[lg policy] Education and the future of Malaysia (fwd)

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Tue Jun 2 20:40:28 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 23 May 2009 16:53:25 -0400
From: Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at gmail.com>
Reply-To: Language Policy List <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
To: lp <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: [lg policy] Education and the future of Malaysia

Education and the future of Malaysia
Headline Opinion  2009-05-23 17:31

I HAVE NEVER really thought as much as I have these last few weeks
about the future of this country. No, it is not the Perak political
tragedy that has occupied my waking hours, important though it might
be. The assault on the established democratic parliamentary principles
and practices bears the hallmark of unabashed, unapologetic and
blatant cynicism, a feature that looks set, I fear, to wreak havoc,
despair and despondency in our national life. I naturally have no wish
to underestimate the damage already done in the short term: the
potential for lingering longer term ill effects has manifested itself
in the loss of public confidence in the government of the day worries
me more.

I believe the future of this country lies in our ability to unite:
national unity without a common identity is an exercise in futility.
In the context of our plural society with a history of decades of
uneasy coexistence, with fears and suspicions as constant companions,
and each community left largely to its own devices, the idea of
national unity through a common identity is difficult enough to
imagine, let alone embracing it wholeheartedly. Present day policies
of the Barisan Nasional government, slanted and distorted as they are
to benefit the Malays, and more particularly UMNOputras, tend to
divide rather than unite us.

I am all for 1Malaysia and will support the idea. It is good as far as
it goes, but it falls far, far short of the conditions necessary to
create a common identity – a sense of Malaysianness. That can only
come about when we see with our own eyes that we have in place
policies of inclusiveness, of justice and equity, of equal opportunity
without barriers. The government has its work cut out if it is really
serious about breathing life into a slogan which will remain lifeless
without fundamental policy changes to reflect today’s concerns about
our country’s future. Najib has to realise that anything less than a
Malaysian Malaysia with all that it implies will be unacceptable.
People will not be short changed on this and on other promises.

As we search for a common identity, we have to admit, better late than
never, that the biggest single impediment to nation building is our
national education system. As long as we continue to allow Chinese and
Indian primary schools to operate, we will never develop a sense of 1
Malaysia. Malay is our national language, and it should be the
language of instruction in all of the country’s primary and secondary

Singapore which, for all practical purposes, is an ethnic Chinese
state does not allow Chinese or Indian primary schools to operate for
very good reasons. Singapore is not known for deciding on something
without a very good reason. I draw comfort from Singapore’s wisdom.
Why then should Malaysian Chinese and Indians continue to insist on
separate schools for their children when we are all trying to create a
united country? We cannot have our cake and eat it: it is a sacrifice
we must all be prepared to make in the larger interests of our
country’s future well-being.

Our cultural heritage is important. As a country we should celebrate
our diversity, and I am not for a moment suggesting that by adopting
Malay as the only language of instruction in all schools, we are
obliterating or submerging our cultural identity.

Language is an important component of our cultural makeup and it is
our duty to promote and encourage all languages. I suggest that both
the Malay and Chinese languages be made compulsory subjects in all our

Specialist language teachers should be trained to the highest
professional standards, and rewarded accordingly. Two language periods
attended by all, one for the teaching of Chinese and the other Malay
must be set aside every day. We have to review the number of subjects
taught in our school system, and limit the maximum number of subject a
student is allowed to offer for exam purposes. Education is not a
numbers game.

We need to look at education beyond its utilitarian value. I believe
if we depoliticise our system of education and address the social,
economic, and political needs of our nation in a rational way, taking
on board the cultural and language concerns of the Chinese and
Indians, we will have a better chance of breaking the racial mould and
achieving national unity.

We have to give careful thought to the question of Malaysian education
with which is bound up the place of Chinese and Indian primary schools
in nation building. The process of looking at what is best for
Malaysia must start now. (By TUNKU ABDUL AZIZ/MySinchew)


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