Chapter 9. Pragmatics of maintaining English in Malaysia’s education system

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The Malaysian government’s ruling that Malaysian schools use English as the medium for teaching Science and Mathematics (henceforth TSME) starting January 2003 had engendered various reactions (the switch back to Malay took place in 2010). These reactions, supportive or otherwise, cut across the boundaries of the racial groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians. After independence, English schools became national schools, using Malay as the medium of instruction, with English as a compulsory language, even for the Chinese and Tamil schools. Malay opposition to TSME in English has a nationalistic and historical basis. Chinese opposition finds a basis in cognitive concerns while the Indians seem to be neutral for various reasons. This chapter discusses the perception of TSME in English among Malaysians in the light of national language policy and planning and the government’s intent in achieving Vision 2020.


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