Questionable measures taken to improve the standard of English amongst Malaysian schoolchildren

by Mrs. Sheela R

Dear Mr. Lim,

The government has promised concrete measures in improving the standard of English taught to Malaysian schoolchildren, with the demise of the PPSMI. (“Teaching of maths and science in English”) .

As a mother of three schoolgoing children, I have serious misgivings that the government is sincere in its endeavour.

To illustrate further, I would like to produce an extract from a Year 4 primary school English textbook used in Singapore (which incidentally was used by my son in his Malaysian school as a supplementary text, at the equivalent grade level):

“Archeologists use certain ‘clues’ on the surface of the ground to search for the remains of the past. These include mounds, depressions or ancient buildings. On land and under the sea, remains of human civilisations were often buried in layers of mud, dirt and over the years, these have become embedded in rocks. Erosion by wind and rain can sometimes uncover ancient objects- pottery, flint, bones, tools or even coins.”

Now contrast this with the English literature component recommended for secondary schools (Form 1) for the forthcoming year.

A picture book (stylised after graphic novels) based on an oversimplified version of a Sherlock Holmes mystery novel. Questions which are featured at the end/throughout each chapter are rudimentary at best. I reproduce below a question, verbatim:

What job do they do?Use the job titles below to complete the sentences.

police officer detective doctor

a) Sherlock Holmes is a_______________

b)Dr Watson is a medical _________________

c) Inspector Lestrade is a ___________________

Another “literary” text incorporates the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. My twelve year old boy tells me that fairy tales of this ilk were explored at the pre-school level! Fairy tales in the genre of “Puss in boots”, “Snow White” and the like are hardly age-appropriate reading material for secondary school children.

Has the standard of English in our Malaysian schools deteriorated to such an alarming level that the mandated texts for our secondary school children fall way below the level of primary school textbooks used in Singapore? Shoudn’t our Malaysian texts at the very least offer topics of interest, that commensurate with the age and mental capacity of our children?

With standards such as these, how can our children be expected to compete globally in time?

  1. #1 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 12:41 am

    Tsk! tsk! tsk!


    Sob! sob! sob!


    But Muhyiddin said that our standards this year have improved (by leaps and bounds!). With a Minister like this, anybody can pass (Remember: AirAsia – anybody can fly?)

    With a Minister like Muhyiddin, of course, Malaysia Boleh! Malaysian schools produce students probably with the most number of A’s in the world!

    Who cares if the students can’t read and write? As long as the MOE gives them A’s and they are accepted on a reciprocal basis with other countries, that’s good enough for MOE. (Remember: There is already a precedent: Malaysian astronauts are taxi passengers! But who knows? Who cares about quality?)

    Mrs. Sheela R. – sigh! If there is even a whisker of hope in MOE, I would have offered them to you.


  2. #2 by monsterball on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 12:54 am

    The Govt. need to cover up by lowering the standards of schooling. It is a cover up of their dirty race politics that have hundreds of thousand Malays depending on UMNO B for a living….no matter how bad they are in studies…not a problem…UMNO B will help all.
    The more idiots produced by the dirty politics…….the better.
    Yes…it is blatant act of lowering educational standards to make sure minorities can go elsewhere for schooling …it does not matter. The more minorities get their children into private schools…the better..and then they will come out with another idea…how unpatriotic minorities are..not supporting local schools.
    Leave it the the UMNO B guys to twist and turn and have their own race stay backwards…that guarantees UMNO BN will rule forever.

  3. #3 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 12:59 am

    It is a sad, sad situation. It is not the English language per se. Anyone can goreng the English language. As long as you know English mah. Anyone can get A + yet do not know the language. Unless you want it to be professional in which case should be taught by a professional English teacher.Not just any Tom, Dic, Harie and me. It is also about Western stories or fairytales which many people have grown up with. Kids 40 years ago know about Snow White and the other fairy tales. Now it is like reclaiming back those lost years and the secondary students have to read about it. Lost years because of other subjects which take priority like Melayu language, Islam teachings and others. So kids today do not know Snow White the way you all know. Then you want to do business. You talk about Disneyland. How to do business with Disney if your kids do not know much about Disney ? How to promote reading English books if there is no Sherlock Holmes and this story is not a kiddies’ story. Sherlock Holmes is a detective. Basic, simple English which is supposed to have been mastered in primary schools. Kids have no problem if their parents are English literate and practise speaking English. Some parents know English but because of patriotism refuse to speak English. Some kids do not have educated parents or have parents of low education. In Malaysia, the problem with pride and blind patriotism creates an education system whereby it deprives kids of the best. Education should make one know more. Education should not make one know less. If one knows less, what is the point of going to school ? What is the point of getting a hundred A but does not know what is going on ? Anyway, somebody is trying but of course it just makes people think more. If you know that in the long run, this problem will happen, what must you make it happen then and allow it until you yourself panic and wish to do damage control and repair ?

