Two important decisions are to be made soon. Firstly, should English be made a compulsory subject to pass in SPM? The second is that whether the teaching of Mathematics and Science will continue to be in English or in Bahasa? On English as a compulsory subject in SPM, I feel that apart from Bahasa Melayu, English is the next important language that Malaysian students should be encouraged to be competent and fluent. English is also the de facto international communication language.
It cannot be denied that research and reference materials are in abundance in English, as compared with other languages in the world. Hence, studying and teaching a subject in English becomes easy and trouble free. The changes in the international communication and dealings have further strengthened the domination of English. The outsourcing, offshore dealings, the borderless trade arena and electronic business (e Business) activities have one thing in common. They all strengthen the dominance and the importance of English. Therefore, only those countries which have the capacity and capability, of being fully self relient and rich in all resources could afford to ignore the influence of English, i.e. Japan, China, Russia and France.
Unfortunately, we must admit that Malaysia has not reached that stage yet. The excuse that the rural students are weak in English is a delicate issue where the Education Ministry should come up with a practical solution. However, the agenda and the aspirations of the Malaysian Education System should not be compromised. I strongly believe that the students from the rural background would definitely perform well in English if it is made compulsory to pass. They would do whatever that is necessary to improve their English.
Fluency in and a strong command of English would be an added advantage to graduates in a highly competitive job market. I agree with those who say that the strong foundation in English would also give them self-confidence and self-respect. Unfortunately, there are many graduates of various ethnic origins who hesitate to communicate with others in English. The reason for this is that of having the phobia of speaking in English. The only way to change this for the betterment of these graduates is to change their mindset, attitude and the perspective of the students it is better to make English as a compulsory subject to pass at SPM level.
Meanwhile, on the issue of teaching of mathematics and science in English, I thnik we should take separate approaches when teaching the subjects as both subjects have different magnitude of English vocabulary. Mathematics is a subject that involves mainly figures. The command of English needed here is quite basic. Therefore, it is not taxing for the students to study Mathematics in English right from the standard 1 of primary school.
On the other hand, science is mostly theoretical which needs illustrations, descriptions and understanding of certain terminologies. Thus, a reasonable foundation in the English vocabulary and the knowledge of the so-called "bombastic" words are needed. Malaysian students would find it quite difficult irrespective of their geographical location and ethnic background. They would definitely face an uphill task of studying science from primary school. So, it is better to teach Science in English only from Form One of the secondary school (after the students have acquired the basic English needed to study Science). Finally, I feel the National Education Policy should pull up the students to meet its standards. It should not go down to the students’ level just to accommodate them.