English in schools: Critics should stop feeling they are more clever than parents
Kuala Lumpur, 3 February 2016 – Since the Prime Minister’s announcement last year of two new pilot programmes to support improvement of English language proficiency of students in schools, the Dual Language Programme (DLP) and the Highly Immersive Programme (HIP), have faced a barrage of unfounded criticism and opposition from critics.
“These pilot programmes should be celebrated because the government is finally allowing parents to have a say in their children’s education, albeit still in a limited way,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. “This is a bottom-up policy where parents are able to vote on whether their child’s school gets DLP or HIP or opt out altogether. That is powerful and it seems that many groups don’t understand that the school leadership and parents hold the power.”
“It is an unsupported and harmful assertion to claim that this policy is a throwback to colonial times and to falsely accuse that it prioritises English at the cost of proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia,” he emphasised. “Schools can only do it if they are already good in Bahasa Malaysia. These detractors are denying parents the right to choose what is best for their own children. Who are they to dictate what parents can or cannot do? Are they saying that all parents are too stupid to know what is best for their children? What makes them think they know better than the millions of parent and teachers?”
Tamanna Patel, Senior Researcher at IDEAS added, “The DLP will only be offered to government national schools that meet four criteria – proper resources, teachers who can teach in English and Bahasa Malaysia, parents who are supportive of the programme, and schools that are already performing well in Bahasa Malaysia with CGPAs at or above the national average in national examinations. They will be given the option to teach Science, Mathematics, Information Technology and Communication, and Design and Technology in English or Bahasa Malaysia. The HIP aims to strengthen English proficiency by increasing usage hours outside the classroom.”