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 5:25 am

    ///Has the standard of English in our Malaysian schools deteriorated etc…???///- Mrs. Sheela R.

    Such a long sentence, when it could be shortened to just – “Our English teruk meh?”

    Our English is simple & straight-to-the-point. Take for example a simple exclamation. Standard English is “oh my goodness’’ or “oh my god’ (which is arguably blasphemous). Comparing, ours a simple and succinct one syllable “Alamak!” (An appeal to mother is most early of all instincts. At least it’s not blasphemous!)

    Like telling someone off not to speak/write unintelligently – we don’t have to use many words like “You are incoherent! Incoherently incoherent!” when “don’t talk cock lah” will suffice!

    When doubting something said, we don’t have to say, “I don’t think what you said or reasoned is correct or true”. A simple “where got lah?” will do!

    Okay what this type of England. The word “what” passes off as an exclamation mark. Now when writing standard English, one could insert the exclamation “!” but how does stand English as spoken express that exclamation other than by inflection and tone??? Our “teruk” English makes it clear by the additional suffix “what”. Just like “yes lah”, the additional suffix “lah” added to the end of our sentence is to express clearly (without relying just on tone & inflection) an emphasis. This is creative. When declining an invitation offer or gift we don’t have to go through the rigmarole of saying “I would prefer not to come, do or take that, if you don’t mind, thanks by the way”. We just say “Don’t want lah” – sweet simple and to the point!

    When in a difficult spot we don’t have, like English do, say, “We appear to be somewhat in a dilemma or a predicament – we just say “die lah!”. When praising someone for his exceptional ability competence or daring exploits, we just have to say “terror lah”! Instead of advising someone to reverse back pedal or back track his position whether relating top a vehicle or a decision we just say “gostan lah”. Aren’t these succinct and good? Instead of saying “is that correct?”, “yah kah?” will do.

    Ok mah our English with the “lah”, “Kah” and “mah” each playing a unique role to give a nuance of what we feel as we say it. Even English have not thought of such creative and concise usage of suffixes.

    We cut short many words. I go “look see, look see” covers the whole gamut of going on vacation, seeing sights learning and savoring new places and cultures or scouting for business opportunities.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 5:27 am

    Continuing from preceding post:

    More important we remain politically correct. UMNO politics and campaign for Malay majority votes require us not to follow strict standards of “language of continuing economic and socio-cultural dominance” of our ex colonial masters.

    What is more important is our national language. The National Language Act of 1967 was amended in 1971, which made it illegal to question its privileged status.

    So English we can be “chin chai lah”. At least this is for the common people.

    Our ruling or other well to do elites – no problem. They can send their children to Alice or Garden International School or other private colleges. Middle class urban speaking parent can teach their children standard English, buy English books and news papers, and computers where English is main medium. And then there’s the multi million tuition industry to assist.

    The rest of us not so rich, “don’t be so worried-lah”. Our English Ok mah, not so teruk when we can teach the Kwai loh or Mat Salleh a thing or two on brevity creativity and precision in the use of their English.

    After all we have to b realistic, things may not change in this department as long as UMNO reigns – and maybe even after its replacement by Pakatan Rakyat.

    For I don’t remember the PR’s defacto head DSAI (who played a major role in the switch from English to Malay when he was UMNO Education Minister) ever said that if Pakatan Rakyat were to win, there will be a “gostan” back to English being prioritized in the interest of meeting the challenges of Globalisation.

