Parents know best; the days of government knows best are over

— May Chee
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 29, 2012

SEPT 29 — The first part of the topic above is my belief; the second is espoused by our honourable Prime Minister himself. I mean what I say and I hope he does, too.

The Malaysian New Education Blueprint unveiled recently has promised to depoliticise the education system, vowing equal opportunities for all. Hmmm…I like how it sounds.

Now, I’ve nothing against those who support the MBMMBI. I do understand that our national language is important to us Malaysians, being the medium of communication that unites. In fact, being an advocate of PPSMI does not bring one in direct conflict with MBMMBI. I believe PPSMI can aid the noble aim of MBMMBI.

Though English is the dominant global language, it should not dominate every sphere of our lives. That’s why both PPSMI and MBMMBI can complement each other. We know for a fact that those who want to write for a world audience, e.g. to gain international recognition; need to have their efforts published in English. Though these works have a better chance of being published in their mother tongue in their homeland, but for a global audience, these efforts have to be translated into English.

I can see how for the Arts, e.g. Literature, language is not just a means to communicate content. It, itself, is an essential source of enjoyment and once translated, certain if not most aspects like the sounds, rhythms, images, allusions and evocations of the original can only be approximated and thus, the beauty of these efforts sorely diluted. So, yes, certain aspects of education must be retained in our national language. After all, great authors only write in one language!

However, I do see the need for PPSMI. The fields of the sciences can be rendered more efficient when their knowledge is transmitted in a common language. Those against PPSMI have lamely and “falsely” argued that interest in the sciences have waned because of PPSMI. One can only have one’s interest heightened when one can lay one’s hands on materials pertaining to it. And that, we know, most findings in the sciences are published in English. How can one advance one’s interest and competence in a particular field of science if one has to depend only on works published in Bahasa Malaysia? If one cannot even begin to comprehend the medium in which these works are published in? We know how “potent” knowledge can be when taken out of context, don’t we? Or, is it “impotent” where the sciences are concerned? How can our homegrown bright sparks make a mark in their chosen disciplines if they cannot publish their works in English? By and large, those who stick to their mother tongue except English, of course, have lower ambitions and do less significant work. In this context, I humbly think, we are doing our homegrown Einsteins a great disservice by not giving PPSMI a chance in Malaysia.

Let’s revisit our Education Act of 1996. It says that “the purpose of education is to enable the Malaysian society to have a command of knowledge, skills and values necessary in a world that is highly competitive and globalised, arising from the impact of rapid development in science, technology and information.” Can we be global players or just “Jaguh Kampungs”? PPSMI will enable our very own Malaysian Einsteins to take on the world for PPSMI will render them competitive and globally employable and recognised.

The Education Act of 1996 also reiterates this: “AND WHEREAS it is considered desirable that regard shall be had, so far as is compatible with that policy, with the provision of efficient instruction and with the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.”

If PPSMI has failed certain sectors of the population, I can only say its implementation left much to be desired. That’s definitely not efficient instruction. We have to train our teachers a lot, lot better. Since 2003, some RM5 billion has been allocated and spent in the implementation of PPSMI. Abandoning it now, surely would mean RM5 billion of public expenditure down the drain! And what about our rights as parents to educate our children according to our wishes?

PAGE has done their homework. A majority of parents, both in the rural and urban areas, would like to have PPSMI continued. Now PAGE is not asking for PPSMI to be implemented nationally. Datin Noor Asimah, chairman of PAGE, recognises the fact that not one size fits all. So, for PPSMI to be implemented in certain schools, according to the wishes of the majority of the parents there, is plain democratic, realistic and what’s more, rather do-able. For the minister to say that having 2 different streams for the teaching of Mathematics and Science is confusing, is akin to saying. “Malas-lah!” Hey, Mr Minister, our children are everything to us. What about yours, to you? (Where are they studying, by the way?)

