Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bahasa Melayu versus English? Political Games or real issues?

English or Bahasa Melayu? Which language should Science and Maths be taught in?

About 6 years ago, the government suddenly changed its policy and started teaching Science and Maths in English....and now, 6 years later, people are protesting this and asking that we go back to using Bahasa Melayu..

Interestingly, amongst the groups protesting are the the PKR, PAS...and also aparently the Dong Zong, the Tamil Foundation, SUARAM and civil society groups.

Faisal stressed that the movement was multiracial, saying that the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) had been formally invited into the coalition. Representatives of the Tamil Foundation Malaysia were present at the launch.

The problems of PPSMI

PKR Youth exco Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said that PPSMI compromised constitutional sovereignty.

"This is treachery to the spirit of the Constitution, which affords special status to Malay as the national language," he said.

Nik Nazmi added that the current policy prejudiced students from poorer backgrounds and widened the gap between the middle and lower classes, as those proficient in English tend to live urban areas and are more likely to come from higher-income families. - The Nut Graph, 1/2/2009, Parties join forces to fight PPSMI

GMP telah mendapat sokongan terbaharu daripada Majlis Permuafakatan Persatuan Ibubapa & Guru Nasional (PIBGN) yang mempunyai 8000 persatuan PIBG di seluruh negara. Pihak Suara Rakyat Malaysia(SUARAM) bersama 53 persatuan lain telah turut sama menyokong GMP. Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI (GMP) Website, Bersama Menjayakan Himpunan Aman 100 Ribu Mansuhkan PPSMI - 27/2/2009

What is the history?

It seems that '...The change to medium of instruction in Bahasa Melayu began in 1970 for Standard 1 and by 1983 the whole exercise was completed in tertiary education .Which means we’ve used Bahasa Melayu as medium of instruction for Maths and Science for 32 years..." and the shift in policy, i.e. the teaching of Science and Maths in English started in 2003.

From the Education Ministry website (which as usual has not been updated for some time with regard to this page..), a brief history of the usage of Bahasa Melayu in the Malaysian system of education..
Bahasa Melayu in the System of Education
1957 . Compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools
1970 . Medium of instruction in Standard 1
1975 . All English Primary Schools were converted into National Primary Schools
1976 . Medium of instruction in Form 1
1979 . Medium of instruction in Form VI, arts stream
1980 . Medium of instruction in Year 1 of arts faculty in universities
1981 . Medium of instruction in Form VI, science stream
1982 . Medium of instruction at all levels in schools
1983 . Medium of instruction for all courses in universities
Source: Ministry of Education Website

There must be choices - and maybe compulsory education of subjects in one language may need to be abolished.

Maybe, there must be options available to studying Maths and Science (and other subjects), in Bahasa Melayu or English or Mandarin.

When we slowly stopped the usage of English for teaching of all subjects, save English, from our schools, there was definitely a deterioration in the grasp of that language - and that becomes an impediment, if and when our students wants to further their studies overseas, where English is the medium of instruction.

We must note that Malaysia has also, at the same time, not been very serious in the promotion and usage of Bahasa Melayu at the higher levels. We cannot really find many reference books in Bahasa Melayu in our bookshops and libraries. Look at Thailand - where all kinds of books and magazines are also translated into Thai.

Bahasa Melayu is used by persons in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, .... Malay-Indonesian ranks around sixth or seventh in size among the world's languages. With dialect variations it is spoken by more than 200 million people in the modern states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. It is also an important vernacular in the southern provinces of Thailand, in East Timor and among the Malay people of Australia's Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is understood in parts of the Sulu area of the southern Philippines and traces of it are to be found among people of Malay descent in Sri Lanka, South Africa and other places. Source: Bahasa Indonesia: The Indonesian Language

And another source reveals:

Language list by number of speakers

(Number of speakers in millions, as of midyear 1991; includes native and non-native speakers)
 1. Mandarin (China)  885
2. English 450
3. Hindi 367
4. Spanish 352
5. Russian 294
6. Arabic 202
7. Bengali 187
8. Portuguese 175
9. Malay-Indonesian 145
10. Japanese 126
11. French 122
12. German 118
13. Urdu (India, Pakistan) 94
14. Punjabi (India, Pakistan) 87
15. Korean (Koreas, China) 72
16. Telugu (India) 69
17. Tamil (India, Sri Lanka) 66
18. Marathi (India) 65
19. Cantonese (China,
Hong-Kong) 64
20. Italian 63
21. Wu (China) 63
22. Javanese (Java, Indonesia) 60
23. Vietnamese 59
24. Turkish 56
25. Min (China, Taiwan,
Malaysia) 49
26. Thai 48
Source:- Major Languages of the World
Looking at the facts, it makes sense having a good grasp of Bahasa Melayu

Of course, if we also have a good grasp of English - then it is better still

And, if we have a good grasp of Mandarin, it is even better still...

Good grasp of languages is important when it comes to furthering studies overseas..and for relating/communicating when it comes to business,etc.

Still strong in his convictions that the move to start using English for the teaching of Science and Maths is our former PM - Mahathir Mohammad

The former premier explained that Malaysia cannot any longer offer itself as a cheap labour country.

He explained that with Malaysia's population expected to hit 35 million by 2020, a mass consumer market would make local manufacturing more viable.

