This is horrible. But anything which had a realistic chance of happening would be almost as bad.
In a perfect world, students would be learning all subjects in the best language for them individually, and also learning Malay and English perfectly fine regardless. But we do not live in that perfect world. In the next best world, we would have a consistent policy (sticking to either English or Malay for Science and Maths, if not all subjects) and competent teachers able to implement this policy.
This being Malaysia, and our politics being our politics, what we got was a silly compromise that made nobody very happy, and a paralysed bureaucracy uninterested in making this policy work. One of the most telling graphs in the link to The Star above is the last one, which shows only 20% and 10% of secondary and primary school science and maths teachers respectively scored 67 or higher on an evaluation of their English proficiency.
The fact is, this policy failed. But was the old policy working? As far as I can tell, no. That's why we tried this policy in the first place. Our students were not doing as well as they could in science and maths, and their English was atrocious. So our politicians got this bright idea to try teaching them science and maths in English.
But the execution was fatally cocked up. The Education Minister says that now they will try a different approach to enhance English learning: English literature will be reintroduced as a subject, along with grammar and composition. (I wonder if that is a misquote by The Star, because that would make a total of four subjects for the English language alone.) The Minister also said that they would rehire retirees and foreigners if necessary to supply more English teachers.
All these are things which should have been done before! In particular, it's not like the government had no idea our science and maths teachers were so fatally flawed in the English department. Rather, they completely ignored this, and rammed through this ill-thought-out policy anyway.
Maybe teaching science and maths in English is a fatally flawed idea, but we have no way of telling that from this six-year experiment, because the government so thoroughly messed up its implementation! (There is also the counter-argument that teaching these subjects in English worked perfectly fine for thousands of schoolkids before we switched to Malay as the national medium of instruction in the 1970s.)
What really angers me about this decision is that the government virtually knowingly had this cock-up of a policy going for six years, when they should have bloody well known their science and maths teachers could not teach in English. So we had a whole generation of students undergoing this massive change, all for naught. And now we will have another generation of pain as thousands of kids get stuck in educational limbo while the government phases out this failure of a policy.
All this was completely unnecessary. The government could have at least tried to make PPSMI (Pelajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Math dalam Bahasa Inggeris) a success by not virtually sabotaging it, but they did not. They could have increased the allocation of time to English, refocused the curriculum, and hired professional English teachers six years ago, but they did not.
More importantly, the government could have avoided all this and successfully transitioned to teaching science and maths in English if only it had been patient and first prepared the teachers to use English in the classroom. But they did not. They pushed through the policy when it was plainly not ready.
In short, we spent six years spinning our wheels doing absolutely balls, and we have nothing to show for it. It is infuriating, but I don't blame the government for ending this now. I do blame the government for keeping up this ridiculous charade for six years, when it was obvious to almost everyone -- even people who might have otherwise favoured this policy -- that this could never have worked with the way they rammed it through.