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Malays ditch English in school science

MALAYSIA is to abandon teaching maths and science in English, saying that far too many children from poor rural areas are being failed by the program.

The decision to start phasing out English-medium teaching from 2012 has been backed by the government and Malaysia's main opposition parties, despite concerns that using the national language, Bahasa Malaysia, will undermine competitiveness.

Malaysia said recently that it wants to attract more high-value investment in areas like banking and finance, industries that are global and typically demand good English.

Instead of teaching maths and science in English, a policy started in 2003, the government will double the time spent on English lessons for primary children and increase that for secondary school children by half.

It said it would hire an additional 14,000 teachers to teach English as a language.

"I would not say it (English language instruction) was a complete failure, but it did not achieve what it was supposed to achieve," Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told a news conference yesterday.

A recent report from Morgan Stanley showed that Malaysia's tertiary enrolment and completion ratios were 6 and 7 percentage points behind the average countries with a similar level of income per capita.

That leaves it at a disadvantage as it seeks to tap into foreign investment.

Neighboring Singapore split from becoming part of Malaysia and retained English as the primary language of education. The city state has emerged as one of the richest nations on Earth with a per capita income of US$51,649 in 2008 while Malaysia's is US$14,225, based on 2008 data.

Critics said that the changes to use Bahasa Malaysia would not achieve the desired effect of enfranchising the rural poor or of boosting English language skills and said the move was largely political, aimed at appeasing the Malay majority.


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