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 7:12 am

    In this country, the issue of language has being used politically to suit these backyard politicians for so long that they are stuck with their sole aim og gaining power at any cost. After so many years, they themselves are stuck with this sloganeering.
    As noted, they will send their children overseas and get what they wanted. They forgot they can’t run away from truth. Someone just sent me a speech by one of the Deputy Minister of Education trying to talk of his concern on the 6,000 years of Malay culture and customs. He used words of is own creation. He didnot even bother to assess his audience.
    One thing they tend to forget, after so many years of sloganeering, they themselves will believe in what they have been selling as roadside medicinemen. Students are given As based on lowered standards; just to make everyone happy and proud. To all concerned parents, I know this won’t help those at the bottom of the ladder, but to those who could make it. Spend time with your children when they are in the primary schools, you have no choice at the moment. Spend time to allow them to brush up their languages and maths. Build that foundation and they don’t have to be deeply affected by the typical-national-school mentality environment to meet challenges and progress of today’s world. It is observed that most students do well when the environment itself provides the stimulant such as competition among their peers. Based on that perception, over the last 30 years or so, many of the more reputable schools in the urban locations have had been filled up with students from a single community; they forgot the bricks and walls of the schools could not do much to change the environment; it is the competition among the students that makes the difference and that provides the stimulation. If text books from our neighbour proves advantageous, use them.
    Our system will only emphasize subjects for political objectives. Like making their version of history compulsary! Yes, even in UK, they realize that their A-level may not be necessary a good indicator and their top universities have gone about setting their own standards or entry. The current attempt to brainwash children on their poltical agenda will only gather the majority of Malaysians into this little corner of the world where they hope and pray that the ever changing world will not affect them as long as they have the rambutan and durian trees to provide them the shelter they need. But believe it, it won’t be long when they too will ask the very question we are addressing at the moment!

  7. #7 by lee wee tak_ on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 7:34 am

    holy smokes! if anything the reverse should be the case, the primary 4 should be form 1 material and vice versa

    command of language is the key to learning. the stronger the vocabulary the faster the mind absorb lessons and knowledge, interprete facts and provide one’s own argument

    bloody hell, with this kind of language level, no one we have such politicians running the country…between Mister Lee’s observation and Najib’s denial, I know who I agree with

    I believe people who can excel, should be allowed to excel somehow. We cannot have a curiculum to fit all – lumping those who have better command of languages in mostly urban areas, with those less fortunate, mostly in rural areas.

    however, it is a damning indictment of the progress we have made, and a lost of national treasure (general population’s command of English) under more than 50 years of communal politics.

    perhaps for parents and children with means and ambition to progress, they should pursue further curriculum on their own – the government should give greater tax rebates and preferential tax treatment to book stores for example…but time wasted in absorbing these lessons in classroom are considered time wasted.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 7:56 am

    My nephews and nieces finished with those fairy tales in pre-school (kindergarden)! Form 1? My nephew in Singapore is doing Shakespeare (not that is something to crow about actually – I rather he read Animal Farm or Frankenstein although Julius Ceasar and Much Ado about Nothing is not bad).

  9. #9 by k1980 on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 8:09 am

    Sample SPM English Language Paper 1 question for 2011—

    Fill in the blanks wih the words given: bags, wool, budak, sheep,

    Baa baa black _____
    Have you any ____?
    Yes sir, yes sir, three ____ full
    One for my tuan,
    One for my puan,
    And one for the little ____
    Crying down the lorong {20 marks}

  10. #10 by k1980 on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 8:51 am

    Moo: You people are always complaining about the low standard of English in schools. So I have decided to set tough-tough questions. Below is a sample of the questions your children will get in next year’s UPSR—-

    The poem below is concerned with darkness and night. Read the poem carefully. Then, in a well-written essay,
    compare and contrast the poem, analyzing the significance of dark or night in it. In your essay, consider
    elements such as point of view, imagery, and structure.

    Acquainted with the Night

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
    I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
    I have outwalked the furthest city light.
    I have looked down the saddest city lane.

    I have passed by the watchman on his beat
    And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
    I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
    When far away an interrupted cry
    Came over houses from another street,

    But not to call me back or say good-by;
    And further still at an unearthly height,
    One luminary clock against the sky
    Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
    I have been one acquainted with the night.

    —Robert Frost

  11. #11 by the reds on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 8:59 am

    I am the product under Malaysia education system. I can write simple English, read simple English, and speak rojak English. Can I compete internationally? No :(

  12. #12 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 9:27 am

    well the company given the contract by the MoE to provide English teachers has quite basic requirements for their English language consultants – a degree like BA plus 3 years teaching experience.
    Now why don’t they pay all those retired/retiring Malaysian teachers of English RM7k per month on say 2-year contracts instead?

    • #13 by PoliticoKat on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 12:23 pm

      @HJ Angus
      “why don’t they pay all those retired/retiring Malaysian teachers of English RM7k per month on say 2-year contracts instead?”

      Malaysia has waited too long. My former English language teacher has already died of old age. The MOE can offer to pay any salary, but Madam Chua will not be teaching any classes again.

      I am sure, there are still some retired teachers left, but we are already reaching the point where these people are already dying old age.

      I will bet you, by the time Malaysia realizes its folly, we will have to hire teachers from England and Australia to teach us English because we don’t even have the memory to teach ourselves.

