An academic expounds the benefits of studying in an English-medium school saying how relevant it is in her current field of work and research.
PROF Dr Yang Farina Abdul Aziz is thankful for her schooling years at an English-medium school in a small town, where she not only gained knowlege but was nurtured by teachers who broadened her perspective of the world.
Her teachers at the Methodist English School in Tanjung Malim, Perak (now SMK Methodist, Tanjung Malim), were simply passionate about their jobs and did their best to teach and inculcate the right values to their charges.
“My teachers were great ... they were full of dedication and initiative in class,” said Prof Yang Farina.
“At school, I had many good teachers one of whom was Mrs Jothy.
“She used to single-handedly take a class of about 40 students around the Tanjung Malim area on nature walks, or to visit temples and mosques.
“We had lots of fun on such trips,” said Prof Yang Farina who is senior professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM),
While students were allowed to explore and gather facts on their own, her teachers were equally keen to explain the significance of the excursions, she said.
“Our teachers made sure that we did not get out of line. Teachers back then instilled a deep sense of discipline in each of us.
“If we did not do our homework, they would keep us at school until we completed it,” she said.
Prof Yang Farina said that it was the same type of perseverance and discipline that she expected from her team of researchers.
She and the team work in the area of inorganic chemistry which contributes to the progress of cancer treatments.
Being an English-medium school student had always been a blessing for Prof Yang Farina who said that the language was a “huge advantage” in her line of work.
Subjects related to the sciences should be taught in English, especially at higher levels because the latest references are all in the language and it is universally accepted.
“Just try searching for any scientific references in both English and Malay and then compare them for yourself.
“In my field, English helps in terms of understanding current papers, but Science cannot be just theoretical, it is a hands-on subject that must be experienced.”
Prof Yang Farina also said that English-medium schools may perhaps be the answer in promoting racial integration.
She recalled her younger days when she used to ride her bicycle and visit friends and schoolmates from various communites to join in fun activities, and to celebrate their cultural festivals.
“There was no segregation, we certainly understood each other and it did help in fostering racial tolerance and harmony then,” she shared.
“Personally, I would love to see a single school system, with a standardised curriculum.
“We have different vernacular schools, so why not have the option of English-medium schools?
“If we revive English-medium schools, the response will be positive and we may see a good mix of different races. Perhaps this is the way towards integration,” she said.
As a parent herself, Prof Yang Farina takes the responsibility of her child’s learning seriously.
“We should allow parents to have the option of English-medium schools as they play a big role in guiding their child’s educational development.
“Parents must also give more support to the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) as the current government is willing to listen,” she said.
She urged parents to voice their concerns and start a dialogue by visiting http://pagemalaysia.org
Prof Yang Farina said that her learning advantage came from her own father, who was trained as a teacher, because he would reinforce the lessons she learnt at school.
“Our vocabulary improved so much when we were young because my father, a Kirkby-trained teacher, played Scrabble with us.
“The best way to learn a language is to start at home, now I pass that on to my own son, and that becomes the circle of learning,” she said.
Prof Yang Farina also advised her students to constantly read books, magazines and novels in English so as to form a habit and improve their proficiency in the language.
Malaysians have the option of sending their children to national and vernacular schools. Should there be an additional choice — English-medium schools? Would this be your preferred option? Please give us your views and take part in our English-medium school online poll by visiting http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2013/07/29/English-medium-school-poll.aspx.
The STAR Online Home News Education Sunday August 11, 2013