Saturday, November 5, 2011

English Debacle - Our Very Own Mistakes

As the clock ticks towards the reverting of Maths and Science back to Bahasa Malaysia next year, many groups like PAGE in particular have been asking to have the option of learning in English open even with Muhyiddin Yassin clearly stated that the PPSMI door is closed and final. It is already understood that there have been fears that children who had started to learn under the present mode could suddenly find themselves reverting back in an abrupt manner when they start the new schooling year in January. However, it was mentioned that the reverting would start from those who are starting primary / secondary school for that year. (i.e, those who were born in 2005 or in 1999). And according to Muhyiddin, the last batch of PPSMI are allowed to continue in the PPSMI until they finish secondary school.

However, to move back without a transitioning net can be a little difficult. The main problem is there are not many people who can teach Maths and Science in English. For the last 25 years before its introduction in the early 2000s, it has been carried out in Bahasa Malaysia. There have been assumptions that children, once finished school would proceed directly to local tertiary institutions where similar disciplines with the basics learned in primary / secondary school would be taught in the same medium: Bahasa.

But then, the reality has changed, with the need to communicate with the rest of the world, English has become very important - more important than Bahasa. Just because the overemphasis need of Bahasa for preserving the national identity outweighs the present realities of the world, we have already became handicapped, incapable of addressing the problems faced by everyone, non-Malaysians in particular who come here to communicate with government officials (I notice how annoyed my non-Malaysian colleagues can be when they had to deal with people from the government, e.g the income tax department whom at times can be difficult to understand their problems).

You have to give credit to China, when they realized that once they have been selected to host the Olympic games or they realized that they would be overtaking America and Europe, they waste no time to intensify the need to learn more English than ever, even than their own native Chinese, though there is a need to preserve their national identity. This is also the similar manner of why Singapore is far ahead of us - for they know of the need to face the realities of the world and be well prepared for it.

But what about us? We seem to be going against the reality and moving back to the steps of the dark ages. All in all, we are heading towards the losing end while there is an overzealousness to push for the Bahasa agenda. Technical work, including Information Technology discipline in particular uses English as it is used globally. Are we expecting it to be in Bahasa Malaysia? Try writing a simple program in C++. Does the compiler and language use BM words?

Not at this point. As what a DAP MP said, there has yet to be a global economic value for this language. No.1 is English, second is Chinese.

In fact, it is our very own mistakes and misjudgment that triggers this debacle.

The very first mistake was the switch to Bahasa started in 1974 with Dr. Mahathir was the then Education Minister. It was somewhat a misjudgement in his part as the cost of switching to Bahasa, many children, schoolchildren in particular seem to be in handicap of looking work Somewhat, this effect was only noticed until near to the end of his premiership. His suggestion of having the PPSMI in it merely only plugs the holes that were made by his 1974 decision. Prior to that, Malaysia bragged that they would have people that can speak and command a good level of the language like the British would do before independence. Now, we see it as a downward backward spiral.

The second mistake is actually our own. As parents, our common perception is that our own native tongue is more important than business lingua franca. Some parents shun national schools in favor of moving students to vernacular schools mainly because of the lack of avenue of having resources and time to teach native languages. There is also a misconception and a bias perception of parents taking a cold attitude of Malay teachers when interacting with non-Malay students (this has been seen in national schools). However, this side-effect can only be noticed upon finishing primary school education and transitioning to secondary schools. Mostly, a child who finished primary vernacular would have trouble in BM / English in secondary, which explains the handicap when coping with most subjects, at times resulting in a possible school dropout.

That mindset has to go off.

I do like PPSMI but I feel that PPSMI can take you up to a certain point. The bulk of the language you learn and speak from it are mostly technical in nature, with most some keywords you may come across like "calculus", "chemicals", "reactions" you name it. There's more of the need to know the speaking, pronunciation and grammar in real-life than the lobbying of the thing above.

The one way to start off is to "reverse the paper formats and exchange contact hours". A student would have been able to identify the standard and format of the Bahasa paper vs the English paper, be it in either UPSR, PMR or SPM, whereby the complexity of the former is tougher than the latter. Now how about if the complexity is swapped? In conjunction with that, the number of weekly contact hours of Bahasa in general is more than English with the ratio of either 3 to 2 or 4 to 3 in secondary school levels.

Maybe another way to help is to have the Education ministry go with a partnership with top language centers or the British Council to help sponsor holiday workshops to help children and teachers alike to improve the learning and teaching process of the language.

Comic books is actually one of the alternative materials that gets people to read with interest because it has the graphics that help put the person in reading mode, and the real-life dialogue style written by the writers reflects the naturalistic language that is spoken everywhere. It is actually one way to put into learning faster rather than having children go through study material that can be tedious and dull. 

It's true that I hear the same answer that teachers are not so willing to teach in English because it demands mastery of the language in order to present it. Many teachers are more comfortable, having before it's introduction in 2003 in teaching BM. From here it's "the myth of the lazy native" all over again, lazing around unwilling to move one level above. And there's another mistake that we've been a\making: not willing to think and read.

I also see a possibility of a few ulterior motives of reverting it back. Some teachers and government staff may find themselves embarrassed by people who can speak English on the same level as the foreigners do, such that it can be the metaphor of a master upset by his disciple / servant. Along the way, it's also possible to see that for the sake of the Malay vote. But we failed to understand at what cost incurred at us for those votes?  Politically, it is also said that this is a backstabbing of Muhyiddin at Najib, though I find that motive not really in related to the subject above.

In 1942, Stalin's slogan for Russia was "Not One Step Backwards". Moving one step backwards results in immediately shooting on sight. Students have become victims of the clash between concerned parents and ministry. This means in here, the Education Ministry is moving one step backwards as to make people stupid, unable to think creatively and express freely of what they have in mind. Isn't the controversial UUCA act making people stupid too as well?

I am keen to find out whether if Pakatan Rakyat has people who are well verse with education restructuring to correct the mistakes and holes that BN have created all the time along. Do they have one?

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are welcome to post in any comments that do not trouble readers of the blog.

Providing an ID is recommended. If some reason you wish to use an Anonymous name, please leave a name below your comments. From now on, comments with no names will not be considered for moderation.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...