The ministry has set three criteria for schools to qualify for DLP. These are available learning resources, qualified teachers and parental approval. Schools are either selected by the ministry or have to apply to implement the programme. Initially, only 300 schools (primary as well as secondary) will be targeted to run the programme.
Nevertheless, implementation will be in stages with 20 to 30 schools acting as pilots next year. All this is well and good.
For students to be proficient, competent and confident in any language, it is a fact that sufficient exposure time in the language is a determining factor.
All schools must try their best to offer students the option of DLP at the soonest possible time. The ministry must also be perceived to be bold in leading changes and be ready to offer help to all aspiring schools and students. Here are a few areas of concern that I think the ministry or the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) should address.
All schools must try to offer students the option of the Dual Language Programme at the soonest possible time.
This may not be the case if only a few selected or approved schools, primary as well as secondary, are allowed to run the DLP.
Without continuity, earlier efforts put in to hone their language skills will go to waste, besides bringing confusion and frustration to the students concerned and their parents.
This would be most unfair. This leads us to think that the “incubation” period for DLP should not be prolonged. We are looking at tens of thousands of affected students each year if the programme is delayed for final full implementation. Perhaps a more “aggressive” approach, involving many more schools even at the initial stage, should be strategised.
SECONDLY, in the past few years, the ministry has conducted tests to gauge the competency level of teachers teaching the English language in schools.
Subsequently, many of these teachers were called to attend courses in “Upskilling of English”. It has been reported that as a result of these courses, many teachers had improved their competency in teaching the English language.
However, it must be pointed out that these are all English language teachers or teachers teaching English language as a subject.
Now for DLP, we need teachers of other subjects, like Science and Mathematics, who can teach in English. From what I have gathered, no Science and Mathematics teachers so far have been enlisted for any “Upskilling of English” course.
There was some such retraining when PPSMI (the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English) was on.
However, these training courses fizzled out after the abolition of PPSMI. So, are we to expect the English language teachers to teach Science and Mathematics in English under the DLP?
I shudder at the thought!
THIRDLY, under the present policy, all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are taught in English from Form Six/pre-university.
This means that Science and Mathematics graduates have undergone all the relevant courses in English while they are in university.
They would have been exposed to English textbooks, references, citations and lectures for four or more years while in university, not counting their pre-university years.
So how is it that when they become teachers, they are suddenly “lost” in English? It is most intriguing, to say the least.
The failure of teachers to teach competently in English was a main reason for abolishing PPSMI back then. This raises the question: What is actually happening in the teaching of Stem courses in English in our universities today?
DLP for STEM subjects especially will not see the light of day if our present teaching and training practices fail to produce Stem graduates competent to teach in English.
In conclusion, it seems to me that the success of DLP depends on factors that go beyond the confines of the school walls. The ministry has to adopt a more wholesome approach.
See also: DLP Needs holistic approach