English. To scrap or not to scrap.

I was in the teacher’s room with my other colleagues when David, an Australian who’s been working here for almost ten years, showed me a column from Jakarta Post. Ministry of Education to Scrap English from Schools. I had heard of it before and wasn’t sure how to react. The other were giving comments of how absurd it was (it is) and how decisions that the ministry have made somehow seemed ignorant to what young people need (didn’t sound so strange -this is Indonesia ministry of Ed we’re talking about).

I googled and found an article about the infamous new rule the minister is about to apply to every schools in Indonesia (I doubt that private schools will join in). He said the main reason was that young students, grade 1 to 3 don’t need to be exposed to English when they are actually still struggling to learn their first language, he also said that students need to understand the philosophy of our first language before rushed into English.

I myself, had formal education on English at school when I was in the third grade. I didn’t see it affect me today, or whether it would be better if I had it earlier. Of course, I had extra education from TBI when I was eleven until my college year, I must say English at school wasn’t really helpful. But I was lucky, not everybody can afford that education and had to relay to schools.

But is it true that a young student need not be rushed into new language? Is it bad for their development? So I did another quick research. Here what I found from http://www.learninglinks.org.au

Myths surrounding bilingualism.  There are many myths associated with bilingualism.•  Myth: delays in language are caused by learning a second language.This is not true. Like any other child, a child who is bilingual can have language delays, but learning a second language neither increases nor decreases the chances of having a language delay. •  Myth: it is easier to learn a second language if you stop using your first or home language and concentrate on the new language.The truth is that the stronger the first language is, the easier it is to learn a second language.•  Myth: parents should stop using the first or home language when the child begins speaking a second language such as English.In fact, the best way for families to support children learning English is to maintain the child’s first language at home.Parents don’t have to talk in English to help their child learn English. It is more important that parents use the language that they can use best and are the most comfortable speaking. When they do this they can provide models of grammatically correct sentences and access to a wide vocabulary. Parents should therefore continue to use their first language to talk to their child about everyday activities such as shopping, and share poems, stories, songs, books and games. It can also help if parents use the name of the language (for example, Mandarin or Cantonese), when speaking in this language to their child.

So I found that yes, some students might have difficulties coping with two language in their development process, but it is not the source of language delays. Furthermore, there are some benefits in learning two languages in early age, as quoted from http://www.asha.org

Benefits of Bilingualism Many research studies cite the cognitive-linguistic benefits of being a fluent bilingual speaker. Experts have found that children who are fluent bilinguals actually outperform monolingual speakers on tests of metalinguistic skill.In addition, as our world shrinks and business becomes increasingly international, children who are fluent bilingual speakers are potentially a tremendously valuable resource for the U.S. economy. Most Americans are currently monolingual speakers of English, and are finding more and more that it would be highly advantageous to their professional lives if they spoke a second language.

Interesting point of view, I wonder when the minister talked about our first language philosophy that should be mastered by the students before they actually start learning English (which, by the way, what is it?), did he think about our economy in future time?

I have students in third or fourth grade that speak fluent English, it amazed Rob, a teacher who shares the class with me. I think by the time they’re in my age, they’re gonna be able to give orations or speeches in perfect English. Which, I also realized, our president is not able to do. But on his account,  he might understand the philosophy behind Bahasa Indonesia.

No, no, no. No English for you, kiddos. The cow stays ‘sapi’ until you’re in 4th grade!

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