Get the maths right

I need some help from anyone who knows statistics intimately to help me understand a problem. Something in the papers today just doesn't make sense. In fact, it stinks.

I was reading the NST today when I came across the article about the problems of teaching of Maths and Science in English. There is also a PDF download of the entire study.

That article concludes that teaching Maths in English does not work because a study showed that students were having problems answering questions in English.

Problem is, I don't think the data presented in the article supports this conclusion.

(Unfortunately, the actual data in the newspaper and the one in the website differs. I don't know why that is, you just have to rely on what I present here.)

Nine sample questions were quoted in the article. They were presented to Year 5 students (about 11 years old). Two are of interest:
(From NST, 7 September 2008, page 6)
Do you see the problem? The two questions are similar, but fewer students got the answer correct for the BM version. The Bahasa Melayu version. The version that's not in English.

How on Earth can anyone conclude that they have problems when learning in English?

(That aside, they also can't add. 1077+360+108 does not equal 1564 students. I'm sure it's a clerical error, or maybe there's one student who's Lain-Lain.)

More worrying:
To me, the real problem is that the standard of maths and science in the country is low. Horrendously low. I would hope more than 95% should know their multiplication table by heart by the time they are eleven.

Of course, it's all about the sample selection. And about the control. I don't know enough about these things, so that's why I'm asking for help.

I looked at the school sample in the study. They come from all over Peninsula Malaysia from cities as well as the rural areas. I don't know if the sample taken is 'fair', but it does look comprehensive.

The questions, on the other hand, I have problems with. I focused on the Maths because that's what I have a soft spot for.
This whole thing stinks to me of doing a flawed study with flawed conclusions. I can't see how anyone could take it without huge reservations.
Naturally, I look forward to any comments you might have.


posted on Sunday, September 07, 2008 - permalink
I don't wanna take sides, but I think the BM answers scored bit lower cos everything they were taught was in English. Or the stuudy should find out if the schools teach in both lingos simultaneously. You must know that even Anwar Ibrahim is against this policy as "contravenes Article 152 of the Fed Constitution; eroding the role of Bahasa as a national identity."
I don't really mind what language the subject is taught in, but the fact is that people are arguing about the language, when the basic skills are not even there.

These are basic multiplication and division skills that should be present, regardless of language used.

The arguments presented in the study obscure this fact. They are shining the torchlight at cracks in the wall after half the house has fallen in already.
whatever it is, any hope of successful implementation would take a few generations, several general elections; it'd take only ONE general election to take it down, provided democratic institutions are all in place. And the signs of resistance toward the policy are everywhere; be it tacit or obvious, logic or emotional. And these come from the people who participate in our democratic system. Are the Wonder Pets on TV9, Malaysians to begin with? :P

Yet I know there are also many out there who support the policy and their kids coped with it very well. So I suggest for schools whose students can cope with the policy, CARRY ON; for those who can't...let common sense prevail.
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