Saturday, 11 July 2009
Flip Flop Policy
I can't believe this is happening. The government has decided to end the use of English in Science and Math teaching, reverting to the national language as the medium of teaching. This issue has been at the center of debate for some time now but to think that it would actually get through the parliament was the last thing I expected.
When Tun Dr Mahathir called for the teaching of Science and Math in English six years ago, it was in line with one of the nine challenges of Vision 2020 - "to form a progressive science community". It is believed that the people should embrace English as the international language in order to make themselves a competent nation. While there were issues to be addressed, the idea was lauded as a bold move that will benefit the country in the long term.
Unfortunately, some brainless scarecrows in the parliament have just made a stupid decision to undo the previous efforts. The teaching medium of Science and Technology is going to be reverted to the national language in 2012. Supposedly, the achievement of Malaysian students in the subjects has been at a steady decline since English was introduced in 2003. It has therefore prompted the government to make the decision to switch the teaching medium. But if you ask me, it seems more like a desperate political move to regain support from the Malay nationalists.
Our dear MP from Kulim, Zulkifli Noordin, is an example of our diehard nationalist who's relentlessly fought to defend the pride of the national language. Using English in schools is seen as a threat to Bahasa Malaysia, which is the integral part of Malay heritage. Two days ago, he made a comment on his blog, saying, "English proficiency does not guarantee scientific progress". Oh, as if using Bahasa Malaysia as the language of instruction is a better shot.
Our narrow-minded guy didn't just stop there. Instead, he went on bashing Tun Dr Mahathir for the policy, which he claimed deters the students' achievement. He then went on making some sweeping statements.
Quoted from his blog post (translated):
"People in the Philippines are proficient in English, but many landed up only as maids. The Philippines took pride in their peoples' ability to speak English but had only succeeded in exporting many maids, whereas Japan has produced many international award-winning scientists who could not even utter a word of English."
When I first came to Japan, I, too, wondered why the Japanese can be such a progressive nation despite the pathetic level of English. It appears that the Japanese can afford not to master English, although it is the language of knowledge. Japanese academic books can be found easily; newly-published English books are often translated into Japanese within weeks if not days. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, how often do you find academic texts in Bahasa Malaysia? Even the local reference books I used to read weren't reliable.
Looking at the English syllabus in Japanese schools, it's hard to believe that the students here are learning English in much more detail than we do in Malaysia. But I can safely bet that the average Malaysian can understand English better than the Japanese. This is because of we are exposed to the opportunity to actually speak the language instead of learning just the grammar rules. Using English as the medium of instruction was the right move to make. Increasing English lessons in schools will never compensate for the damage that is going to be done by the abolishment of the use of English.
Am I disappointed? No, I'm furious.
If you're curious about what Tun Dr Mahathir has to say, head over to his blog. (The post is in Bahasa Malaysia.)
Five feet seven inches tall. A member of a carbon-based bipedal life form descended from an ape.
He believes the cosmos has grand plans for him but whatever his calling is, it has not yet been revealed to him. So in the meantime, he spends the day working as a software developer, and whatever free time that is left, reading books. He attempted reading the bible a couple of times but could not as much as finish the first chapter of Genesis. He will continue again, one day.
He loves his camera as much as he loves his books. He picked up photography when he was studying in Japan. But now that he has started working, he can no longer spend as much time for photography as he used to. He is making a small amount of side income from his hobby and hopes to spend more time shooting again.
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