  13. #14 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 9:47 am

    Re next year’s UPSR’s answer to poser in #10:

    “It must be Robert Frost’s melancholic feelings when he visited Kuala Lumpur more than 40 years ago. (It must be KL because our country has rainy weather). Now feeling lost and lonely, he took a walk along Selangor Padang (present day Dataran Merdeka) to be acquainted with a KL’s night at probably 2 am in the morning! Naturally it had to be there because the “one luminary clock against the sky” was a reference to the clock in secretariat building facing the padang. He dared “outwalked the furthest city light” because then there was no talk of rising crime wave in KL. So he walked in solitariness to maybe as far as Pudu road near Pudu Jail junction, passing the night watchman of the then Pavilion theatre (next to Cathay cinema) when he heard “an interrupted cry came over houses from another street” – likely the seedy belakang mati lane next to present day Sun Complex. Yes Robert Frost had visited Kuala Lumpur in its good ole days that his acquaintance with the night there left him as feeling lost confused and saddened as the time he first came.”

  14. #15 by k1980 on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 10:10 am

    After passing the night watchman of the then Pavilion theatre, Frost was waylaid by a couple of Malaysian cops who forcefully “borrowed” all the money from him.

    After being bashed up by those cops, poor Robert was accosted by a group of mat cemerlangs led by saifool who proceeded to sodo him.

    That’s the reason Robert had never again set foot to KL for the past 40 years.

  15. #16 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 10:14 am

    ///What job do they do? Use the job titles
    below to complete the sentences.

    police officer detective doctor

    a) Sherlock Holmes is a_______________

    b)Dr Watson is a medical _________________

    c) Inspector Lestrade is a ___________________

    This is not the kind of text that I used in Form 1 in mid 1960s. Besides having routine English grammar lessons, our Form 1 English teacher also taught us from the book called “Treasure Island” – an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

    When we prepared for 1119 English examination in Form 5, we used the book called “From tree dwellings to new towns” by Philip Maguire.

  16. #17 by monsterball on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 10:33 am

    Speaarking and tulising England not important in Malayu State.
    Best Bahasa….goody.. best best.
    You no goody Bahasa….why goody England?
    We no care so much England..We sure get jobs in Govt…no best England spaarking and tulisan important.
    Got that ..dongol.
    This is Melayu country….speark little England goody enuf.
    No like…get lost.

  17. #18 by dagen on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 10:49 am

    Poor english and cannot compete globally. No wucking forries mate. Umno is way ahead of us all with its grand masterplan. Import more indons. Yeah, way to go man. And that should more than do the trick. Even better. Get more nigerians in. We will then truly become a nation of labourers and traffickers. Hows dat mate? Good, huh!

    Jib’s got tower-power.
    Jib Jib Boleh!

  18. #19 by Miao on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 11:41 am

    My neighbour is a 33-year-old teacher. One evening she and her two-year-old son were teasing their cats at the backyard of their house.

    For your information, they keep a number of cats but no dogs.

    “Miao… miao… miao… miao… ” The cats were mewing. These sounds drifted into my ears and my mother’s distinctly.

    “Dog! Dog! Dog!” She was teaching her son.

    We didn’t hear any dog barking.

    We find that her Mandarin is not standard at all. I wonder how she joined the teaching profession.

  19. #20 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 11:46 am

    Good morning teacher. It is a flawere. No it is an okid. Salah ! Y salah ? Salah bcos it is not a flawere. Teach Ingeris for flee. yeah dood. 4 flee. Apa lah korang ? Geela ke ? C law. C law. Awak bisa Ingeris. Nemu. Kitak orang Malaysia. yeah ! yeah ! Hey ! What’s going on ?

  20. #21 by Winston on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 1:05 pm

    I think that Wikileaks should do an expose on where our ministers and other rich and well connected beings send their children for schooling.
    It will make very interesting news indeed!

  21. #22 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 1:24 pm

    Re #15 American Poet Robert Frost never set foot to KL for the past 40 years because he died on January 29, 1963 :)

    And k1980, the UPSR’s student in my posting #14 has got to be an “A” student.

    The reason is that being in UPSR there’s no way he could be born 40 years ago to witness and recollect what KL was then.

    So his description of KL was due to what his grandfather told him and the old photo albums of the town then.

    That he could reconstruct the scene shows that he has a vivid imagination – the prime prerequisite in excelling in English literature. That’s why I know he’s an “A” student! :)

  22. #23 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 5:54 pm

    “and the watchman on his beat” is a fiction of today’s Home Minister as cops walking the streets have been replaced with cops who barely walk a mile on duty.

  23. #24 by sotong on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 6:20 pm

    Messy, confusing and chaotic….we have lost the education battle long ago.

  24. #25 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 7:32 pm

    Our english can lah can lah.You understand i also understand ok what.Can understand or not?Can can can.

