[lg policy] We missed the bus, says Editor

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Nov 2 11:16:31 EDT 2018

We missed the bus, says Editor
Published on: Friday, November 02, 2018
*Kota Kinabalu:* There is little doubt that Malaysia has missed the
globalisation bus largely due to mistakes in policies and measures
introduced by certain over-zealous Federal leaders beginning from the
post-Tunku era that affected even the younger generation in Sabah, a Forum
on "Wither Globalisation: What's Next?" was told.

Daily Express Chief Editor James Sarda said although the nation has
globalised to a certain extent, by right we should be doing better.

He said this was admitted even by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir in Bangkok
last week who said Malaysia, which was once an Asian Tiger, is now a
half-dead tiger.

However, he said, all hope is not lost. "There is still a chance to catch
up if the new Pakatan Government has the interests of the future
generations in mind by reviewing as well as introducing policies that must
not be subjected to flip-flops later.

James said some of the policies introduced after first Prime Minister Tunku
Abdul Rahman vacated his post were anti-globalisation in nature and singled
out the deliberate downgrading of English as one that had a most profound

James said perhaps these policies were introduced with good intentions but
were contrary to the spirit of acceptance and openness that globalisation

"With globalisation beginning to gain momentum in the way people gained
knowledge, communicated, did trade and interacted with one another on a
global scale, the timing was also wrong for introducing inward-looking

He said it is to the credit of both Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Najib that
corrections were made, first with the PPSMI and the Dual language Policy to
allow at least Science and Maths to be taught in English.

"But instead of seeing the remedial measures through and making
adjustments, what followed were costly flip flops due to indecision," he

"The PPSMI introduced by Dr Mahathir before he stepped down the first time,
was a six-year programme costing the Government RM3 billion in tax payers'
money but it was scrapped with just a year left to go.

"Realising the error, Najib reintroduced it, this time calling it DLP and
leaving it to parents to decide whether their children should study these
subjects in English. But even then there were quarters that tried to deny
the fundamental rights of these parents, saying they should not be allowed
to do so.

"Thankfully, Najib didn't budge and there is evidence that schools under
DLP are now the most sought after by parents.

"So both these men who led Malaysia, even though at each other's throats
now, have agreed on the importance of English as a language of empowerment.

"Both are on record as saying that we do not lose our identity just because
we speak the white man's language."

On the other hand, he said those who favoured an "only Bahasa policy" were
undecided on what to even call the language.

"From Bahasa Kebangsaan it was changed to Bahasa Melayu, then Bahasa Baku
and now Bahasa Malaysia. It was so confusing."

James, a Chevening scholar who has a Masters in Journalism from Cardiff
University, believes that thousands of Malaysian graduates would not be
jobless today if they were fluent in English.

"English is the language that half the world's population speak, including
60 nations in the Commonwealth alone. It is the language which even people
in lands that were not part of the British Empire understand. It is the
language of empowerment because it is the language of contracts and

"Whether we like it or not it is the language of globalisation and yet
these leaders sealed the fate of generations of Malaysians by reducing the
importance of English while quietly sending their children to schools

"From requiring a compulsory Pass in Form Five along with Bahasa Malaysia,
it finally didn't even need a Pass at SPM level.

"Many students could not enter university or dropped out early because
subjects are mostly taught in English, especially the sciences."

James said a better option would have been to uphold Bahasa Malaysia as the
National Language without downgrading English. It should not have been one
at the expense of the other, said James at the event organised by
Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Centre for the Promotion of Knowledge and
Language Learning.

James said there can be no excuse for Malaysians who cherish independence
not to be fluent in Bahasa Malaysia. "English is a borrowed language. We
need Bahasa as our national language, as our sense of identity and

"In today's context it will have to be fluency not just in Bahasa Malaysia
and English but also Mandarin because increasingly the world is witnessing
globalisation with a Chinese face with that nation having made tremendous
strides within just 40 years of opening up.'

He said China was able to achieve this because the State played a direct
role in facilitating it to the extent that they have gone from having
hardly any English-speaking Chinese 40 years ago to now having professors
who lecture in many of the world's best universities.

"I was informed that half the lecturers in Nanyang University and one third
in the National University of Singapore are Chinese. There are also Chinese
lecturers in many other leading universities.

"The transformation was so great because the State played a big part, the
same way that the State played a part in Malaysia in the Seventies but to
detrimental effect."

James also pointed out that Tunku Abdul Rahman in several of his speeches
warned that while Malaysians must uphold Bahasa Malaysia as the national
language, it must not be at the expense of downgrading English.

"Sadly his advice was ignored at great cost," he said, adding that the
Tunku even remarked at an old boy's dinner at the Penang Free School that
he is forever grateful for having had an English education as this was what
prepared him for his role in securing independence for the country and
becoming Prime Minister. - Larry Ralon


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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