Govt to mull English-medium schools
Idea to establish such an education system to be given full consideration, says Wee
Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - 12:23
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong told the Dewan Negara yesterday the idea to establish English-medium schools in a similar fashion to the Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools would be given full consideration.
He said the issue was raised at a national dialogue on the country's education system on April 29. "The government is fully considering the possibility of having English medium schools.
"But this is something that needs to be examined by discussing with all stakeholders. The opinion of a select few is not enough. We need to ask everyone," he said.
He was responding to a question from Dr S. Ramakrishnan on the challenges the ministry might face in establishing such schools.
Ramakrishnan said demand for English-medium schools existed as many Malaysian students were enrolling in international schools, while foreign students wanted to continue their education in Malaysia in English-medium schools.
In response, Wee said the possibility was discussed during the aforementioned dialogue.
"The matter was raised (during the dialogue) and that is why I say we need to consider it thoroughly. But mind, English enhancement has its place even in national schools, where Malay is the medium language."
"We still need 10,000 good English teachers to fill up positions here".
The ministry's apparent Uturn is in stark contrast to its previous stand to the issue, and marks the first time that the government has openly declared its willingness to explore the option.
Wee had in July 2009 told the Dewan Negara that the ministry had no plans to make English the medium of instruction for schools, stating that they were confident that the present education system was still relevant.
He had reiterated the stand in October last year, when he described the prospect of establishing English-medium schools in Malaysia as "unlikely" due to the country's education policy.
The ministry's new openness was met with skepticism by Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), who believed that the plan was unrealistic.
Its chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said without adequate preparation, the ministry would face the same problems which beset the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy, which led to it being scrapped.
Yesterday, Wee said Malaysia can handle the number of students wanting to enrol in international schools.
"We have nearly 100 international schools nationwide. We have done away with the condition that only 40 per cent of international school students can be locals," he said.
"So, it is more open now and there are more than enough seats to accommodate." He said the current education system still stressed on the improvement of the English language.
He said fluency in English can only be enhanced if taught as a subject, instead of as a medium to teach other subjects.
"First, we need to improve the quality of our English teachers," he said.
Wee said the ministry had brought in 375 native English speakers to coach and train Malaysian teachers of the language.