Teaching math, science in English: Crucial step forward in Sarawak as many local grads lack proficiency

Abdul Karim addressing a press conference at DUS' Media Room on May 14, 2024.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, May 14: Many local university graduates, even those with master’s or PhDs, are not proficient in English and may struggle to communicate effectively overseas.

With that, Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry, and Performing Arts, Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, praised Sarawak’s initiative to introduce English as the medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science subjects in secondary schools starting in 2026 as a positive step that will advance Sarawak’s progress.


“One of the problems Malaysia is facing is managing its education system. A lot of graduates from local universities are not proficient in English, which is an international language.

“If you go outside Malaysia, can you speak Bahasa or not with your counterparts overseas? You can’t, there must be a middle medium where both parties can speak and understand,” he told a press conference at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly’s (DUS) Media Room today.

Abduk Karim emphasised the critical need for Sarawakians to master the English language, particularly in the context of international trade and business.

While acknowledging the high standards of local universities and the achievements of individuals with advanced degrees such as Master’s and PhDs, he pointed out that proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia alone might be insufficient for global engagement.

“You might have your Master’s and PhD but in Bahasa Malaysia, and when you go overseas, you ‘terkapak-kapak juak’ (struggling).

“With all due respect, I am not undermining local universities, but we must recognise the importance of mastering English. It is the language of trade and business,” he stressed.

Emphasising the necessity for Sarawakians to develop strong English language skills to ensure they can compete and collaborate effectively on the international stage, he urged Sarawakians not to neglect mastering English or other languages like Chinese or even French.

With Mathematics and Science subjects reverting back to English, Abdul Karim pointed out the need to assess whether teachers produced through current syllabus are equipped to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects in English.

“There may be some problems. Teacher graduates might need to undergo additional courses to enhance their proficiency in English, especially to teach these subjects,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education, Innovation and Talent Development Dato Sri Roland Sagah Wee Inn said Sarawak’s secondary schools will gradually introduce English as the medium of instruction for Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics starting 2026.

He said the decision has received approval from the Federal Education Ministry, and a circular outlining the implementation process is being drafted. — DayakDaily