  25. #26 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 7:36 pm

    I met one with a 2nd Class in English from UKM and she didnot know what is a compound or complex sentence! Ha! Ha! Ha! As I have indicated earlier, once the mind is frozen at a very young age, it will take more than ordinary effort to change it; especially if the mind has been indoctrinated with all ideas with the sole aim of curbing its audacity to raise questions which can be detrimental to the planted OBJECTIVE OF JUST OBEYING WHAT IS DISHED TO YOU! We are at that stage today; hence you find certain sector of the society just refuse to open their mind. You can have the most dedicated teachers but they won’t achieve much when the mind is taught to close itself to all enquiries out of fear of its owb shadow. What more, in the 21st Century, knowledge and information practically change every couple of years. Even the better and more inquisitive society may find itself lost because of the changes and here we have leaders who are bent on preserving their vested interests by misleading their people, a majority of whom is already hooked to their sloganeering for so long!

  26. #27 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 8:53 pm

    So sad !

  27. #28 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 9:21 pm

    if you join a ToastMasters club in Malaysia you can listen to howlers, even from those who are qualified in B. Arts with English as a major.
    One of the appointments is the Grammarian who reports on errors in grammar, wrong words and pronunciation.
    This 40-yo B. Arts who studied overseas proceeded to explain “stuck in a rut” as not making progress as in one’s career to equate “animals in a rut”.
    But I did not want to correct her!

  28. #29 by limkamput on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 10:10 pm

    I think the primary 4 text quoted by Mrs. Sheela here is too difficult for students in Malaysia and also Singapore. I think half of the English teachers in Malaysia may not know all the words quoted. The standard of English in Singapore is generally higher than Malaysia, but it is not as fantastic as most would think. Soon Singapore will be using Mandarin. Of course in Malaysia English would soon be like French to us now. It is a lost cause. I dare say a typical graduate coming from outside the Klang Valley or Penang would probably know not more 100 English words, grammar aside. So please don’t kid ourselves.

  29. #30 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:20 am

    Its not about our student.

    Its about the ability of our teachers.

    Anybody remembers “Things Fall Apart” in Form One 2 generations ago?

  30. #31 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:23 am

    Its not about our students.

    Its about the teaching abilities, standards and qualities of our teachers.

    Anybody remembers “Things Fall Apart” in Form One 2 generations ago?

  31. #32 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:29 am

    P/s. If you think what Ms Sheela R reported is bad, I heard one MBA lecturer in one of our local institutes of higher education also had a fill-in-the blanks questions for his subject’s examinations.

    That MBA degree had a MQA accreditation !!!!

  32. #33 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 7:49 am

    It is a vicious cycle.

    On one hand (beginning from middl 1970s) the educational policy had to be tailored to meet Malay nationalistic aspirations; agenda of Malay linguists or linguistic institutions like Dewan Bahasa or UMNOputras’ Ketuanan benchmarks – hence marginalization of English, negatively viewed as language of British colonialists, despised as the first cause of bringing immigrants to this place.

    Meeting one majority racial sector’s aspirations for recognition and importance of the national language – necessary for votes from UMNO’s constituency -contradicts the practical importance of English as universal linqua franca for commerce, scientific advancement acquisition of knowledge progress in this Global Village in Information Technology Age.

    So English, whilst kept in the backwaters, cannot be entirely jettisoned into oblivion for these practical reasons, realizing which, TDM made tentative steps to reverse the pendulum swing, too far gone against English, by reinstatement of English in teaching of science and mathematics. It ruffles fewer feathers amongst Malay linguists and nationalists. For such a move could be explained away under the pretext of keeping up with technological and scientific progress. (Now even this limited swing back to English has been stemmed).

    Even then the systematic marginalization of English over 40 years has led to even teachers not being proficient in English, let alone their students especially in rural out-backs and smaller towns in which parents equally not proficient in that international linqua franca cannot impart or create the environment for their children to have rudiment grasp of that language as compared to urban middle classes of non Malays.

    This means in a public examination – especially in on that reverses ever so slightly emphasis towards English – the Non Malays are expected to fare and score better than their Malay brethrens leading to an even more unacceptable scenario of Non Malays passing exams with their Malay counterparts failing, widening instead o bridging the gap.

    So it is conceived that English standards should be lowered for all to cater for the latter group, weaker in English to make sure that they at least pass. Which explains much of why the language is taught based on objective test method of “Use the job titles below (police officer detective doctor) to complete the sentences: Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson & Inspector Lestrade are this or that! If Non malays do better, its Ok as long as every one passes by this method of lowering of standards, as everyone is happy!