"Against this, expect increased and less restricted imports. We must be more competitive and develop skills in hi-tech products and we must pay higher wages.

"The days of low labour costs would have been over before 2020," he said.

He noted that local workers must then be highly qualified and be trained in higher skills. Training of workers must be done at specialised training centres with computer programmes needed to carry it out.

"What all these means is that specialised education and training would become big business. The training centres would also cater for foreign students if we use English as a teaching medium," he said.

But chances are, the local highly trained workers would still cost less than similarly trained workers in the developed countries, which could mean a shift of some middle range hi-tech industries into Malaysia.

He added that although the country's present advantage was still the ability to take instructions in English, there would be a spread of the English language capabilities in China, Vietnam and other competitors.

"I hope the teaching of science and mathematics in English would continue.

"But I am not sure. If the decision is made not to, then the hi-tech industries are going to bypass us," he said. - Bernama, 8/8/2008, Malaysia Needs To Manage And Adjust To Higher Cost Economy, Says Mahathir
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi seems to be non-commital - apparently waiting for the Education Ministry's report...

The issue in these protest is not so much for a decreasing on the emphasis of English mastery - but more the manner in which the promotion of the usage of English is currently done. They seem to be saying teaching the subject of Science and Maths in English is not the way...

On the ground, the problem seems that it is the teachers that are having difficulty teaching in English now. Students seem to be able to cope. Remember, only teachers above 47 years studied Science and Maths in English - the others studied it in Bahasa Melayu - in fact they studied all subjects in Bahasa Melayu, except for English language.

Of course, this 'teething problem' is expected - and it also did happen when suddenly teachers had to teach in Bahasa Melayu.

It takes least 15 years before we will see the emergence of the 1st batch of teachers that also studied Maths and Science in English.

The poor grasp of English by teachers today will also impact the teaching and hence the achievements of students - there will be a drop in performance.

The shifting back to Bahasa Melayu after 6 years will also bring about an adverse effect to students who have been studying Science and Maths in English for the past 6 years.

We need to study this matter - maybe even have a referendum, after providing Malaysians the pros and cons...Let the people decide.

Some of these who are now promoting the reversion back to using Bahasa Melayu in Maths and Science may be doing it just to fulfil some political agenda.

After all, the struggle seem to be a unifying struggle having the capacity of bringing Malaysians from different ethnicities and religious beliefs together.

It is also a good issue that puts UMNO and the BN against the wall, does it not?

But politiscs and political games aside, this is a serious issue and decisions should not be made speedily as it will affect our children and their future.

The biggest victims will be the poor and those from the rural areas - for the rich and the middle class are already resorting to private education institute and extra classes to increase the English language grasp of their children.

It also irks me that many of the proponents of language rights are sometimes hypocrites themselves.

When it comes to their own children, they really do not sent them to the Tamil schools (for the advocates of Tamil education) or Bahasa Melayu schools ... It is all 'politics'...

Even our past Prime Minister Tun Razak - did not want to send his kid to the schools in Pahang, he sent Najib to St Johns - and when it came to secondary education, off went Najib to England...
Najib is the eldest son of Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, and was born in the district of Kuala Lipis in the state of Pahang on 23 July 1953. He received his primary and lower secondary education at one of the leading schools in the country, the St John Institution. He then continued his secondary education at the Malvern Boy’s College, Worcestershire, England. Upon completion of his secondary education, Najib enrolled at the University of Nottingham graduating in 1974 in industrial economics. - Who is Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak?
In fact, I believe that many of our 'leaders' children never get their education fully (from Std 1 to Form 6) in the Malaysian government schools.

They shout about the 'goodness' of the education system in Malaysia - but alas, when it comes to their very own children, what they say is good for all Malaysians certainly seems not good enough for the kids of these political/economic elites of our society.

I am also concerned about the reason why this teaching of Science and Maths in English have today become an issue, after 6 years...

The Education Minister is also wondering...
Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein is puzzled why only now, after six years, is the policy of teaching of Science and Mathematics in English being demonised.
"Why is there a police report six years later... only after six years it (the policy) is being questioned on a constitutional basis, only after six years they have a gathering?" he asked.

Hishammuddin was commenting on the demonstration and handing over of a memorandum protesting against the use of English in the teaching of Science and Mathematics in schools at Istana Negara yesterday.

"This is more so when whatever decisions to be adopted can only be implemented next year with Year One students." - New Straits Times, 8/3/2009,
Why bring up issue 6 years later?
Is it all just politics...and political be 'more Melayu' in wooing the support of Malays?

What is the percentage of Bahasa Melayu usage in our education system - I believe that it is used for all subjects save English, Maths and Science - so, talking about it being a violation of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution is rather lame..

Persons have the right to prootest peaceful assembly- and definitely the actions of the police again have to be strongly condemned...

Police came down hard on some 8,000 people taking part in a protest march from Masjid Negara to Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.


ppsmi march 070309 crowd.jpgThey cordoned off the road leading to the palace, firing rounds of tear gas at the crowd as they approached the palace.

The march was organised by the coalition against the teaching of science and maths in English (GMP).

GMP, known in its Malay name as Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI, is a coalition of 14 NGOs. Some of its pro-tem committee members include opposition politicians. - Malaysiakini, 8/3/2009, Language march: Tear gas fired


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