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Malaysia drops English for maths, science classes

Malaysia said Wednesday it will dump English as the language of instruction for maths and science in schools, in a highly sensitive decision that has split opinion in the multiethnic country.

world Updated: Jul 08, 2009 17:13 IST

Malaysia said Wednesday it will dump English as the language of instruction for maths and science in schools, in a highly sensitive decision that has split opinion in the multiethnic country.

Deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin said that from 2012 the subjects will be taught in Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, or in Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.

Critics of the six-year policy of using English to teach the subjects argue that it has dragged down students' performance and is particularly unfair on children who are not proficient in the language.

"I wouldn't say it's a complete failure but it has not achieved the desired objectives that it was supposed to achieve," Muhyiddin told a press conference.

"The government is convinced that science and maths need to be taught in a language that will be easily understood by students, which is Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, Mandarin in Chinese schools and Tamil in Tamil schools."

He said the government would boost the teaching of English in schools, with more time given to the subject and the recruitment of nearly 14,000 extra teachers nationwide to teach the subject.

Muhyiddin cited a 2008 survey which found that students' performance in maths and science had fallen since it had been taught in English, and that rural children were hit particularly hard.

In the months since the government said it was considering dropping English, debate has raged in newspaper columns and letters to media outlets.

In March, riot police fired tear-gas to disperse at least 5,000 Malays who demonstrated in Kuala Lumpur against the use of English to teach the two subjects in national schools.