THE Dual Language Programme (DLP) is set to be launched next year in line with the Education Ministry’s aspiration to have secondary school leavers adequately proficient in two or even three languages.
Under the DLP students can choose to study a subject in either of two languages, that is, Bahasa Malaysia (BM) or English.
The ministry has set three criteria for schools to qualify for the DLP. These are:
1) Available learning resources;
2) Qualified teachers; and
3) Parental approval.
Schools are either selected by the ministry or have to apply to implement the programme.
Initially only 300 schools (primary and secondary) will be targeted for the programme.
Nevertheless, implementation will be in stages with some 20 or 30 schools acting as pilot projects next year.
All this is well and good. For students to be proficient, competent and confident in any language, it is an established fact that sufficient exposure time in the language is an important determining factor. All schools must try their level best to offer their students soonest possible the option of DLP.
On the other hand, the ministry must also be perceived to be bold to lead change and ready to offer help to all aspiring schools and students.
Here are a few areas of concern that I think the ministry and/or Pemandu should address.
First, primary students who have followed the DLP should continue in the programme when they move on to secondary school. 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 causing confusion and frustration to the students concerned and their parents. This is most unfair!
This leads us to think that the “incubation” period for the DLP should not drag. We are looking at tens of thousands of affected students each year 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.
Second, in the past few years, the ministry had conducted tests to gauge the competency level of teachers of the English Language in schools. Subsequently, many of these teachers were called to attend courses in “Upskilling of English”.
It is reported that as a result of these courses, many teachers have improved their competency in teaching the English Language. However, it must be pointed out that these are all English teachers or those teaching the English Language as a subject.
For the DLP, we need teachers of other subjects, like Science and Mathematics, who can teach these subjects in English. From what I have gathered, no Science and Mathematics teachers thus far have been enlisted for any “Upskilling of English” courses.
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 teachers to teach Science and Mathematics in English under the DLP? I shudder at the thought!
Third, under the present policy, all STEM (Sciences, Technologies, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects are taught in English from Form Six/Pre-University onwards. This means that our Sciences and Mathematics graduates had undergone all the relevant courses in English while they were 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 decide to become teachers, they are suddenly “lost” in English? It is most intriguing, to say the least.
Failure of teachers to teach the subjects 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?
The 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 that the success of DLP depends on factors that go beyond the confines of the school walls. The ministry has to adopt a more holistic approach.
See also : STEM grads must be competent in English
Liong Kam Chong Seremban The STAR Home News Letters 1 December 2015