Malaysia announced Wednesday it
will abandon the use of English to teach math and science, bowing
to protesters who demanded more use of the national Malay language.
Malay will be reinstated in state-funded schools starting in
2012 because teaching in English caused academic results in those
subjects to slip, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.
The news comes after months of high-profile demonstrations by
politicians and linguists, especially from the ethnic Malay
majority, who say a six-year-old policy of using English undermines
their struggle to modernize their mother tongue.
English was once the medium of instruction in most schools in
Malaysia, a former British colony. Nationalist leaders switched to
Malay less than two decades after independence in 1957.
In 2003, realizing that poor English skills hurt graduates
competing for work against people from other countries, especially
neighboring Singapore, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad launched
a program to resume teaching math and science in English. Most
other subjects are taught in Malay.
Malay activists began to protest the policy after the government
recently said it was reviewing the program's success.
Students in rural districts, who are mainly Malay, suffered the
most because their English proficiency was low, Muhyiddin said. He
said authorities would try to improve students' English-language
skills by recruiting more teachers and offering more language
Some in the large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities also
oppose the use of English, insisting that math and science should
be taught in their mother tongues, Mandarin and Tamil.
Muhyiddin said schools for ethnic minorities that teach most
subjects in those two languages will also scrap the use of English
for math and science starting in 2012.
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