“English-Medium Education: What is best for Malaysian students?”

Cynthia C. James, a blogger with years of experience as an English Language teacher and Kota Kinabalu district officer, shared her thoughts on this month’s discussion at Beyond Chalk & Talk.

Here’s a preview of what she wrote:

As an EL teacher, of course I want my students to know the importance of English and my life-long mission is for every children in my country to have the opportunity to learn the language well. And I can totally understand MoE’s stand on this matter and why they come up with initiatives such as the Dual Language Programme (DLP) – which, supposedly is an ‘improvised version’ of the former Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris (PPSMI) (Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English).

Also, as a school teacher, I believe the question: “what is best for Malaysian students?” is not only pertinent, but also the most important one – for me at least. …

From bilingual / multilingual education point of view, teaching curriculum content in English and the use of English as a medium of instruction are two different concepts, though in public discussions these two concepts are often used interchangeably. I think to answer the question of what is best for Malaysian children in terms of language learning, a practitioner needs to understand the nuanced differences among these many different models. …

… DLP addresses part of the issue [about adequate educational infrastructure] by ensuring that only schools with enough subject teachers with high level of English language proficiency are allowed to carry out DLP. This is great, but I believe it is also important for us to address the issue of support for teachers. I don’t have access to any data on this matter, but last year when I was working with KK Education Office, I was asked to interview some teachers in my district to get their feedbacks on DLP as part of MoE’s study on teachers’ training needs analysis. From the few responses that I got, teachers seemed to believe that more support in terms of trainings focusing on pedagogical approaches should be provided. Some teachers also pointed out that the materials provided by the MoE were not sufficient.  …

First, what do we want? Do we want English as a medium of instruction, or do we want to teach English and the subject simultaneously? What are the justifications for our choice?

Both choices would require us to equip schools and teachers with the facilities, materials and expertise necessary. Have we done that enough?

What about the students? What do they think about it? Do they like it? How does this affect their learning?

So, what’s the best for our children?

Dr Keith Taber from the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge once said, “In education, the answer to all questions is always the same: it depends!”

Read the full post here, and visit Cynthia on Facebook too.

For more background information, here’s our Pengenalan post: What should we do about English-medium education.

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