Our school children as sacrificial lambs

By Dr Lim Teck Ghee | 1 November 2011

During the past year, there have been three controversies arising from regressive policy decisions of the Ministry of Education which have set our educational system backwards. The three controversies revolve around

  1. The teaching of Science and Mathematics for Fourth Form students in Bahasa Malaysia instead of English

  2. The use of the Interlok book as a compulsory text in the schools

  3. The decision to make history a compulsory subject as well as a pass requirement for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM)

All three – though simmering for some years now – are rapidly coming to a head during the tenure of the Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the Minister of Education.

The controversies are not over minor or insignificant issues in the national education system. They are not sparked off by politicians with an axe to grind or by groups wanting to score points against the minister. They do not relate to narrow communal interests nor are they espoused by extremist organizations having their own agendas.

Rather they are the concern of parents and educators from all communities at grassroots as well as at mainstream society level.

They involve important pedagogical principles and ultimately, they raise the key question of whether the future of our younger generation is being made the sacrificial lamb for narrow political and bureaucratic interests.

Upon their wise resolution will rest the ability of our school children to compete with the rest of the world as well as the knowledge that they receive at school which will shape their adult mindset and values.

PPSMI: Math and Science in English

In the case of the campaign led by the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE), the Minister has not only refused to meet with PAGE leaders but has also stated that providing parents and students the choice to use English “will result in chaos in our educational system”.

There is an unfair attempt to beat down the campaigners and the over 100,000 online supporters by wild claims about the potential negative impact of a policy reversal. In fact, it is the Ministry’s policy decision to insist on Bahasa only that is causing chaos and even worst, condemning students – especially Malay students – to a bleak future in undermining their capacity and ability to progress in an English language-dominated global system.

Interlok: Crude and rude propaganda

In the case of Interlok, the Minister has similarly refused to meet with the campaign organizers led by National Interlok Action Team (NIAT), who have argued that the novel is unfit for use by schools even going by the standards and guidance on compulsory school texts issued by the ministry.

The clear danger that the Interlok book poses in heightening crude racial (and cultural) stereotyping, bias and prejudice and its threat to a harmonious communal understanding among our young has been completely ignored with the decision to proceed with the book as a text for the literature component in the SPM compulsory Bahasa Malaysia language paper.

The book’s biased understanding and unmitigated prejudice against minority races has already legitimized the name-calling of ‘Keling pariah’ and ‘Cina babi’ in our secondary schools, with several cases of bullying ending up not only at the discipline master’s door but in the local police station as well.

The stubborn and unreasonable position of the ministry has left the organizers, NIAT – now joined by over 60 other multiracial civil society organizations – no choice but to take their appeal directly to the rulers, and to intensify and make national the campaign to remove Interlok from the school texts.

History as a tool for brainwashing

With the history syllabus review that is currently taking place, it is not clear whether this is another whitewash and public relations exercise aimed at preserving the ‘ketuanan Melayu’ and Islamic orientation of history teaching or whether the Ministry is seriously embarking on a reform process that will see a balanced and representative history (both Malaysian and world) as the outcome, and with racial and religious bias and prejudice reduced to a minimum, if not eradicated from the syllabus and textbooks.

Meanwhile concerned parents, educators and civil society organizations are not holding their breath, or thinking that the swing of the pendulum back to a liberal, progressive and culturally balanced history education will happen naturally.

Over 10,000 signatories have signed a petition calling for reform of history education and the group, Campaign for a Truly Malaysian History or Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar (KemSMS) has been hard at work preparing and collating scholarly reports and articles for presentation to the authorities and public.

Parochial politician or principled leader

In all of these developments, we have seen vacillation and procrastination by the Minister of Education rather than real and visionary leadership. Instead of ensuring that our national educational system can provide the right kind of educational knowledge and skills, Muhyiddin, and the bureaucratic-academic-political coalition of policy makers advising him and calling the shots, are burdening our school children with language handicaps and distorted views of the world, our society and themselves that will negatively impact the children and the country.

There is still time for the minister to reverse the two already announced policy decisions and to ensure that the history teaching reform process has substance and is not an exercise in futility.

For this to happen he has to reject the guidance from his out-of touch advisers and supporters and take a different tack on the three controversies. He must take heed of the public and professional feedback provided to which the Ministry has turned a deaf ear.

The choice is there for Muhyiddin to seal his reputation as a politician playing up to narrow and parochial interests or as a principled leader who has the best interests of our school children and their parents at heart. All stakeholders need to encourage him to make the right decisions that can help raise the quality of our educational system.

  1. #1 by Godfather on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 11:07 am

    This is the guy who proudly proclaimed he is Malay first and Malaysian second. Of course Najib had no balls to remove him as DPM when the post calls for a fair-minded Malaysian and not a chauvinistic Malay.

    God help the children of Bolehland.

