Sunday, May 27, 2018

English, let's not go straight to the "Finnish"

I am a Malaysian principal in an international school where English is the medium of instruction.

One would assume that, and I would be the last person to oppose the teaching of Maths and Science in English, especially in our national schools. However, this is exactly what I must advocate.

The teaching of these important subjects in English is an excellent move but, I am a firm believer that, a sustainable evolution is always preferable to a revolution. A sudden shift would result in curriculum misalignment (we teach the wrong thing), talent mismatch (we don’t have the talent to teach in English) and operational inefficiency.

I would suggest a steady shift, resolving one issue at a time with a 3-pronged approach. Firstly, deploy resources to ensure our teachers have a suitable level of proficiency in English. Deploy a performance based pay training project tender where companies are paid only on the success of their programmes. Have all teachers to sit the IELTS independently and then allow companies to train teachers, with payment subjected only to the increase in IELTS score improvements obtained. If we aim for an IELTS score of 7 and above, that should be sufficient. 

Secondly, conduct a curriculum review to translate the national curriculum into English so that the operational language for Science and Math teachers is English. Thirdly, use grants or other incentives to encourage the private sector to develop educational resources like textbooks in English. 

After a year, begin the transition by implementing English as the medium of instruction and examination in Standard one, Form one and three, progressing upwards as the years go by. 

Finally, to really make the use of English relevant, make industry connections by developing a programme where students are able to gain work experience during holidays by “interning” at English medium work environments that have an international outlook on their business.

By approaching the situation steadily, developing solid supporting structures based on solid fundamentals and creating a sense of relevance I am absolutely confident that the shift will be successful. 

Someone once told me, we need to look to the Finnish way of education to guide us. I don’t believe so, we have everything we need right here, right now.

So, let’s just do this for Malaysia!!!

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