    In a nut shell this is an affirmative NEP educational policy.

    Affirmative action is an attempt to promote equal opportunity of Malays as target group. It will be recollected that the affirmative action is not confined to economic matters, share quotas, licenses and contracts but also educational opportunities measured in quotas, and knowledge of English .

  33. #34 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 8:01 am

    (Continuing) Affirmative action policy is generally (world wide) instituted in government’s economic, corporate and educational settings to ensure that minority groups within a society are included in all programs and not left out.

    In spite of the fact that affirmative action lowers standards and reduces competiveness and therefore not in sync with the mantra of the Age to maintain competitiveness in today’s globalised environment, the competing socio-economic justification for affirmative action, on the other side of the coin, is that it at least compensates a politically weak minority group in marginalised position due to past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture or to address existing discrimination.

    Our problem is that we use affirmative action policy to help a majority, constitutionally privileged and political enabled group of majority numbers in the country.

    Whilst affirmative actions (whether in economic wealth sharing or educational sector) elsewhere have limited negative effect on the country as a whole – this is because it favours minority groups only who haven’t the political clout to entrench affirmative policies to the extent that it brings down the whole country and also the other fact that the majority group remains competitive in pursuit of standards and excellence – in Malaysia the effect is opposite when affirmative policy/action via NEP in economic and educational areas is aggressively dispensed to and defended by the majority and politically strong group.

    When one’s affirmative policies mollycoddle the majority and lower standards because of the majority (instead of minority), the customary debilitating effects of this affirmative policies/action programmes will hit the fan and engulf the whole nation in declining standards in all fields to hurtle it towards a failed state.

    The fact that the affirmative action has spawned such pervasive vested interests amongst both political and corporate elites as well as their constituencies means the political resistance to the removal of affirmative action policies remains and will remain overwhelming even to a modern day Thomas Jefferson if there were one, let alone Pak Lah or Najib.

    This seals our fate and we cannot get out and extricate ourselves from the down spiraling syndrome of mediocrity right down to failure as time passes.

    The moral of the story is that it is dangerous to talk of how good affirmative policy/action, on balance, is when others assess its beneficent effects based on its application to politically marginalised minority group with minimal bad effects on the whole nation whilst we misapply affirmative policy/action on a politically enabled, constitutionally privileged group of majority numbers with different devastating consequences. It is trite that the bad effects of affirmative action/policies on the competiveness and standards of the nation are contained when applied to minority numbers, with different opposite effects if applied pervasively for the majority population.

  34. #35 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 9:05 am

    ///Anybody remembers “Things Fall Apart” in Form One 2 generations ago?/// -#30.
    What about it?
    I am almost sure that in spite of more proficient English “2 generations ago”
    neither the lierature teachers nor their A students fully grasp the complexities and implications of Chinua Achebe’s famous novel.

    It should be a book at tertiary/ university level in the study of sociology of impact of white man’s Christianity and western culture to Okonkwo’s Nigerian village leading to disintegration of the cultural and social aspects of the Ibo. The rise and subsequent fall & suicide of central character Okonkwo himself is fit and proper subject of a study of psychology at tertiary levels. How could they introduce it for Form 1 students???

    Most likely just read it as entertaining story. Few at Form 1 level would have grasped its embedded messages seen through Achebe’s eyes.

    I am sure Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali will like it – ie. if he understood it.

  35. #36 by k1980 on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 9:45 am

    Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” should be made compulsory reading by all students

  36. #37 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 10:16 am

    “Things Fall Apart”, with its complexities, was standard material for secondary schools in many Commonwealth countries, not only Malaysia.

    Complex it may be with many facets but secondary school students nevertheless were expected to handle it at their level. Just like Shakespeare’s plays which can be studied and handled at all levels.

    If I am not wrong, ‘Things Fall Apart’ was an examination textbook in one of the years.

    See the difference in standards between then and now?

  37. #38 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 10:54 am

    has anyone been to the public libraries in Malaysia?
    It seems our libraries are in a time warp like no changes from the 80s.
    The last time I checked out the library in JB in 2005, it was still user-unfriendly – you cannot access the ordinary reference section without becoming a member – so I gave up on them.
    The libraries in Singapore are open to all but if you are not a member, you cannot borrow material.
    In fact I met another Johorian at the CIQ a few weeks ago. This guy actually parked his car at CIQ and hopped on the bus to get to the library in Woodlands.
    How to compare our library standards?
    It’s like comparing SMRT to LRT in KL!

