Concrete evidence for failure of PPSMI Not advisable to revive an old policy

Joint Statement by Dong Zong and Jiao Zong

3 February 2020

Concrete evidence for failure of PPSMI

Not advisable to revive an old policy


On 30 January 2020, Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Education Tun Mahathir had a special meeting with management officers of the Ministry of Education. He was reported to have said in the meeting that the teaching of Science and Maths in English (PPSMI) policy might be revived. In this regard, Dong Jiao Zong wishes to respond as follows:


(1) We do recognise the urgency of improving the standards of English language as well as science and maths among our students. However, based on the lessons learnt from the failure of PPSMI implemented previously, it is evident that haste makes waste and such a policy is definitely not feasible. Education is a professional endeavour that impacts on an entire generation and if the government insists on reviving such a policy that contradicts the principles of education, it will definitely impact on the educational developments in our country. In implementing any measure, the Ministry of Education needs to adopt a realistic and practical approach, give due attention to results of surveys, studies as well as analyses carried out and respect professional decisions.


(2) In 2003, despite strong protests from the people, the government insisted on implementing PPSMI. However, after a six-year implementation period, the Ministry of Education eventually admitted that the policy had not only failed to raise the students’ standard of the English language in general, but had also led to lower standards of science and maths. The ministry was thus forced to abolish the policy. In recent years, the standards of science and maths among students in our country had seen a drastic fall. The performances of our students in international assessment tests such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) were far behind the international standards. Some scholars had pointed out that these were the aftermaths of PPSMI implemented years ago. Following the abolishment of this inappropriate policy, the PISA assessment 2018 showed that Malaysian students’ average scores in science and maths were better as compared with the past. All these had proven that PPSMI had harmed the students’ performances in science and maths. It is thus evident that PPSMI is not only in conflict with the excellent strengths of mother tongue education as advocated by UNESCO but the relevant international authoritative assessment results had also proven that PPSMI is flawed and unfavourable for students’ learning.


(3) Many knowledgeable personalities have pointed out that government schools in Malaysia are seeing a downtrend in their standards and therefore, education reforms are imperative. With the prevalence of artificial intelligence, education reforms in various countries in the world have changed their directions by stressing on people-centred approach as well as giving attention to the students’ humanistic quality and personality development. In addition, the syllabus contents were also revamped to emphasize the nurturing of creative thinking, high thinking abilities and interdisciplinary learning. Malaysia’s education reform concepts should not remain at the notion of rejuvenating the country through industries as advocated in the last century, and neither should we invest our education reform resources on PPSMI that had been proven to have failed. As such, Dong Jiao Zong urges the Pakatan Harapan government to identify as soon as possible a Minister of Education who is visionary about education policies and has a good grab of the current trends in educational developments around the world. Until that is done, it is not suitable to hastily implement any major education policy.


(4) Dong Jiao Zong calls upon the Ministry of Education to ensure that before announcing any major policy, it should meet as many relevant non-governmental organisations, scholars and experts as possible for consultation, discussion and gathering different opinions. It should not just make revelations via the media as this would cause unnecessary worries for teachers, parents and students. We also wish to remind the Pakatan Harapan government to ensure that their Cabinet meetings should reflect the views of the people and respect professionalism in the education field in order to carefully consider and make sound decisions on this controversial policy.