Saturday, July 11, 2009

Malaysian Education-All Screwd Up Until Truth is Acknowledged

This is what I posted in Farish Noor's posting on Linguistic Nationalism and the Realities of the Global Age We Live In


You said, "advocates of mother-tongue education," and then I was looking forward to reading you demolish these so called advocates. But you did not.

It would seem like when dealing with language, especially, mother tongue, what we all fail to see is the hypocrisy that drives the argument. Even more the lie told by every advocate of mother tongue education as well as those who submit to these advocates and seemingly endorse their argument.

And how come in this sense it is only Malay, Tamil and Chinese that are considered mother tongue when even Mahathir's father would have told you that Tamil was not his mother tongue and yet Mahathir never for once tried to include the teaching in Malayalam for those Malayalee Malaysians? And amongst them are Hindus, Christians as well as Muslims and possibly in almost equal numbers. And what about the Kadazans, Muruts and Ibans? Surely theirs is not Malay as taught in our schools? I forgot, even the Kelantanese would object if one were to suggest that Bahasa Malaysia was their mother tongue. And if I am not mistaken Khir Toyo's mother tongue is Javanese!!

But when an MCA or MIC man was to talk in terms of protecting his mother tongue, somehow that call would appear to sound so sacred that both bureaucrats as well as politicians find themselves unable to dismiss the claim or to tell him to shut up.

Fact is, only in Tamil Nadu in India is Tamil spoken. And even then if I were to go back to the rural village that my ancestors come from the only education I can enroll in at the school nearest to me would be in an English school. Also, right now, all over Tamil Nadu, even the taxi driver would tell you that his kids study in an English School. But, mind you, if the government of India was to force Hindi Education, they'd fail miserably. Many decades ago Tamil Nadu alone stood aloof from the rest of India's transformation to Hindi. and you will see that traveling by train when you cross into Tamil Nadu you suddenly don't see any more signboards in Hindi. It will be English and Tamil.

Anyway, coming back to Malaysia, that same MCA guy who "fights" for vernacular education probably already has his kids in an International school or maybe in some Western country studying in English anyway. And so are the kids of most of our UMNO leaders I would presume.

No sir, it is not for the preservation of language and culture that our race based political leaders, and this includes our Opposition leaders as well, advocate Vernacular schools. Its basically a political icon. Somehow it is supposed to be a reflection of your commitment to your constituents. How can you be a leader of a Chinese or Indian Political party if the only things closest to identifying with your own race is language? As for culture it is shocking for me to see the Chinese leaders trying to suggest that a lot of what they do, wear and eat is Chinese culture. For heaven's sake, Bak Kut Teh, Laksa and Yee Sang are not Chinese as from China. Only Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese know what these are.

And all you need to do to change the minds of all these guys is just to give them a one way ticket to any western country and enough money for them to live a comfortable life, suddenly you will see all their "love" for language and culture go out the window! Mind you amongst immigrant communities in Australia and New Zealand the Malaysian Chinese will refuse to be identified as Chinese lest they be thought of as having come from mainland China. In Malaysia you hardly hear anyone referring to "mainland" China. In Australian and New Zealand Malaysian Chinese most definitely make that distinction. Indeed many would rather that they and their children are referred to as Malaysian. I just got affirmation of that from my daughter!!

But when the political powers shove a language that certainly does not match up to the languages of these other ancient cultures because they can, and also possibly for showing who is boss, and maybe, as a way to undermine any lingual advantage in any other language (well this is how many of us saw it when the changes were introduced in the 1970s), then you can imagine that the new lingual putsch will only be accepted under protest. And very soon they also realised that, like the tortoise does with its shell, going under the cover of "mother tongue" the people found refuge from the thrust of the might of the Malay politicians. And politicians in MCA and MIC found themselves a platform from which they could "lead" their flock.

But despite this, until the early 1980s I would not be too far wrong to say that the people did not make a quick switch. Vernacular schools continued on their downward spiral in admissions. But very soon things started changing. The demographics of the teachers being hired changed. When I was in school, a mission school, the only Malay teachers were the language teachers. You never had Malays teaching the sciences, maths, geography or history or for that matter PE. But this should not have mattered. I have myself hired Malays to teach at post secondary level and they did just as good a job.

Syllabuses started changing. I was talking to a 23 year old the other day and she told me that in Form 2 History, the entire year was spent on studying Islamic History. And of course when the teachers are Malays, there is the added spicing of the aura and awe!

We all started hearing of how after Standard 5 or 6 reasonably good Malay students were taken away to boarding schools. In a mixed classroom the teacher talks about scholarships and residential schools, exciting all the kids. but when the application forms were given out the Chinese and Indian kids saw to their disappointment that they were missed out. And then in Standard 3 or 4 when the Muslim kids started attending agama classes all of a sudden the Chinese and Indian kids find out that their Malay friends would avoid them. And very often they would also tell that it was their Uztaz who would have advised them so.

Then of course you had the uncertainty of gaining tertiary education within Malaysia which saw many of the non-Malays turning to private sector education and qualifications. And then the foreign tertiary institutions got wind of the Senior Middle 3 qualifications which 60 Chinese Private School students were gaining which never got recognised in Malaysia. But in the 1980s, it probably started with their recognition by Professional Institutes in the UK, and soon you could use that for University in foreign countries. Until then these Chinese School students could only go to Hong Kong and to Taiwan. Today you hardly hear of any, becaue they all go off to America and the UK or Australia.

With that opening, that is the ability to continue with further education,Chinese schools prospered. Tamil schools still floundered. But today, I see that Tamil schools in the city rejuvenated and overflowing in admissions. What gives?


I would like to suggest that the education dished out by the National School system as managed and administered by the Ministry of Education has been rejected. Not only that, given the opportunity, they all want to run away from the curriculum of the MOE and the influence of the MOE and the the teaching pool of the MOE. When my friends who are Chinese but English speaking and who cannot read or write Chinese, and every way very much western in their thinking and orientation send their kids to a Chinese School knowing they will not receive any help home, that shows what they think. They all walk.

Until and unless everyone, o.k. anyone from amongst the politicians, BN or opposition, is willing to say it as it is, we will always keep missing the turn we have to take. We will never make the correct decision as the politicians on both sides of the house dare not make the statement that needs to be made lest they be branded betrayers of their own race. That, no politician in Malaysia is brave enough to make. Sorry to say, I just cannot see us getting out of this cess pool that we are in.

Unfortunately we have NGOs for everything. Saving the trees, the environment, religion, the sick, freedom, police, but can anyone direct me to an NGO that is working towards Education for the future of our children in Malaysia?


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