Malaysia: Neither Here Nor There

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Feb 22 14:13:42 UTC 2009

Neither Here Nor There

Headline Opinion  2009-02-22 00:00

Interesting. That's the least I can say of GAPENA's move in making a
police report against the government or rather the Ministry of
Education for using English to teach Mathematics and Science in
schools. GAPENA is the Federation of Malay Writers Association. And
they "justified" their police report by highlighting Section 17 ( 1)
of the Education Act 1996 and Section 152 ( 1) and 152(6) of the
Federal Constitution – which they say had been violated by the
Education Ministry. Let's not go into details except to say the laws
highlighted are on the sovereignty of the Malay language. And to
GAPENA the use of English for Mathematics and Science would eventually
"kill" the Malay language. However the body "strongly support" the use
of English as a subject on it's own "but not through Mathematics and
Science". Fine. I respect GAPENA's stand. But the reason I say their
police report is "interesting" is because the body have, as members,
folks who were or are still UMNO members. And what's " interesting",
is not the report against an UMNO led government but the timing of the
protest itself.

It's been six years since the policy was implemented in schools. Did
they protest back then ? To be fair yes. But perhaps not loud enough.
Not hard enough to prevent the Mahathir administration from going
ahead with the policy. Perhaps that's the reason for a harder stand
now. Perhaps. Some GAPENA members are even calling for the resignation
of the Education Minister. No point in reading too much into that.
Moving on. what should the ministry, in particular the Education
Minister do ?. Some say a decision will only be revealed after the
UMNO election in March. The minister as we know is vying for a vice
presidency slot. But that's merely speculative. The fact is it's no
easy decision. Reversing it would mean, at least in the eyes of the
government, a step back. To continue would mean prolonging the wrath
of not only GAPENA but other groups as well including the Chinese and
Tamil educationists.

A few weeks ago ntv7 discussed this topic in it's talk show Point of
View. As expected the experts invited to the show gave their views
convincingly. Whether one agrees or disagrees is a different matter.
After all it's their point of view. But when our camera crew went to
town to get the opinion of the man in street, the ordinary Malaysian,
we got comments worth pondering as well.

Those who support the teaching of English say if Malaysians were to
compete with the rest of the world in business and what have you, we
must be proficient in English. Some even want the medium of
instruction in all schools be totally in English. All good views which
must be respected.

But it's time for us to sit back and look at the reason for Dr
Mahathir Mohamad in implementing the policy. The main thing was, he
wanted Malaysians to be proficient in English. The language after all
is the language of the world so to speak. But those against it, then,
argued, if that was the reason then please teach English literature in
schools. Mathematics and Science they said did not give the "right
platform" for English as both subjects were more about "figures,
digits and formulas". The PM then as we know brushed all that aside.

The same argument are being put forth now. Groups representing the
interests of Malays are saying, Malay students are the ones who are
"suffering' the most. They say the Malay students who are finding it
hard to learn Mathematics and Science even when the subjects are
taught in Malay are finding it doubly hard when English is used. This
was said before this is being said now. I don't know if Chinese and
Tamil educators are saying the same for their respective students.

The ministry is saying things have improved. Many students they point
out, are using English In answering Mathematics and Science exam
papers. And giving the right answers too.

To me, for the final decision t be made, it's best that the main
reason for it to be implemented in the first place must be taken in
account. And let's hear what Dr. Mahathir got to say now. Perhaps a
plan worth considering as a way out.

But the last thing we want is, Malaysians, whether they are Malay,
Chinese, Indians, Kadazan etc. who are not good in both mathematics
and science and English. (By MOHSIN ABDULLAH/ MySinchew)
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