  2. #2 by dagen on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 11:54 am

    That is what we would get if the gobermen, starting with dr mamak, insist on umno-ising every aspect of the our lives and the country.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 12:40 pm

    //..the choice to use English “will result in chaos in our educational system”.//

    Actually not chaos in our educational system. Rather the choice to use English will result in chaos in the zero employability prospects of those mostly rural tongkois (bahtui) who “no fahom Inklish” compared those urban students who can.

  4. #4 by bruno on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 12:45 pm

    Being a Penangnite,I know that as early as the sixties there were many Indonesian and Thai students in Penang.Those studying Chinese would enrol in Han Chiang and English at St. Xaviers Private in Cantoment Rd.Maybe some were at Methodist Boys School (private).

    The fact that English and Mandarin were recognised as important languages decades ago speaks for itself.English has always been accepted as an international language.Nowadays because of China becoming an economic power,Mandarin has been widely accepted as the second international language.Westerners are now letting their children learn Mandarin.

    One day in New York a few friends and myself were having lunch.They were speaking Mandarin.An American man seating at the next table came up and spoke to me in Mandarin.He really embarassed me as he spoke fluent Mandarin.I was English educated and spoke pasar malam Mandarin.He later told me that he was studying Mandarin in Shanghai for five years and is now teaching Mandarin in a university in China for foreign students.

    When are our politicians going to get it that Malay is mainly spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia.They have to have at least the English language and possible Chinese as well.How come we have a brain drain problem.It is because we cannot compete on a level playing field.Our handicap of not being able to communicate in English and a further extent Chinese,put us years behind our competitors or neighbours.

  5. #5 by Thinking Two on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 3:21 pm

    That’s why BN’s children are studying in International Schoool and Abroad.

    Those who elected BN are now dying slowly and surely.

  6. #6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 5:09 pm

    “Parochial politician or principled leader”


    Parochial could be spelt pariahcol, whatever that means.

    Principled is not in UMNO’s dictionary-lah.

  7. #7 by Godfather on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 5:14 pm

    What is puzzling me is that all surveys – Merdeka Center, several bloggers – point overwhelmingly to support for PPSMI, but why is the Moo so dead against it ? Surely he must know that once Mamakthir throws his weight behind PPSMI, which he has done, no one – not even Perkasa – will dare go against the flow. What has the Moo to gain from his seemingly intractable position ?

  8. #8 by monsterball on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 6:39 pm

    The smarter and more open minded out school children are…the harder for UMNO b hypocrites and crooks to fool them.
    It must always be backward….and be controlled with mind control techniques successfully.
    Failure to do so…spells the end of bluffers and cheaters.

  9. #9 by negarawan on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 7:21 pm

    Moohidin is unfit to be education minister. His policies are basically meant to garner votes for UMNO in the rural areas, where UMNO has a better chance due to money politics and lack of information flow. Maths and Science in English is clearly an advantage for students and the country. Otherwise why would MARA schools continue to use English, and why do UMNO ministers send their children to international schools? Moohidin, don’t sacrifice other people’s children so that your own children can thrive. You and UMNO have no respect from many Malaysians.

  10. #10 by rockdaboat on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 9:40 pm

    Our education is like children main masak-masak.

    An expected outcome when the ministry is headed by someone who is only fit to plough the field in his kampung.

  11. #11 by rockdaboat on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 9:40 pm

    education policy

  12. #12 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 10:55 pm

    The main objective of the national educational policy is as clear as daylight: to ensure the Majority of the majority community remains subservient to UMNO being being unable to read anything except Berita Harian, Utusan Melayu, Sinaran etc. by being just efficient in BM, where would theybe able to think harder and louder than others? Even today, just count with your fingers the number of books suitable for Form 6 Bahasa Melayu paper? When I did it, there were hardly any book except Hang Tuah which appeared to be out of favour; that is why, you have Interlock! If you walk into any second hand bookstore, you would most probably gather more English books of sixth form standard quality to read than the whole of Dewan Bahasa! We have spent all the time twittering the national education for political expediency for so long that the majority of to-day’s parents really do not understand how poorly their children have been educated until they try to look for a decent job outside the Gomen service! So churning out As becomes the prime time celebration every March of the year!

  13. #13 by trublumsian on Wednesday, 2 November 2011 - 2:27 am

    ALL in the name of leveling the playing field and if we sink we all sink together. They won’t admit it but they know full well what could have, should have, and would have been for Malaysia after 50 yrs. The minorities are the golden goose and it is a conscious decision to kill it.

  14. #14 by k1980 on Wednesday, 2 November 2011 - 7:52 am

    Many of you are still not aware of the real situation in schools


  15. #15 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 2 November 2011 - 10:04 am

    Well, no 100% of our school children r sacrificial lambs
    There r school children fortunate enuf 2 study in English-medium schools, locally n internationally
    Wonder what kind of school did mooo send d products of his spermy 2

  16. #16 by k1980 on Wednesday, 2 November 2011 - 10:19 am

    //what kind of school did mooo send d products of his spermy 2?//

    Where else do you think the COWs (Club of Obedient Wives) get their daily supply?

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