Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ka Seong: Need To Review Policy


PUTRAJAYA: Deputy education minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong said many people have been weighing the issue of continuing or discontinuing the teaching of science and maths in English based on the UPSR model announced by the education ministry (that more than half of the candidates have chosen to answer science and maths papers in English).

However he felt this was nothing more than the education officials' excuse to justify their policy.

"This is a matter of face. These officials cannot admit that the decision they made under Tun Mahathir's instructions five or six years ago (to teach science and maths in English) has been wrong."

During an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily on Friday, Wee Ka Siong reiterated that he would try to understand the motive of those releasing such messages on the policy of teaching science and maths in English, and with what kind of mentality they have been seeing this issue.

"Many people feel that the recent declaration by the education department director-general that more and more students have chosen to answer UPSR science and maths papers in English, is the stepping stone for the continuation of this policy.

"But I don't think the same way. In fact, I think they're trying to find themselves an excuse to prove what they've been doing over the past six years has not been totally wrong."

On the education ministry's intention to hold a roundtable meeting to discuss the policy of teaching science and maths in English, he said the time has not been fixed but it is almost time to come up with a decision.

"It should be December (for a decision). The continuation or discontinuation of the policy is of utmost importance."

Viewing the policy with optimism

Ka Seong said he was viewing the policy of teaching science and maths in English with much optimism, adding that education minister Datuk Seri Hishamudddin is a very pragmatic person.

He said there would be a transitional period after a decision has been made in December, just like the revision of some textbooks cannot be carried out at once. However he said it should also not be dragged on too long.

"There are some preparatory works to do, probably one or two months, but we still can make it, as a new batch of students is coming in."

However he said the ministry would have to consider what to do with the more senior students, as we cannot simply put an instant stop to the whole policy without bothering about the others.

Analysing the trends

Wee Ka Siong said the data released by the education department director-general represented the overall percentage of students choosing to answer science and maths papers in English from primary schools of various language streams.

Nevertheless, he has instructed relevant officials to provide the percentages of students choosing to answer the papers in English, their mother tongues, or bilingually, from schools of different language streams.

He said only by doing so could he see the trends in schools of different streams, so that he could get a better idea how to answer questions directed to him at Dewan Rakyat.

He admitted he had been looking at issues from a broader perspective, and that the ministry needs to take into consideration differing views.

"Some of the issues have been spotted by the press but not us. They tell us what they've seen and in this way the education ministry can move further ahead."

He pointed out that the media had reported that the answers to some questions in the UPSR Chinese paper were ambiguous, so he summoned the teachers setting the questions, and proposed to the head of the examinations board that creative questions should have not been set in an objective mode, but subjective.

"I'm that kind of person who will say just anything I'm not happy with in the ministry. I'm very clear where the baseline is and what we should or should not do.

"I've never taken a day off during these seven months in office!"

5-year average more rational

Ka Siong said it is rational for the ministry to use 5-year average for the science and maths results for comparison purposes.

He said the point is not the 2% or 3% improvement in exam results, but the standard of the exams, as the students are different each year and it is therefore not conclusive to make such comparisons for the purpose of research. (By CHEN YUZHEN/Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)


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