When I questioned the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to replace local English Language textbooks with “imported” ones at four times the cost and without an open tender, Deputy Minister of Education Dato’ P Kamalanathan issued a written reply in Parliament explaining that it was due to the fact that there were no CEFR-compliant (Common European Framework of Reference for Language) textbooks available locally.
According to Kamalanathan, the new textbooks were specially chosen by “English language experts” appointed by an “evaluation panel”. Another deputy minister, Senator Datuk Chong Sin Woon, has echoed the same answer by insisting that the “imported” textbooks are now used because local ones are not CEFR-aligned.
In my responses, I have disputed this line of argument by suggesting that it is incorrect to say that there is no availability of local textbooks that are aligned with CEFR standards when an open competitive tender has not been called to determine this.
In any case, even if only foreign textbooks are compliant, why was not a tender called to select the best and most cost-efficient ones? Instead, millions have been spent on textbooks that contain references to cultural contexts that are alien to our students.
MOE found local textbooks compliant in 2016
I would like to call into question the assertion made by the two deputy ministers. Why is it now claimed that local textbooks do not align with CEFR when MOE themselves believed otherwise one year ago?
When the new year 1 and form 1 English textbooks were chosen for 2017, MOE had also published two teaching handbooks to be used alongside them. These handbooks provide very clear guidelines for teachers to plan and conduct lessons utilising the local textbooks in conformance with CEFR standards.
In fact, it is explicitly stated in the foreword to the two books by Paridin Jais, director of MOE’s textbook division, that:
By the end of December 2016, the English textbooks for year 1 and form 1 (for usage in 2017) would have been distributed to schools throughout Malaysia. In order to ensure that the teaching and learning of English language using the textbooks provided are geared towards alignment to the CEFR, the Textbook Division has taken the initiative to publish a handbook to assist teachers in the classroom.
In other words, MOE themselves clearly felt that the new editions of the local textbooks for 2017 were not only good enough but also compliant with CEFR standards. Why else would they have published handbooks to assist teachers in utilising the books?
However, if that is the case, then why did MOE perform a U-turn halfway through the year and replace the local textbooks with the expensive “imported” ones? Worse, no guidelines or even DSKPs (Dokumen Standard Kurikulum dan Pentaksiran) have been provided as reference guides for teachers to plan their lessons and set exam questions.
Furthermore, why throw away the RM7.1 million already spent for the new editions of the English textbooks for year 1 and form 1? And why waste all the effort to produce the handbooks if the textbooks were not suitably aligned to CEFR standards? MOE has much to explain.
Zairil Khir Johari
Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera
DAP Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology
NB: This press statement was released on 20 December 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.