It was a rare sight that morning, when nearly 300 people gathered at Speakers’ Square, Penang, to demand that the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English be offered as an option for their school-going children.
Parents, teachers, passers-by, students and people with their pets came to show support for the cause.
The gathering was organised by the Parents Action Group for Education (Page) Penang Chapter on October 9 which claims over 45,000 members to date.
Many held placards with strong messages such as, “Our children are not guinea pigs. Let our children continue with PPSMI as an option”, “Datuk Seri Najib and Tan Seri Muhuyiddin, why are you ignoring the voices of the silent majority?”, “Don’t discriminate against my child. English is our mother tongue. We want PPSMI as an option”.
A petition campaign was also held on the same day and 2,500 signatures were collected.
Rowena Yam, Page Penang Chapter coordinator, said, “We are collecting signatures to appeal to the government to have the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) as an option in national schools.
“We believe these two subjects are important to our future generation and the country because these two subjects will form the foundation of our children’s knowledge in this age of globalisation and an ICT-driven future.
“Information on science and technology is vastly available in the internet, and textbooks. [Learning Science and Maths in English], our children will be able to grasp terminologies easily when they pursue higher education. Therefore we urge Malayisians to rally behind us.”
The first speaker at the gathering was Paul Seah, Page member and one of the initiators of its Facebook group. He questioned the government’s reasoning behind the sudden change to Science and Maths in Bahasa after nine years of teaching the subjects in English.
Like, all the others, he said, he was merely appealing for the option to choose that his children be taught the subjects in English.
Yam, who was the next to speak, addressed the excuses given by the government for the switch to teaching Science and Maths in Bahasa Malaysia.
“The government said that Science and Maths should be taught in the mother tongue.
“For our children, who are from the national school system, our mother tongue is English.
“Another excuse is having to print new text-books for Science and Maths in English, but the existing text-books can be used.”
Thum Soon Seong, a Page member, added that the government should not question our loyalty to the national language if we want Science and Maths to be taught in English:
“To be loyal to our country means we must be multi-lingual. When we are multi-lingual, we can speak to many people about Malaysia in various languages,” he said.
Krishnan Srinivasan, who has six children said, “How do you expect our children to compete in the world if they don’t learn Science and Maths in English? Their full potential will not be realised and … we will lose talent that can help build our country.”
He pointed out the example of Pua Khein-Seng, the inventor of the pen drive. He also spoke about the VVIPs who send their children overseas to study because they realise that English is important.
Fong Poh Kuen, who has two teenage children and an 11-year-old, said that she knows too well how important English is for communication.
“Science and Maths are important subjects one needs to learn in English to be able to communicate globally.
“My husband works in a multi-national company and he communicates via video conference in the universal language – English.”
There are two sets of petitions to be signed at this rally – one for parents and one for non-parents. Those who would like to vote for ‘Yes to PPSMI as an option’ can go to http://www.pagemalaysia.org/news.php.
Video by: Lim Boo Seng