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Published: The Star, Thursday November 20, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM

Flocking elsewhere to master English proficiency

WE refer to the article “Dr M takes current education policy makers to task” (The Star, Nov 19). What
comes to the minds of average-earning parents is, if high-income parents are willing to pay through their
noses exorbitant private or international school fees, then there must be something good about such an
The most striking factor is that with international schools, it usually conducts the International
General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) syllabus and is in effect an English-medium school.
As with private schools, it is usually half the price of that of international schools where Sijil Pelajaran
Malaysia is offered with Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English
for Science and Technology are taught in English. Even not so well-to-do Johor Baru folk are prepared to
do whatever it takes for their children to have a better quality education. They sacrifice precious sleep to
send them across the Causeway at 4.30am every school day in the busloads – 200 in number at the last
In 2009, the Education Ministry abolished Science and Mathematics in English. When the masses
could not afford private education, it was one way to give them the opportunity of a partial English
education. But it was not meant to be. Two steps back.
Then in 2011, the Education Ministry liberalised international schools which meant that
Malaysians could enrol freely into English medium schools as long as there was cash to flash. This was a
good thing for the rich but not for the masses. It led to a further two steps back for them.
However, the Razak Report 1956, contains an exemption clause on the medium of instruction
where paragraph 72 states that, “We see no educational objection to the learning of three languages in
secondary schools or to the use of more than one language in the same school as the medium of
instruction.” We feel this aspect of the Razak Report has been ignored for fear of political suicide.
Looking at the bigger picture, it does not appear that decisions made by the Education Ministry
have been objective, inclusive nor beneficial to the masses. In fact, they have been quite detrimental, even
immoral, if our education system has one type of institution for the rich and the other for the poor.
The intention should not be to remove the privilege of the rich, but if education is an equaliser for the ones
not as fortunate to rise to a higher level, then this is doing the very opposite. We are kicking them further
down. The apartheid of class stature in education is already happening and must be suppressed now and
contained immediately or another problem will develop in the future.
We support the call for Cabinet ministers to be transparent and come out clean on where their
children and grandchildren are educated to ensure that double standards are not imposed on the masses.
Therefore, to make amends, we would like to see some existing national schools, primary and
secondary, rural and urban, transformed into English-medium schools, for a fair price, the same way
national-type vernacular schools are established through an exemption order by the education minister, to
give a fair chance to the masses to keep up with the privileged.
At best, reinstate Science and Mathematics in English in all national primary and secondary
schools, rural and urban, as an option, to bridge the ethnicity as well as the class gaps as we had seen in the
We would like to see bolder decisions being made in education as far as the medium of instruction
is concerned in bringing together a more cohesive social integration.
It would be necessary to form a Commission to undertake these politically suicidal changes.
The Education Act 1996 should be scrutinised to prevent the Minister from having sole executive power to
provide, exempt and decide to the extent of setting up an independent Commission. But how independent
can it be if it still falls under the control of the Minister?
Like UK-based OFSTED (Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), it falls under
the purview of Parliament, prying away from the Minister who prioritises the political agenda, and instead
focuses on collective decisions to develop the people and its country. If need be, a new Act should
supercede it.


Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE)

This article examines the extent people are willing to reach in order to perfect their English
proficiency. A lot of parents with a high-income opt to enroll their children into international schools
rather than a government secondary school, believing that it will provide a maximum exposure of
English to their children. However, because of this, only the rich folks are able to afford such schools,
setting a bar that regular secondary schools are for the poor as they do not make English as the
medium of instruction. There is no evident that there should only be one language as the medium of
instructions in school, even in the Razak Report it is stated that there can be more than one medium of
instructions in schools and students are only to learn three languages. The double-standard between
international schools and secondary schools should be curbed now before it blooms into an even
larger issue.

Therefore, the Chairman of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE), Datin Nor
Azimah Abdul Rahim proposed a suggestion to revamp existing national schools, be it primary and
secondary schools in urban and rural areas into English-medium schools. This plan is to be done the
same way national-type vernacular schools are developed through an exemption order by the
education minister in order to open an opportunity for the masses to keep in pace with the privileged.
She also emphasized to reintroduce the PPSMI in all primary and secondary schools to connect the
ethnicity gaps and the Minister of Education should not possess the sole power to make a decision as
she thinks it might intertwined with political agendas.