The Teaching Of Science And Mathematics In Schools Education Essay

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The teaching of Science and Mathematics (PPSMI) in school has faced a new phase when the education ministry has announced and implemented the use of English as the medium of instruction in 2003. The rationale of the stipulation and implementation of PPSMI is aimed to produce a generation of citizens who are well-resourced to access the dynamic capital of Science and Mathematics in English regardless of the limited proficiency level of both teachers and students in delivering science through English (English (Norzita, 2004; Kon, 2005; Kon et al., 2005; Sashi Kumar Krishnan, 2008). According to Pillay (2003), one of the reasons that lead to such decision is due to the fact that Science based courses in the universities mainly were highly reliant on reference materials that are published in the English language. Although this is a great opportunity to increase the number of human resource in the science and technology in the future, there are many problems encountered since its operation. Explicitly, limited proficiency among the students and teachers affect several aspects concerning of the whole performance in learning both Science and Mathematics subjects.

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Since the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English language creates a conceptual gap between the teachers and students, code-mixing or code-switching occurs during lesson. Code-mixing has been viewed as a strategy to compensate for diminished language proficiency (Ying, Hashimah Alimon, Sopia (2009). Sashi Kumar Krishnan (2008) in his study has identified six reasons for code-switching: (i) to emphasise and to explain scientific terminology (ii) to confirm the students have understood the subject matter (iii) to encourage students to participate in the lessons (iv) to establish relationship, humour and to have a conducive environment for teaching and learning (v) to save time (vi) habitual reasons. Other factors are (i) content of subject (ii) language background of students. In addition, researcher feels that the students are revitalized, reinstated, and motivated to learn the science lessons when teachers code-switch. Yet, according to Lim, Kor, Tan and Chew (2009), majority of teachers [(80%) Isahak et al. (2008)] use code-switching or discouraged from using English fully in the first place as their overall confidence in their English language proficiency remains low enough for teaching in that language to appear threatening.

Besides, code-switching occurs during lesson as schools are lacking of good Science textbooks (Ong, 2004; Ong and May, 2008). Schools may have to rely on private publishers exploiting the gap and to source relevant materials in English to supplement the existing texts, which are in BM (Pillay, 2003). Undeniably, learning in a second language is seen as inappropriate when children meet complexity in interpreting the meaning of Science and Mathematics discourse. Teachers will spontaneously translate key terms into Malay, Mandarin or Tamil for the students during their teaching. The students, on the other hand, did not appear to be comfortable using English although they made efforts to do so (Ong and May, 2008). Previous research found that students are lacking in vocabulary and confused with certain words (Hashimah, 2003), thus faced difficulty to understand non-scientific terms in the scientific context (Saidi & Zurida, 2004; Sashi Kumar Krishnan, 2008; Lim and Ong (2009).

Although code-switching helps to assist students' comprehension in learning Science and Mathematics taught in the second language, this unable to realize the purpose of implementing PPSMI in the first place. It does not only complicate the students in understanding the target language, but it also complicates the students' understanding of the concepts and terminologies in both subjects taught (Lim and Ong, 2009). After five years of PPSMI policy implementation, Isahak et al. (2008) as cited by Sashi Kumar Krishnan (2008) in his research revealed that the pupil's performance in Science and English was poor with an average score of 4.08/14.0 and 11.87/31.0 respectively. Regrettably, realizing the significance of English generates a dilemma among Malay educators and politicians whether PPSMI should be purge or not (Parilah and Fauziah, 2007).

Language acts as a tool in understanding Science and Mathematics learning. It is vital for students and teachers to communicate effectively as to achieve the learning outcomes successfully. According to Duran et al (1998) as cited by Ong (2007), language is "a medium by which knowledge is transmitted" as well as "a means for thinking together, for collectively making sense of experience and solving problem" (Mercer, 2000b). In science, the precise use of language is often accompanied by diagrams, pictures, chemical and mathematical symbols and equations, gestures and texts that facilitate as well as enlighten learners in a meaningful way about a concept or a phenomenon. Thus, it is crucial to have the students to gain the insights and understand the manner and nature of scientific reasoning by offering them the opportunity to use and explore, i.e. to read science, to discuss the meaning of its texts, to argue how ideas are supported by evidence and to write and communicate in the language of science via the language that they are more proficient at (Ong, 2007).

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Consequently, the use of English language as the medium of instruction in the teaching of Science and Mathematics is not applicable. This is proven true when the ministry revised this policy between 2008 and 2009 by holding numerous roundtable meetings involving academicians, parents, teachers, and stakeholders to accumulate diverse point of views. On the seventh year of its implementation, the Ministry of Education finally declared the decision to regress the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in national schools to Bahasa Malaysia, and Mandarin or Tamil in vernacular schools effectively by 2012. Perhaps through this new policy, students are able to reach more advanced levels of understanding as well as use precise scientific terminologies in learning science, specifically (Ong, 2007). Other than that, the students' motivation and interest will be enhanced and altogether mend the percentage of students' performance in mastering both subjects Science and Mathematics in all schools in Malaysia.