The implosion of DLPNOOR AZIMAH ABDUL RAHIM
The Education Minister needs to be reminded of the importance of the optional Dual Language Programme (DLP), how and why it was conceived. Ministers and director-generals come and go. But parents stay.
It was in early 2015 that the Economic Council, chaired by the then prime minister, demanded a radical approach towards enhancing English proficiency, having witnessed the damaging effects on youth towards employment. Immediately, the Education and SRI (Strategic Reform Initiatives) Human Capital Development of Pemandu (Performance Measurement and Delivery Unit) under the Prime Minister’s Office, now corporatised, was assigned to explore and recommend that desperately needed radical approach.
An English syndicated lab was set up and close to 100 stakeholders were invited to participate in finding that radical angle. High-ranking officials from the Education Ministry, state education departments, district education offices, industry players including representatives from the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, Malaysian Employers Federation, the British Council, the corporate sector, heads of colleges, university professors, associations, societies, think-tanks, scholarship foundations, non-governmental organisations and advocacy groups such as PAGE rigorously engaged for four solid weeks, brainstormed and armed with massive amounts of data, ideas were consolidated into a workable, concise and workable plan.
On 11 June 2015, the then Director-General of Education in announcing the DLP to the public, aptly called it “a defining moment” in the history of the Education Ministry. The criteria set were clear that schools have written permission from parents, teachers are ready and schools have adequate resources. There was no Bahasa Melayu (BM) requirement whatsoever.
It has come to our knowledge that principals have been made to turn existing DLP classes overnight into non DLP ones just weeks into the new term disrupting students’ mental health and parents’ peace of mind. Parents of these affected schools are forced to accept non DLP classes even though they are unanimous in their stance.
Parents are not necessarily given consent letters to fill as required while students are subjected to discreet BM assessments, if at all, to determine whether the child is suitable for DLP or otherwise. Oddly, parents have been told that if the child’s BM proficiency is poor then the child will be put in a non DLP class. On the other hand, if the child’s BM proficiency is above average then the child will be put in a DLP class. The perceived risk is that if the child’s BM proficiency is poor at six years old the likelihood of failing BM at SPM when the child is 17 is high. It surely is mind-boggling.
Dignified parents who want DLP for their children are running around like headless chickens as principals and school leaders prevent them from seeking external help. The Minister of Education nor her ministry has failed to respond to parents’ concerns and appeals maybe hoping parents will tire and go away.
We also understand that the fully residential schools which fall under Education Ministry may share the same fate save for the 11 premier ones such as Malay College Kuala Kangsar and Tunku Kurshiah College.
There appears to be a nefarious attempt by unseen hands to reduce the number of DLP classes. This is not a legacy any one should want to leave behind. Instead the MOE should be developing further the DLP to align with the government’s aspirations to ensure that the labour workforce is future-ready to accept the so-called high-value and skilled job opportunities that the Prime Minister has promised all Malaysians.
We urge the Prime Minister to intervene in ensuring DLP is given the full support it deserves. Abolish the BM requirement, which was added at the last minute to appease the language nationalists, automatically halving the number of schools that can choose DLP. Abandon the BM assessment and stop labelling children who are after all only six years of age. It is not a zero sum game.
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim is PAGE chairman.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.