Sunday, December 23, 2007

Teaching of Mathematics & Science in English

The Malaysian English language Teaching Association (MELTA) has recently organized the National Colloquium on Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English on 11th December. The Star is the Media Sponsor for this event.

During the event, a long series of discussions were held to discuss on the issues of Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English.

The full article is reproduced below. To get it at the original source, please go to The Star

Concerted effort needed


THE participants at the Malaysian English language Teaching Association (MELTA) National Colloquium on Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, held on Dec 11 in Kuala Lumpur, drew up the following outcomes and findings:

They unanimously affirmed the role and status of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language, the primary language of administration, social integration, national unity and national identity.

On the necessity and viability of the continued teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, they were of the view that it is necessary to continue to teach Mathematics and Science in English because English is a global language and the language of technology. The knowledge of English in Mathematics and Science gives Malaysians a voice on the international platform. Learning the subjects in English at school assists students in tertiary education.
The practice of teaching of Mathematics and Science in English is viable because we have the resources, materials and expertise. We have a first-class plan but we need more time to effectively implement the plan nationwide. Our current efforts include preparing the manpower, e.g. giving teachers short courses.

As to what is gained or lost by continuing to teach Mathematics and Science in English, it was felt that by teaching the two subjects in English, teachers are providing a tool to access knowledge and continuous learning.
Students are able to access knowledge since 85% of the resources on the Internet are in English. They can become global players, highly educated and internationally comprehensible. They can gradually become more comfortable in using the language.

Schools become a conducive environment for the learning of Mathematics and Science in English. Collaboration among teachers in school is promoted when they work together to make the plan work and the country gains better human capital.

However, in vernacular schools, students’ proficiency in their mother tongues might be compromised.

As to what is gained or lost by reverting to Bahasa Malaysia for the teaching of Mathematics and Science, it was felt that students acquire more in their mother tongue as they are familiar with the language.
However, it was also felt that by reverting to Bahasa Malaysia we may lose in the international economy; we may lose our voices on the international platform; it would be a waste to stop now (a lot of money has been invested); and it will not do students any good, and they will struggle in their tertiary education and in their careers.

It was expressed that it is too soon to decide if continuing to teach Mathematics and Science in English will bring more gains or losses.
At the school level

Participants agreed that we will succeed in our aims and achieve our goals if we continue to teach Mathematics and Science in English, bearing in mind the disparity between urban, semi-urban and rural schools. This is on the following conditions:

Prepare teachers. Plan carefully and bring about changes gradually.

Encourage more proficient and experienced teachers to teach in rural areas by giving incentives, etc.

Increase exposure to the language.

Alter attitudes towards changes.

Achieve a lower teacher-student ratio: fewer students to a teacher so that the teacher can concentrate on the learners.

Increase training programmes to produce more qualified teachers; send in-service teachers for intervention programmes to improve teaching methods; lengthen training duration (stricter rules and regulations in order for teachers to be certified).

Get teachers to take MUET.

Build a love for the language.

Set up a buddy support system.

Monitor the progress of teachers with better mechanisms.

Strict action should be taken – reduce BISP if teacher is not up to level desired.

Encourage teachers to improve themselves. Offer courses continuously.

Make available clear targets for teachers to achieve (to measure their own performance).

Encourage specialisation among teachers.
The following were considered challenges confronted by teachers of Mathematics and Science in English:

Lack of proficiency in English,

Lack of content knowledge in English (terminology, concepts, etc),

Lack of ICT skills,

Need for adequate teaching courseware/handbooks/reference books,

Need to overcome psychological barriers: teachers are threatened by change, and

Need for support from administration.
To overcome these challenges,

Develop user-friendly handbooks to overcome proficiency problems.

Supply adequate teaching courseware/modules/reference books.

Provide well-maintained equipment and technical support.

Engage content specialists as trainers.

Provide motivational incentives: promotions, opportunities for action research, and reduction of clerical work.

Train teachers in language communication and instructional skills.
The following were considered challenges faced by learners:

Varying levels of illiteracy,

Lack of home support,

Parents who do not believe in the importance of English,

Psychological barriers,

Lack of experienced teachers,

Lack of relevant resources, and

Unsupportive environment, including society.
To overcome these challenges,

Inculcate good learning strategies.

Integrate knowledge; don’t pigeon-hole it.

Set up immersion programmes.

