Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lawyer: Against the law to teach in English

From NST

The teaching of Mathematics and Science in English is illegal, a senior lawyer claimed today.


Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman said the controversial system, implemented in 2003, was in direct violation of provisions under the Education Act 1996 which stated that Bahasa Malaysia must be the medium of instruction for core subjects.

Under section 17(1) of the Education Act 1996, it is specified that Bahasa Malaysia will be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions in the National Education System except national-type schools or any other institution exempted by the education minister.

Aziz pointed out that section 18 of the act made it compulsory for core subjects to be taught in Bahasa Malaysia.

"The law as it stands today states that it is illegal to use any other language for core subjects, and Mathematics and Science are core subjects," he said yesterday.

Aziz said sections 1 and 6 of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution also state that Bahasa Malaysia should be the language in all official capacities, which include education.

He acknowledged that while Article 152 allowed Parliament to decide on consensus to use a different language as the official medium of delivery, it must at the same time take into account provisions under other relevant laws.

"The Education Act is also an act of parliament so they cannot disregard this aspect in the decision-making process.

"The government should have looked at this more carefully," said the former Malaysia Airlines managing director.

Aziz, who was also on the six-man international panel that cleared senior judges involved in the 1988 judicial crisis, pointed out that the government must look into amending the Education Act if it insisted on using English in teaching Mathematics and Science.

"If they decide to use Bahasa Malaysia, then there would not be a problem but if they choose to use English, amendments must be made."

The teaching of Science and Mathematics in English has been riddled with controversy and heated debates between supporters and detractors of the move.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein implemented the plan in a bid to tackle poor proficiency in English among students.

The move gained support from various parties, which saw English proficiency as a necessity for youths to excel in their tertiary education and later, in securing jobs.

Opponents said, however, it would only alienate students in rural areas who were already at a disadvantage in terms of facilities and the lack of teachers qualified to teach in English.

The ministry held a series of meetings with stakeholders over the past few weeks to determine if the policy should be continued. The cabinet is expected to decide on the policy soon.

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