I really do not know whether to laugh or to cry – the standard of English in Malaysia has really fallen to a disgraceful and abysmal low after four decades of Umno/BN rule.
Last week, Malaysia suffered national and international humiliation when the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study ( TIMSS) 2011 reports were released, as the nation’s ranking in eighth-grade Maths fell from 20th in 2007 to 26th in 2011 while its ranking in Science fell by an even greater margin, from 21st in 2007 to 32nd in 2011. Our average Maths score fell from 474 in 2007 to 440 and our average Science score fell by an even greater degree from 471 in 2007 to 426 in 2011, both far below the international average for both subjects in TIMSS 2011.
What is even worse, Malaysia also suffered the shame of being only one out of 6 countries out of 42 countries participating in the Maths study and 45 countries participating in the Science study to see falls in both our Maths and Science scores and ranking! Most of the other countries either improved their scores and rankings or stayed at their previous levels.
But the poor attainments of our students in maths and science when compared to international student achievements is not the only bane of the Malaysian education system.
Another equally critical area where the Malaysian education system has failed miserably is the English subject, which was poignantly illustrated in the past 24 hours, placing me in the position of not knowing whether to laugh or to cry.
Yesterday, I issued a media statement where I said:
“I wish to apologise to the Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the UMNO/BN leaders that I was elected into the DAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) at the 16th DAP National Congress – and with the highest votes.”
I am really flabbergasted that there are Umno/BN leaders and supporters who took it literally to mean that I had realised the error of my “misconduct” and that I was belatedly admitting that Najib had been right.
It would be unthinkable that such a ludicrous situation in comprehension of the English language could happen in Malaysia 40 years ago!
Recently, we have a Mentri Besar whose comprehension of English is so dismal that he could “invent”" figurative language in English only known to himself – when he talked about “cutting his ears” and “jumping into the river” in Pahang if MCA should lose to DAP in Bentong in the 13 general elections.
Everybody who searched the internet could only find figures of speech like “cutting the nose to spite the face” and “jump into the lake” but no “cutting my ears” or “jumping into the river”!
Of course, Malaysians will not forget about another Mentri Besar who claimed ignorance of English as to justify carrying RM1 million cash to Australia!
Malaysia is a land of multiple crises in good governance and nation-building, including multiple crisis in education.
Let us be serious about education, good governance and nation-building and stop making ourselves an international joke.