Learning Math and Science in BM: KILL BN IN GE13

SO much has been said about the whole PPSMI issue.

The ministers have had their say, the parents have had their say, the experts have had their say and as a student, I’d like to gve my take on this issue.

I’m 17, and am in the midst of my SPM examinations. In fact, I just sat for a Science paper on Thursday.

The paper was printed bilingually, with the English question atop the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) equivalent. What struck me as amusing was this – the BM questions seemed to be like English questions with the wrong spelling.

I’m referring to the lack of native BM vocabulary for use in the scientific field.

In the exam, latex became lateks, impulse became impuls, Down Syndrome became Sindrom Down, haemophilia became hemofilia, insecticide became insektisid, and denitrifying bacteria became bakteria pendenitrian.

There were many, many more – nearly every single BM scientific term in the paper was a poorly mangled form of its English equivalent. And this was just the extremely basic General Science paper. I can imagine that the pure sciences would have had a lot more of such scientific terms.

Detractors love pointing out that students themselves have a tough time learning Science and Mathematics in English.

For instance, a UPSI study showed that 70% of Form Two students found it “difficult to learn Mathematics and Science in English”.

Then, a UKM professor claimed that “PPSMI hampered students’ ability to understand Mathematics and Science concepts”.

The Education Ministry, in a response to PAGE’s media statements, claimed that it was a “gross injustice” if they decided to continue with the policy.

But seriously, will learning that liquid rubber is lateks instead of latex really help students understand Science better? Or that impuls, not impulses are sent via neurones (which, by the way, would be neuron)? You get my drift.

We might as well learn Science and Mathematics in English, instead of mangling English terms for the sake of translation.

And if detractors argue that it is not just a matter of scientific terms, but also of basic sentence structure and the language as a whole, I’d have to say that the entire Science paper was written in barebones, basic English. Even students with low English proficiency should have been able to understand it.

When I skimmed through my Science objective paper today, I spent about half-an-hour doing the paper and the rest of the time editing it. There were no less than 20 grammatical errors.

Some of the errors stuck out like multiple sore thumbs, the most telling being the situation in which ‘Adam’ finds out that he “...always has difficulty in respiratory system which lead to asthmatic”.

There were other errors as well, namely, “...the colour of pigment that he should mixed” and “...resistance to pest”.

Of course, detractors would say, ‘You see, even the examination board finds Maths and Science tough in English, what more the students!’.

But when you have a problem, it’s always better to face it and fix it rather than be frightened and flee.

Using the feeble reason of poor English proficiency among teachers to abolish PPSMI isn’t going to help anyone.

For this generation of students will grow up learning about lateks, impuls, Sindrom Down, hemofilia, insektisid and bakteria pendenitrian, and that is what they are going to teach the next generation as well.

And once we get ourselves stuck in the rut of a non-forward-looking approach to education, no one will want to be the first to effect a positive change in the education system once again.

It’s a chicken and egg situation – the teachers can’t do it, so the students can’t do it; the students can’t do it, so the teachers can’t do it.

Yet, if we want change, then at some point we must decide whether the chicken or egg came first – then just start laying eggs (or producing chickens). After all, I’d prefer having a fried chicken or a fried egg rather than empty clucking about which should come first.

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