinese and Tamil.

Margaret Kaloo, chairman of the Association of International Malaysian Schools (Aims) said that international schools have generally experienced a higher demand for enrolment.

While an Education Ministry quota system limits the number of Malaysian students in international schools to 40%, “I would think that in the current climate, most international schools now already have their quota of Malaysian students,” she said.

Kaloo, who is also the principal of ELC International School, said that the number of international and expatriate schools had increased significantly from 46 to 65 in the last two years.

Many private schools, which follow the national syllabus, have been given licences to operate an international section.

Sri Kuala Lumpur (Sri KL) has been offering both the KBSM and IGCSE (‘O’ Level) curriculums in its secondary school since 2007.

Hanif Merican, chief executive officer of OM Education Sdn Bhd, which runs the school, said the school would continue teaching in English until the mandatory switch over in 2012. However, the KBSM curriculum itself may be on its way out at the school, he said.

“The IGCSE stream is growing at the expense of the local stream and we expect that Sri KL Secondary School will no longer offer KBSM at Form One (with the exception of Bahasa Malaysia), after 2015 due to overwhelming demand for the IGCSE programme,” Hanif said.

Parents in its primary school also want their children to be taught Science and Mathematics in English.

Therefore, the government’s decision to reverse the PPSMI policy “has forced Sri KL to adopt the Cambridge International Primary Programme (CIPP) to fully replace the KBSR Years One and Two next year”, which will carry over into successive years.

This will mean that by 2014, Sri KL Primary School will no longer offer the KBSR with the exception of Bahasa Malaysia for the UPSR examination.

Sekolah Sri KDU, which offers the KBSM syllabus, is planning to provide an international syllabus to give parents and students the option, said its marketing manager Rina Thiagu-Kler.

Mathematics and Accounting teacher Sahila Mat Basir said that she supports the reversal of the PPSMI policy because “both teachers and students were suffering”.

“Teachers were not adequately prepared with teaching materials in English, and not everyone has a good command of the language. So, you have English teachers teaching Science, Music teachers teaching Maths and so on, which is a problem because it’s not the subject within their expertise.

“We cannot fault the teachers alone ... it is the implementation too,” Sahila said.

She added that academic results declined because students were still not confident to write in English when they sat for their exams.

However, Sahila admitted that as a parent, she would prefer her own children to learn the subjects in English.

“If I had the means, I would like to send my children to an international school.”

According to Kaloo, the trend to opt for international schools is also apparent around Asia as Korea and China are starting to recognise the global importance of English.

“The demand for an English-medium education worldwide has never been greater.

“There are considerable economic advantages and it reduces the need for their own students to study abroad,” she added.

She also said that more than government policies, it was the demand by the increasing number of affluent parents for places at English-medium schools that already dominate enrolment trends, and will determine the future growth of the schools.

Recently, the Parents Action Group for Education carried out an opinion poll in seven schools in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur which showed that 97% of parents wanted their children’s schools to be exempted from the reversal of the PPSMI policy.

Ori : The Star, Sunday November 8, 2009.