Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let's Learn Something From Our Neighbours

Our dear politicians could learn a thing or two from Singapore's former PM, instead of pointing fingers at one another and subjecting the 'rakyat' to their fickle face-saving decisions (i.e. PPSMI or teaching of maths and science in English). Although PPSMI is already old news here, I was pretty put off when the government announced that we were going back to teaching maths and science in Bahasa Melayu (after that whole hoo-ha in the Dewan Rakyat in June). This shows that our education system is just another political battlefield for our "leaders" to win votes.

I just don't get how the government could implement a policy without doing a proper study or consulting professionals in the linguistic field and instead, they made rash conclusions from the results while the project was still in a transition state. Don't they realise that it takes time to see the fruits of the change? Maybe the government should work on change management instead of taking the easy way out and reverting to the old system (of which I am a product of). And personally, I found that first few months transitioning to English while in Form 6 (STPM) a little confusing, but ultimately it made the whole learning process more interesting and eased the search for extra resources. Thank God 80% of the courses I took in university were in English! I really can't imagine how I would have survived researching and writing my thesis in BM. Seriously.

Anyway, the article below is from . I reproduced it here because they update their news content daily and I don't know whether they have an online archive.

Lee Kuan Yew concedes language mistake
From News Reports:
Singapore, November 21: Singapore’s initial enforcement of the teaching of Mandarin by rote had been a mistake, the republic’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, said at the opening of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language.
“A language is first listened to, heard and then spoken,” he said.
“It's not read or written - that follows later. (But) we started the wrong way. We insisted on spelling and dictation.”
The way to correct the mistake was to encourage a child’s interest in the language, regardless of their linguistic ability because, with interest in the language, they would have it for life.
Students forced to memorise a language without applying it, would aim just to pass their exams and then forget about it, he warned.
“Successive generations of students paid a heavy price because of my ignorance and my insistence on bilingualism,” he said.
“We had teachers who were teaching in completely Chinese schools and they did not know how to use any English to teach English-speaking children Chinese,” he said.
This turned children off completely and caused parents to waste much money and time on extra tuition for their off spring.
Lee Kuan Yew said he had mistakenly equated intelligence to language ability but later, his daughter, neurologist Lee Wei Ling, told him that they were different.
As a consequence the Education Ministry in 2005 had increased the weight of primary-school oral Mandarin over that of their ability to memorise Chinese characters.
This followed the recommendation of a Chinese-language review committee in 2004 to put more emphasis on speaking and listening.
The Southeast Asian Times

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