Malaysia: Another viewpoint

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Mar 29 22:08:44 UTC 2009

Another viewpoint

I REFER to Daniel Azmi’s “Let it be English” (StarEducation, March
15). The writer states: “I cannot understand why people would want to
stop the teaching of Science and Maths in English.” The reason is
simple — time. Time is limited, so one has to make the best use of it
to achieve goals.
To learn a language really well takes many hours of study and effort.
If a country’s goal is to have a population which is united and has a
strong identity, a one-language policy is imperative.

I would like to point out that all developed countries had a single
language policy until recently. In these countries, the choice to
learn a second language is usually made by the individual and not the
government. The United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, and New
Zealand achieved economic progress because of their one-language
policy. Italy, France, Germany and Japan are not English-speaking
countries, but achieved social and economic prosperity by favouring
one-language policies.

Interestingly, these countries started to decline when they became
more lenient towards embracing a second language in schools and using
it in the workplace. The aim of any country should be not to learn
another country’s language but to make other countries want to learn
its language.
In Malaysia, we would expect the language spoken by all its citizens
to be Bahasa Malaysia (BM). Since this is the case, I believe leaders
should put more trust in the ability of BM to move the nation forward.

There is no reason why academic texts cannot be translated into BM —
translation is an excellent way to compare and generate new ideas. The
enthusiasm with which children learn can be channelled to mastering
one language in depth, rather than studying several languages
Parents who want their children to learn another language can send
them for private tuition, or on study tours to the country where the
language is spoken as the mother tongue.

If planned appropriately, this solution would be cheaper and yield
better results in the long term. Globalisation heralds individuality.
It is wrong to think that to succeed in a globalised world, one needs
to know how to do different things. Rather, the degree of success in
the future is dictated by how well a person can analyse, define,
identify, carry out, realise and draw conclusions. All these are
skills acquired by studying a language in depth.
Malaysia is now at a crossroads where it must decide whether it is
more useful to create a nation of amateurs or professionals. If the
latter is the aim, then a one-language policy should be pursued.

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