Within the swirling chaotic flux that is Malaysian politics, an ancient beast recently awakens: the issue of what language we should use to teach science and mathematics in schools. At the end of January, the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had more or less announced that we will using English again for that.
“It is very important that we give time for (the study of) English, particularly in learning Science and Mathematics (subjects). Geography and History can be conducted in any language, but both Science and Mathematics are not indigenous fields of knowledge. Therefore, we are going to use English in the teaching of Science and Mathematics,” – Dr Mahathir, as reported by NST.
We referred to the issue as an ancient beast because it had been a drama factory in Malaysia for a while already, and as such we won’t be going into detail on the pros of it and why it didn’t work before. Suffice to say that people think that it’s unnecessary, burdening, and threatening to their mother tongues.
The contention this time though seems to be the government’s tendency to keep switching policies regarding the teaching language: the teaching and learning science and mathematics in English (PPSMI) programme was introduced back in 2003, but due to criticism and a drop in performance, it was finally abolished in 2012-ish. Then the government came up with stuff like the Dual Language Programme (DLP), and now we’re supposedly moving back to the PPSMI, although Dr Mahathir had recently clarified that the government has yet to decide on it.
With the preliminary reaction to the PPSMI comeback being not as enthusiastic as one might think, it might be necessary for Malaysians to know both Malay and English terms for science and mathematics. Because we’ve got nothing better to do, we drew up a quiz to test your knowledge on the Malay terms for some math and science concepts. These terms were either taken from the Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka’s (DBP) dictionary or pirated KSSM textbooks we found online.
Be warned, though: unless you’ve learned these Malay terms in school, it’ll be super tough. Can you get higher than 5?