Tuesday, March 10, 2009

R & D To Solve Our Problems

By: Johami bin Abdullah @ Joe Chelliah

Research and development (also RAND or, more often, R&D), has a special significance apart from its conventional association with scientific and technological development for any country. For example, the world's four largest spenders of R&D in 2006 were the United States (US$343 billion), the EU (US$231 billion), Japan (US$130 billion), and China (US$115 billion).

In Malaysia, I am not certain how much our government actually allocates for this purpose. Official R & D in Malaysia is most often cloaked in secrecy and never makes it to the public domain. While such secrecy may be necessary for certain areas like security and in commercial circles, any R & D worth its salt must be made public so that the findings can be agreed upon or challenged by other researchers.

The current public debate and furor regarding the teaching of Math and Science in English is one good example which is a result of the absence of any published research on the matter. While the idea was mooted out six years ago (without any known research either) it was welcomed without any noticeable objection. The opinions of those who now back or oppose the concept so vociferously are hardly backed by any research but are based more on personal opinions and / or emotions.

Billions have already been spent to implement the program thus far. What has been the success rate? Has anybody actually done some ground research in the schools? Has it negatively affected the study of Bahasa Malaysia? Are Math and Science teachers sufficiently prepared for teaching of Math and Science in English? What do they have to say? There was no such uproar when not only Math and Science, but indeed all subjects had to be taught in Bahasa Malaysia from parents or teachers in the 1970’s.

We need tangible answers and not street demonstrations for a review of the policy.