  38. #39 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 10:59 am

    Considering the poor standards of English, I suggest “Things Fall Apart” may be too complex for students in Malaysia.
    If they read and understand Enid Blyton or Hardy Boys well, we can take some comfort.
    Our TV programs and Astro should increase the channels using English.
    We show too many idiotic programs and too few with good educational material.

  39. #40 by limkamput on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 11:16 am

    Affirmative action in education for majority is of course bad; it lowers the standard of the whole country. But in the case of affirmative action for minorities as practiced in some other countries, I think the measure taken was never to lower the passing marks for the minorities. This is where this wannabe is wrong again. The minorities are graded just like any other students who received no affirmative programme. It is only when for admission to certain universities or courses, the minorities concerned are given lower thresholds for admission. So in realty there is really no sacrifice of standard unlike here.

    The poor standard of education in this country is not just due to lack of English proficiency. In our haste, we may be barking at the wrong tree again. I dare say three quarter of our teachers and university lecturers are half baked in the subjects they teach. If you disagree with me, just make a quick survey; engage in conversation with any teacher and lecturer and test out how much they really know. I have asked in Bahasa Malaysia at least 4 secondary geography teachers to explain how the four seasons happen and NONE was able to do it. I have interviewed law graduates who cannot explain in simple term what are separation of power and the rule of law. I have interviewed accounting graduates who do not know the difference between a balance sheet item and a P&L item. By the way, these are not the exceptions we see in Jay Leno’s Tonite show.

  40. #41 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 11:18 am

    #38, you are darn right Hj on the availability of library facilities in Singapore. You can get the latest books. Even the library at Shah Alam, [I have stopped gpoing there for over a generation gap], it is shame. In this aspect, we are indeed laggards. Talking about Astro, its monopolistic behaviour can be seen in the way they packaged their sales, you just can’t pick a single programme. I don’t think we have the time to watch so many programmes at any time.

  41. #42 by limkamput on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 11:30 am

    So the central issue confronting this country is not just poor English proficiency. We can’t do it properly and professionally in BM either. It is who we are – a group of lousy low esteemed fellows trying to act big and in the process scr*wed everybody up.

  42. #43 by tuahpekkong on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 11:46 am

    The deterioration in the standard of English in our country started in 1970 when the medium of instruction in the then English Primary Schools was gradually switched to the National Language. The rot accelerated after the switch was completed in the early 80s in all secondary schools. The situation is so bad that these days, primary schools students in Singapore speak better English than most of our local University graduates. The Government has taken some steps to arrest the downward spiral in our English standard but most did not hit the right spot. To uplift the standard of English in schools, the language must be made a ‘must pass’ subject in public exams like the SPM but oddly enough, we are trying to make History a ‘must pass’ subject instead. It seems that in Malaysia, decisions are often made based on political considerations. The quality of our teaching staff does not help either. How are we going to improve the level of English when many of the English Language teachers themselves don’t even speak proper English? I think generally speaking, most teachers in Government schools are not up to the mark. Yet, despite the generally declining standard of education in the country, student achievements in public exams seem to indicate otherwise. Do the results actually reflect the true prowess of our students or are just a parody of the truth in order to make people happy?

  43. #44 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:13 pm

    For the record what I did say in #34 was “affirmative action lowers standards and reduces competiveness and therefore not in sync with the mantra of the Age to maintain competitiveness in today’s globalised environment”.

    It was meant in general sense in a competitive environment, the extra help (when other things are equal) given to the target group favoured with affirmative help will, to that extent, constitute a disincentive to this favoured group to exert more or go the extra mile, and hence in that sense not spurring them more in competitiveness.

    No way in my posting have I ever suggested or intended to suggest that affirmative action for minorities as practiced in some other countries involves lowering the passing marks for the minorities. I only said that in Malaysia the affirmative action for the majority (in contrast to minorities in other countries) entails the lowering of passing marks/educational/English standards.

    In other places they don’t lower any marks but all significant merits being equal, the target group is given the extra affirmative edge.

  44. #45 by sotong on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:29 pm

    But….not everything is in the decline, there is a stead or increase use of supernatural knowledge and practices eg. spiritual world , black magic and etc..

  45. #46 by ngahc on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:31 pm

    Why must students passed history instead of English? Are we on the right track?

  46. #47 by ktteokt on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 12:42 pm

    They have MURDERED English the very first day they began stressing importance on Bahasa Malaysia! Our standard in English is down the pits today, yet our leaders still claim we are ahead of others! Malaysia BOLEH (mati lor)!

  47. #48 by Ray on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 2:11 pm

    Bahasa Malusia is NO LONGER useful in this globalised Internet world in any aspect either edu,international trade and forums, public comm,local TV media ,microsoft office …the list goes on………
    Lets revive English as the most significant langauge follows by Mandarin and spanish and lastly Bahasa Malusia

  48. #49 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 2:23 pm

    Remember the case of that sacked Syariah law lecturer at USIM (Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia) in Nilai that was reported in the press about two years ago?

