18 April 2009

PPSMI – I do it my way (Part 1)

“Apa pandangan Pak Cik tentang PPSMI? Setuju atau tidak?”

I have been asked that question by a number of friends and also a couple of my ex-Almanar pupils. It is a hot subject and Pak Cik am not about to be drawn to join the fray. After all, my interest is very simple. I started Almanar almost 15 years ago with a simple objective of helping the children in the vicinity learn three main subjects, English, Maths and Science subjects. It has been just that over the years.

All the children happen to be Malay. Even if there are a few non Malays from this area attending, I see no difference. They speak as good Malay as Malay children themselves. Let me digress a little here. When Pak Cik sat for my Cambridge School Certificate examination (the SPM equivalent of that time zone) there were 42 of us. Sitting for Malay paper three pupils opted to write in Jawi. One was a Tengku, a real blue blood. I was the second, a typical Malay boy, and the third was a Mr. Lee CL, a pure Chinese breed, a very close friend till today. He was raised in the area where Almanar is today. And, of course, all Chinese children in this vicinity went to the only school in this kampong, a Malay school. As a result, many were better off at Jawi than Rumi.

When I started Almanar, PPSMI was not an issue, but teaching had never been my profession. I was a green horn at it, but thinking big. Soon I came face to face with one problem. It was the children’s level of English, much worse than I bargained for. Communicating in Queen’s English would not help to improve the situation. So, Malay had to be the medium of communication. The second problem surfaced. The Malay terms used in Maths and science were a mixed basket of mind-boggling pseudo Malay terms, totally alien to me. All my life I knew them in English So I resolved to teach my pupils the original English terms – maintaining Malay as the medium of communication. That was a real win-win situation. I did it my way!

This went on and on until PPSMI was introduced. But the pupils were still the same, with their sub-standard level of English. It was fortunate that Almanar was beyond the reach of any school principles, school inspectors or the state director of education himself for that matter. I was not about to teach myself and my pupils the crazy Malay terms used in maths and science. So Pak Cik continued with the original English jargons like the following:


Now look at the equivalent of those terms in Malay. It runs like this:

Like Pak Cik, those familiar with the English jargons would certainly find it hard to adjust to the Malay equivalent. Likewise, our young pupils who are so used to the Malay version will be handicapped when they have to face the equivalent in English when they advance beyond school level. To Pak Cik, the switching over from one set of technical terms one is so used to, to a set of terms in another language, is the very crux of the problem we are facing. It is not the medium of communication. English version has an edge over the Malay. Very often the terms are linked; ray – radius – radian – radio – radar – radiate – radiation – x-ray - radiator etc. Similarly we have circle – circular - circumference – circuit etc. These are elements that simplify understanding,and that make the terms easy to be memorised.

Standard of English is an issue in itself. We ought to tackle the syllabus, upgrading it, allowing more time if needed. The standard is way below the minimum acceptable. For that Pak Cik totally disregard the materials and official format used in schools. I prefer it my way.

This was the problem that I saw at the start of Almanar and I have chosen a pragmatic way of dealing with it. Pak Cik’s teaching method may be termed unorthodox or unconventional but I am satisfied with the result so far. Whatever the outcome of the fate of PPSMI to be decided by the authority, Pak Cik will continue to do it my way.

When Pak Cik said ‘crazy Malay terms’ above I was trying to take a swipe at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. In my part II on PPSMI, Pak Cik will touch on why I believe “DBP ‘halalkan’ perkataan Inggeris jadi istilah Melayu” , the subject of Pak Cik’s article in Berita Harian five years ago. Then I was so dismayed watching how Bahasa Melayu, being brutalised by our ‘cerdik pandai’, some of whom have been fighting to abolish PPSMI in the name of ‘mendaulatkan Bahasa Melayu’. Yes, indeed, until DBP can produce a more credible and systematic technical terms I do it my way.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.