KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — Bahasa Malaysia will only advance further if Malaysians are able to master English to better absorb knowledge, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) said today.
The former prime minister has been a staunch champion of teaching mathematics and science subjects in English, and reiterated today that Malaysians did not have to feel guilty about learning another language — especially one which is widely used worldwide — as the pursuit of knowledge was not exclusive to only one tongue.
“Would you be a traitor to Bahasa Malaysia if you learn mathematics and science in English?” he asked in his speech at the launch of the Malay Consultative Council’s (MPM) congress on national education here.
“Will we be disloyal to our language? Our language will only develop in the future when we master science and write books in Bahasa Malaysia,” the 88-year-old said.
This is the umpteenth time Dr Mahathir has spoken out in defense of the policy to teach mathematics and science in English that he mooted in 2003, shortly before his retirement from government.
Better known by its Malay initials, PPSMI, the policy was introduced to Year one primary schoolers, Form One secondary schoolers, and pre-university students who were starting Form Six.
PPSMI was however reversed by the government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2009 -- a move that many parents, teachers and politicians from both sides of the divide described as short-sighted and detrimental to students’ learning process.
In a bid to quell the simmering discontent over the decision, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin subsequently announced in November 2011 that students who were part of the PPSMI batch would continue to learn mathematics and science in English until they completed compulsory education in Form Five.
But the policy remains shrouded in controversy following reports citing Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap in June, that the government was only shelving PPSMI temporarily until the both students and teachers are found to be proficient in English.
Dr Mahathir, who is among the government’s harshest critics over the PPSMI reversal, argued that teaching mathematics and science in English would help nurture the ability to adequately translate technical tomes that are written in English into Bahasa Malaysia.
“Translators must have a good command of English, Bahasa Malaysia and the field of study (they are going to translate). We don’t have many people like that, and developments in mathematics and science are progressing every day.
“We cannot take an extreme view on language and simply reject it, because knowledge is found in different languages,” he said.