Malaysia: Bloggers in civilised debate

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Mar 10 16:36:05 UTC 2009

Bloggers in civilised debate
10 Mar 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Unlike Saturday's protest to force the Education
Ministry to drop the use of English in the teaching of Science and
Mathematics (PPSMI), others have chosen to use civil means to handle
the matter. The blogosphere is abuzz in healthy debate over the issue,
with Malaysians taking varied stands and suggesting interesting
solutions. At the same time, bodies concerned with the issue, such as
the Parent Action Group for Education (Page), are also reaching out to
parents and collecting feedback. Page chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul
Rahim said they have written to the parent-teacher associations of
more than 3,000 schools in urban and rural areas. "We've got responses
from 2,000 schools and it is interesting to note that 95 per cent of
them support the PPSMI."

On Saturday's march, she felt that the protesters' action could be
construed as a bid to hold the Education Ministry to ransom. She said
the anti-PPSMI group had been heard and their views duly considered at
the roundtable meetings held by the ministry. "The demonstration is
therefore not only a waste of time but goes against the grain of what
is Malay culture. The virtues of patience and tolerance are what
Malays hold most dear." She said Page supported the PPSMI as it could
prepare the present generation of children for the challenging times
ahead. "We appeal to our nation's decision-makers to leave politics
out of educational policies as that will put our children's future at

In the blogosphere, Rasainthiran. M, posting his views on,
felt that although the PPSMI issue may look like a Malay problem, it
also affected Chinese and Tamil schools. "Differences are many; but it
cannot be denied that English is also the 'scientific' language of the
modern world. The big question is how to implement it effectively," he
said. In another blog, dinomum said all parties (government,
opposition or non-governmental organisations) must stop politicising
the issue. "I am a mother of two and have no qualms about supporting
the continuance of teaching Science and Maths in English. Do you know
that if we ever do a search on the Internet for simple Science or
Maths terminology, the results are overwhelmingly in English rather
than in Bahasa Malaysia?"

Dinomum also said as most other subjects were taught in Bahasa
Malaysia, there was no way the national language would be compromised. admitted looking down on those who were impatient over
PPSMI. "I honestly think those against PPSMI never felt the hardship
of looking up English technical terms in thick heavy dictionaries in
university. How it felt to translate every single word at least three
times into Bahasa Malaysia, and creating a new sentence to understand
a particular technical sentence."

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam suggested that the
government offer the option of using the mother tongue or English in
the teaching of Science and Mathematics in primary schools. "This will
give the people a choice and Bahasa Malaysia will strengthen its
position and become a language of knowledge." He also felt there
should be a stop to street demonstrations as they did not provide a
solution to the issue. Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye urged the
cabinet to allow the PPSMI policy to continue and find means to plug
any loopholes in it. The policy was important in helping the nation
find its own place in the global economy, he added.

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