Motivate learners to change their mindset; administrators and English teachers should support the system.
Participants proposed the following strategies and methodologies for the continued teaching and learning of Mathematics and Science in English:

Further teacher training,

Teacher aids,

Teaching methods,

Assessment, and

Systemic support.
Training can be improved by

Conducting a needs analysis for teacher training,

Including Science and Mathematics teachers in planning teams,

Focusing on content not language per se, and

Making teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics fun.
Develop the following resources for teachers:

Handbooks on instructional delivery in English,

Templates for strategies (for students and teachers), and

ICT and other resources
Teaching methods that will support the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English include:

Inquiry and discovery,

Constructivism, and

Cooperative learning.
In addition, a buddy system (for both teachers and learners) should be set up. Empirical research needs to be conducted to study the effectiveness of classroom practice.

It was also expressed that we need to reduce exam-oriented teaching and learning, and use alternative forms of assessment instead.

Support has to be systemic; teachers and administrators have to agree and work together to make things work. More administrators with Science and Mathematics backgrounds have to be involved. In addition, the community has to support the plan.

As the community, teachers and learners become more accustomed to the practice of teaching Science and Mathematics in English, we should begin to focus on the "teaching of Science and Mathematics" and avoid highlighting the word "English" in order to take attention away from the language aspect and to concentrate on improving the quality of teaching and learning.

Looking at partnerships

The following outcomes were submitted with regards to what part the private sector and other stakeholders can play in helping to make the teaching and learning of Mathematics and Science in English viable and successful.

The private sector can support government efforts by sponsoring the following programmes:

Teacher Training Programmes – The private sector should play a role in helping the Government fund teachers to be trained locally and overseas. They can sponsor teachers to attend courses on immersion programmes and new teaching methods.

School adoption programmes – Adopt schools and support their learning and teaching programmes, including English language competitions such as song fests, writing and drama activities. Robotics competitions and reality shows are examples of possible activities.

Scholarships and other awards – Support successful students with lucrative rewards such as scholarships to study abroad.

Educational TV programmes – Broadcast media can sponsor programmes in order to offer a subconscious learning environment for the acquisition of English. These programmes must be culturally appropriate.

Teaching aids and modules – The private sector can sponsor materials such as reader-friendly materials (simplified books with less jargon, where the level of difficulty is taken into consideration). It can also sponsor the printing of textbooks and teaching aids for implementing new approaches.
The following were proposed as joint projects between the Education Ministry and organisations in the private sector, with the private sector helping to sponsor the following:

Community service,

Camps and workshops,

Training programmes to improve proficiency of teachers in rural areas,

Outreach to parents (to motivate parents to accept the important role of English in the real world),


Opportunities and places for students to gain practical experience through practicum, and

Other stakeholders, including parents and community members, can help in the following ways:

Parents, particularly those who are proficient in English, can involve themselves in school programmes.

Professionals (e.g., lawyers, engineers, doctors) can make motivational visits to schools to talk about how their knowledge of English has helped them attain academic and professional goals.

The community can set up homestays with the aim of encouraging the use of English.
Participants called for the involvement of stakeholders to support the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English to help ensure that the policy and government efforts reach everyone, thereby serving not just the best of our youth, but the whole nation.

Tax incentives can be offered to participating stakeholders, and a centre to coordinate government and private sectors will be beneficial.

MELTA will send these outcomes from the colloquium to the Education Ministry for its attention.

The Star is the media sponsor for this colloquium.

1 comment:

Properties for Rent in Kuala Lumpur said...

I think politicians are undermining the government effort to improve education system. From The Star it was reported that since only 3% of the students choose to take the exam in English, the Chinese school be allowed to revert to Chinese. The survey has been compromised by Chinese educationists. See todays report-

"The Chinese educationists are naturally concerned and wary of further erosion of the Chinese school culture and at the outset of the English policy, the schools had collectively decided to encourage their pupils to sit for the Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) papers in Chinese. Hence, one reason for the very low 2.86% who answered in English for Science and 1.29% for Maths among the first cohort who went through six years of bilingual teaching and learning."

That statistic is not representative. My son have just taken his UPSR in ONPONG Aampang Chinese School. Just a few months before UPSR, he was passed a form for me to sign to select Chinese as the preferred medium. I objected because I felt he can do better if he takes it in English. However I was told that if we don't agree, my son will not be able to take the UPSR in the school but have to go to another Chinese school to take the exam. I was also told all Chinese schools are practicing the same thing. What choice do I have?
It seems clear now there was indeed a collaboration by the educationists and politicians to prepare for their case. 3% of the Chinese student population selects English, indeed!
What is their motive?