Saturday, July 18, 2009

Language Issue

When we teach mathematics, we introduce two foreign languages to our learners (pretty hard for them) - the language of mathematics and the English language, because here in the Philippines, English is our medium of instruction. Other issues came out, that learners would learn best if they would use their mother language. I think this is one of the major issues now, not only here in our country but also globally. An example is Malaysia.
Jeniffer in the Philippines
There is no guarantee that using one's mother tongue results in high achievement in mathematics. Japan and Korea use Japanese and Korean to teach mathematics and their achievement is high (e.g. in TIMSS). Thailand and, until early 2000s, Malaysia use Thai and Malay to teach mathematics and their achievement is not high. Singapore use English, not the students' mother tongue and the achievement is high. There are other more important factors than the medium of instruction. In my opinion, if the medium of instruction is used right from Grade 1, students will just pick it up. Students from non-English speaking homes may need some additional help. In Singapore, we have Learning Support Programme in Grades 1 and 2. I feel that Malaysia should not say that their attempt in using English to teach mathematics has failed. If their politicians have read Michael Fullan's Six Secrets of Change, they will understand that when a change is implemented there will be a dip in performance before it increases again. I feel that they should have given the change a longer time to happen before deciding to abandon it. Incidentally, I had the good opportunity to listen to Michael Fullan this morning at a conference in Las Vegas. He was giving lectures to US principals who are attending the differentiated instruction conference.

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