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I am a Mathematician and I am against Math and Sci in English and here’s why.

I am currently teaching Mathematics in English at a public university. At this moment, I do not wish for it to change. Higher education is different. Students are more matured and adapting is a skill that students need to acquire in higher education.

On the other hand, primary and secondary schools are different. Schools are place where almost everyone of our citizen go to. To learn, get educated and possibly change their way of living, in term of improving.

Therefore, it is a simple Mathematics that we should cater education to majority, rather than minority. I have been to many schools in rural area over the years and at secondary school level, majority still cannot express themselves very well in English. Don’t get me wrong, English standard had improved a lot compared to 10 years ago, and comparing our people to others in some southeast asia country would show that our English is way better. And our kids are doing better in English too, perhaps due to advancement of technology.

And I assume you guys who are reading this do not have much problem in reading and conversing in English.

But it’s a different thing to talk about daily life or to have a scientific conversation. My fear is that when at young age, we teach our kids to use English terms, what they learn is the terms itself. But the concept is not being understood. My fear is that, when we force students to learn in a foreign language, it does not promote STEM, it makes them fearful of this area. And these fears have a lot basis. I went to Google Scholar and searched for ‘teaching Mathematics in English’ and there many findings shows that it is not a good idea. I wanted to put some references but my surface cannot be charged so I’m having problems to do that at the moment.

It is an education ministry for crying out loud. An educated and informed decision need to be made based on research and findings. Not a personal one. Otherwise if I am a minister, I would be demanding everyone to learn in German because I find German are really good in Mathematics, if it is up to a personal opinion.

Here are few rebuttals from argument I heard online

Argument: But it is going to be difficult to learn in university because one had learnt in Bahasa Melayu his/her entire life

Rebuttal: How about those who can’t even get to university because they had poor grades due to language incompetency. They may have better grades if they are taught in a language they understand.

Argument: But there are a lot of literature in English

Rebuttal: We have enough literature in BM for our school students. Make them good in Math, Science and English, and learning in university in whatever language will be fine. Plus I never heard anyone complaining and stop sending their kids to do Bachelor in Japan or Germany even when the kids need to learn it in Japanese or Deutsch respectively when they reach there.

Argument: It is a lot easier to learn Mathematics in English

Rebuttal: Perhaps to someone who is good in English. For someone who understand basic command. For people who are currently having a good career and forget that many are struggling with issues. If majority of B40 says this, then I will rest my case.

Final remark. I heard a lot of argument where people say that they wish that they had learnt in English during schools so they do not struggle in university and life afterwards.

I beg to differ. I learnt Mathematics and Science in Bahasa Melayu since Standard 1 to Form 5. I learnt in Bahasa Melayu during my first year of degree until my final year of degree. I only start learning in English because I was studying my Masters in the UK. My grades were not so good. Not because of English medium (as my stats and programming paper, I did well), but because I didn’t take a lot of pure Mathematics paper, so that’s my bad. Never ever I regret learning in Bahasa Melayu.

If anything, I am proud of it. I manage to understand the concept well because of Malay language. And I am proud to have learnt in BM as to see my fellow friends who are from poor family, now able to be fellow colleague in university, doctors and engineers. I even once win best postgraduate presentation in my faculty when I was in the UK, beating other English native speakers. It was never because I learnt Mathematics in English during my school and undergraduate years.

Stop worrying about the medium of language. Focus on the approach to improve our kids’ understanding. Think of what will happen to our citizen in rural area if English medium is being implemented. And go and do research. Don’t base on a personal opinion especially when this issue has both people agreeing and opposing.


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