    She failed almost all her students because they were all so bad, of such poor quality.

    She had set very simple, short, straight forward questions in the hope that they can all pass. Despite this gesture, the students still could not meet the grade.

    She was told by her Department, the Dean and the University’s Senate to review and pass them all but she refused. The University overruled her and passed them.

    She complained to the Ministry of Higher Education to no avail.

    I think she was sacked and has now filed a suit against the University and government.

    Such is the calibre of our students these days. (I am speaking generally).

    Sometimes it is not the teacher’s or lecturer’s fault as they have to deal with the very poor quality and standards of the pupils.

    And that’s why tuition centres are flourishing. Some teachers earn more giving tuition.

  49. #50 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 2:45 pm

    just listened to the Bernama program on 2010 Personalities and the lady asked the US Ambassador the question
    “Can you explain “shuttle diplomacy”?”
    I would expect such a question from a new graduate and not someone who should know current affairs.

  50. #51 by limkamput on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 2:46 pm

    You just contradict yourself. If our teachers are so good, why the students need tuition?
    Through the law of randomness, all students can’t be lousy. Every age group should follow the normal bell curve in intelligence and scholarship. Our teachers and lecturers, however, are not random. They are the product of social engineering and that to me is the biggest damage done to education. Now we have nincompoops trying to teach the smart ones. That is not possible. Seriously, you should find out how some of them become teachers, lecturers and associate professors?

  51. #52 by PoliticoKat on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 3:26 pm

    In other words, we can’t depend on the government to provide an education to our children. But then again, we have always known that. This is why private education is such a big business in Malaysia.

    So long as the MOE remains the stepping stone to becoming the prime minister, the Malaysia education system will remain highly politicalized, with each DPM making changes in an attempt to leave his mark.

  52. #53 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 3:40 pm

    It is a fact that there are good teachers. Except that they have to lower their standards to cater to the weak students in class.

    Students and their parents do know who the good teachers are and approach them for tuition. That’s why these good teachers are always in demand and command good fees and they certainly earn more in tuition fees than their official teacher salaries.

    “Every age group should follow the normal bell curve in intelligence and scholarship”. LKP.

    In my University class, the cut off point was 3As at ‘A’ level but every one had higher grades often with a 3.9 or 4 GPA or 44 and 45 at IB. It means a class full of very bright students. A ‘bell curve’ is not applicable in all circumstances.

    I ‘don’t know’ how some of them become teachers, lecturers, associate professors, professors, deans, Vice-chancellors, Ministers etc. Do pray tell me?

  53. #54 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 4:09 pm

    What is ‘Shuttle Diplomacy” she asks.

    Shuttle Diplomacy is letting Rosmah beat you 21-19 at Badminton when you are leading her 19-0 at the Diplomatic Games.

  54. #55 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 4:44 pm

    Haha….good one sheriff
    I hear that is how money changes hands on the golf course too.
    Like allowing big shots to win a “friendly wager”.

  55. #56 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 8:17 pm

    These days, there are all sorts of work books designed so that the students do it every time, memorise them and pass with flying colours. If that is the case, there is no bell curve graph. If that is the case, a bell curve graph will not be the most ideal graph. If that is the case, the graph should just be a straight line right across. So, are the questions too easy ? The same questions that come out year after year after year. Next, can we expect all students to be geniuses ? There are only a handful of inborn geniuses. Most of us are average. Most of our lives are quite normal. Schooling days it is all fun and games. Beaten by teachers and principals. What do we know about what politicians know ? Some come to university still full of fun and games. They don’t care whether they come into lectures using jeans. They rempit when night comes. But somehow they graduate. Some enter the working world still stick to Facebook during office hours, still doing make up during office hours, still spread gossips like little kids. In fact, who bothers so much if the English books are of low standard, the contents are offensive and the teachers are not professional at all ? So you want a change ? Change from the top. Change within you. Without power, you can only do this much. Do you need tuition ? Many reasons. Number 1. You fall asleep in class. Number 2. You don’t even make the first step to ask that teacher concerned. Talk about no communication Number 3. You are barred from approaching the teacher Nombor 4. You just hate that teacher no matter how hard she tries to make you understand. Some teachers are bullied by the students. Who speak for them ?

  56. #57 by limkamput on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 - 9:46 pm

    Well if you have so many “A”s at A-level, I think you should have no problem understanding what i was trying to say. Anyway, i guess no point going further.

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