The refusal to teach Mathematics and Science in English is not just an ideological position but an idiotic one as well. It is an attempt to self-fulfil a prophecy that the rural children, especially the Malays, cannot be challenged and must continue to be given easy passes through social promotion. The refusal to acknowledge that English is currently a language of scientific progress, more than Bahasa Melayu, is an example of hypocrisy in dealing with success on the part of our policymakers and Malay language nationalists.
Based on spurious research findings headed by a teacher training university, sanctioned by other public universities, the government has erred in its decision that will not only impact the future of Malaysian children in a continually globalized world, where English is the lingua franca. And this will open up avenues for the establishment of classes of schools, increasing the demand for the setting up of private schools that will emphasise the English language as a language of instruction and a rigorous curriculum that will prepare students for a competitive world.
Sacrificing the future of a generation The premise that Malay children cannot follow instructions in English and therefore not only standards should be lowered and subject matters made easier, but the teaching of Mathematics and Science itself must be reverted to the Malay Language points to this: that Malay children especially are presumed to be losers even before all avenues of success are provided. Because in one study they voiced their concern over their inability to understand instructions, the future of a generation is sacrificed. It is like saying that the more a child says that he/she does not like school, the less the teachers need to work to challenge them.
While children of the privileged in urban areas get first class education through private and international schools or even in high schools abroad and get to master the English Language (so that they can be given places and sponsorship in English-speaking universities abroad), children of the rural poor are left to become victims of policies dictated by research findings that hardy make sense in the realm of educational futurism.
Retired professors , poet laureates, die-hard Malay nationalists who themselves are well-educated in the English language having tasted the successes and given national accolades become incoherent and hypocritical spokespersons to a government policy that will make the myth of the last native a reality. These individuals do not understand changing times; that English is no longer a language of the colonials. The colonies revolted against the colonials through the natives’ mastery of the English language.
‘Strategically denying success to the poor’
These individuals who are against the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English are giving wrong advice to the nation: mastering English does not mean challenging whatever status Bahasa Melayu has been accorded to. The government is strategically denying success to the poor of all races with this language policy reversal. We are creating a nation at risk; incompetent in the language that will give them the chance to pursue their studies in good universities in the English-speaking world.
There is a specific process one needs to follow in order to gain access to Western education; especially in the fields of Science and Mathematics. Many of the critical subjects are taught in English. The multitude of English proficiency tests is evidence that one must understand English for specific purposes (especially in the Mathematics and Sciences) right up to being able to write a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or even doctoral and post-doctoral dissertations in the English language – all these are stages one has to go through.
Especially for entry into American colleges, where English proficiency is given through tests ranging from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (Toefl) to the challenging Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which require consistent polishing of skills not only in English as a language but English taught in the content areas. The government has blundered, big time, succumbing to irrational voices disguised as those who care about the rural poor who are slow to master Mathematics and Science concepts in English.
Who said kampung kids can’t learn?
There are enough success stories of children of the poor of all races coming from the rural areas slogging and struggling hard to master any language and in any subject matter and triumph to become world-class surgeons, engineers, lawyers, academicians, diplomats, musicians and even culinary experts.
Who said kampung kids cannot be challenged academically?
There is enough evidence that if you provide them with dedicated teachers, a nurturing learning environment, a supporting home, a challenging curriculum and constant reminder of “yes, you can” and “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” – children will excel.
Down with those who are out to underestimate the ability of our children to succeed. We must ignore bad advice and demand success for all – urban and rural, bumiputera or non-bumiputera. We must demand a radical restructuring of our schools so that the same standard and support is given to all schools and the commitment to a philosophy that however we want our own children to succeed, we want the children of others to achieve similarly as well. Start early in teaching English. Put an end to any effort to make the myth of the lazy native a reality. We must remove our glass coconut shell.
DR AZLY RAHMAN, who was born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York) doctorate in International Education Development and Master’s degrees in the fields of Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 300 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience spans Malaysia and the United States, over a wide range of subjects from elementary to graduate education. He currently resides in the United States.
Short URL : http://www.freemalaysiakini2.com/?p=59164