The Malaysian Parliament is currently in session. Those interesting in watching these proceedings live can do so here.
First off, a shout out to Kasthuri Patto for asking the Education Minister to answer regarding the Pos Tohoi Orang Asli school tragedy. I will personally admit that I had forgotten that it is now 7 months after and no actions nor any word has been said regarding this.
Now, regarding the Dual Language Programme (DLP) launched by the ministry of education, which allows parents to volunteer their kids into learning subjects in English.
First off, our government has already delayed the implementation for the requirement for an English pass in the Secondary Assessment Certificate exam – that is the translation for what you might know as SPM.
And Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid believes that this delay – along with the implementation of the DLP – is still in line with the Education Blueprint which was hotly debated years before.
“(The DLP) is not a change in language policy, it is in line with the need to improve our English in line with the education blueprint, in line with the Education Act of 1956 as well as other education regulations and does not undermine the Federal Constitution,” he said in Parliament today.
But this was questioned by Datuk Dr Mohd Khairudin Aman Razali (Kuala Nerus) who said it was bringing back an old issue with regards to the earlier implemented (and then undone) Teaching of Mathematics and English in English or PPSMI.
His thoughts were seconded by Mohd Idris Jusi (Batu Pahat) who said there were those who viewed the DLP as “sneaking in PPSMI through the back door”.
“Past research has shown that the PPSMI after a few years of implementation only increased our English assessment by 4 percent,” he said, adding that there was also the fact that “teachers and students were not competent enough”.
Before we go any further, there is utmost respect to Idris being a former teacher for a duration of 8 years in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mahdzir replied that what the ministry has done was to look at the importance of what is needed in the future.
“After 50 years of independence, there are now two groups; one who says that we need English, and another that says we don’t need it,” he said.
However, the minister added that there was an increasing push for better English throughout the region.
“Take China as an example, they are sending their students to improve their English. But whatever the conditions, we will hold on to our language,” he said, adding that the DLP was a “just a programme, and not breaking any set policy nor laws whatsoever”.
Parliament is now in recess till 2:30 PM.
My personal thoughts are that the DLP does not stop students with parents who continue to wish that their kid learns in Bahasa Malaysia. It is, after all, their decision.
Thus, one has to ask, what is the harm and foul in having parents who wish their kids to learn in English get their wish?
Where is the rationale? If you do not agree, you have the choice, if you agree, you have a choice as well.
I personally do not see this as being a measure of who will be a better person in the later years, or as a given advantage in the future of our students’ studies.
But I will point out one fact; a lot of research has shown that being bilingual is good for the human brain. I’m not sure if this extends further if you are a polyglot, but this is scientific fact that even the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has said is worth considering.
At the same time, learning English will grant better access to the curious students out there to understand and read more information that is widely available on the Internet and even in books.
That stupid Japan/France comparison
Now of course, there will be morons who say that foreign nations can do without English therefore we can too. Well, here’s the catch for those who take Japan and France as examples.
Firstly, all published media in those nations are in Japanese or French. They even have translators who take everything online and translate it into their language to make it accessible. This includes research papers, books – both fiction and non-fiction.
So, would Malaysia like to do the same?
Similarly, diplomats and even their politicians speak in their native tongues in foreign events. Thus, is Malaysia willing to do the same by having our ambassadors followed around by a translator at every foreign office?
Would the Opposition be willing to fork out money from their next shadow budget to show how serious they are about this Bahasa Malaysia political fetish of theirs?
Thus, I will side with the government on this one by saying if our students and teachers are incompetent in English, ask for assistance.
And quite honestly, if this call for assistance goes out, then I hope that the NGOs such as PAGE will get together with the NUTP to come up with a plan to make teachers more competent in English, as Idris himself said was lacking.
On the other side, parents need to play a more active role instead of just bickering over how important it is to speak Malay, and look at what English has to offer. Analyse the pros and cons of actually having your sons and daughters speaking a foreign language.
Read up instead of making an emotional decision based on words of a forked tongue politician, and make up your minds.