The New Education Blueprint does not set out to politicise education, so it says. Good, I’m counting on that. I’m hoping that the 11 shifts do not shift our focus away from education per se and the 3 waves, do not wave our concerns away. As parents, we want what’s best for our children’s future and that includes a relevant and effective education that will equip them to compete in today’s challenging world. So, we are telling you now, the powers-that-be, it’s our right to choose how our children should be educated. Since English is the working language of the day, globally, we would like our children to be educated in the English language, especially when it comes to Mathematics and Science.

The New Education Blueprint vows that equal opportunities will be given to all. Fair, wonderful, even. Since many ministers’ children are educated in international schools with English as the medium of instruction, Mr Minister, please reintroduce schools, using English as the medium of instruction. We are not asking for all schools. Let the parents decide. Please do not allow principals to rig decisions concerning the choice of the parents. I know, for sure, in a particular premier school, the parents said “aye” to PPSMI, but the principal went to the education department and said, “nay”!

You know what’s my beef with education in Malaysia, today? It discriminates! How the policy makers know so well that an education in the English medium, gives an advantage to their children who are not in national schools, yet they deny the masses from one. Young parents wanting to give their children the best they can, work day and night, to enable their children to go to international schools. What does this say about their quality of life? Worst still, it’s always the poor who will lose out. This, I deplore!

How can education not be politicised when it’s politicians helming the ministry? How dare you lie into our faces when you say there will be equal opportunities for all when your own children don’t go to national schools? Have you forgotten we parents have the right to determine the kind of education we want for our kids? Or what we want or need don’t matter to you? Do our votes matter?

In case you forgot, Mr Education Minister, the days when the government knows best are over. Now, we parents know best. We always, have.

Thank you and God bless.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 1:53 am

    ///Mr Minister, please reintroduce schools, using English as the medium of instruction.///

    I wonder if Perkasa and other BN right-wingers would allow that.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 7:21 am

    Since umno B was formed…the government knows only how to steal our money.
    All Malaysians have to tolerate under a choice…no good strong Opposition..with the exception of DAP where Lim Kit Siang main functions was exposing corruptions…bravely with no fear.
    Out came keDAILan under Anwar…and the 12th GE is the starting where Malaysians have a choice.
    If the present government recognized…respected to know best for country and Malaysians….Najib will not delay the 13th GE for so long.
    Najib knows too well…..vast majority Malaysian parents do not trust him and his leadership.
    You can write a long string of reasons why.
    Imagine…an ex PM can lie 14 times..being questioned for 1/2 hour.
    What do you think the parents will do?
    I say most parents will vote for new leaders…and these parents know best for their children’s futures.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 7:32 am

    Thousands of parents are getting home tuition for their children….not because the children are not smart….but because so many teachers are simply not qualified to teach…..year in year out for decades.
    These are mostly umno B voters….cannot sack..cannot be replaced…all the votes are valuable to Najib.
    Some idiots became HM….just because he/she is a Malay…and that’s how the Govt. have been governing all along.
    When you have a racists government…the best is for one race….yet that race of theirs…reject the bad leadership by their cheating…lying..stealing..killing examples.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 7:58 am

    The principal reason why English schools was taken out in 1970s is that the National Language needs to be given primacy and not competed, in terms of usage/fluency by it. That this needs to be so is because the UMNO in line with Malay nationalists and Linguists need to define, shape and establish national identity and culture for all based on the culture of majority race, of which language is transmitter. For so long as this policy is held inviolate based on Ketuanan imperatives – and cannot be compromised- English cannot be given official space even if its international lingua franca and produce Einsteins. Homegrown Einsteins are desired (for national pride) but if to produce them derogates pride of UMNO apparachiks in national language then Homegrown Einsteins will have to be sacrificed and be forgone, whatever lip service paid otherwise. To say that English should be reinstated not for its own sake but to improve Science and Mathematics (PPSMI) is double think and double talk to try reinstate English use via backdoor via Science and Mathematics justifications so as not hurt the feelings of those who support Ketuanan and whose political support is deemed imperative for the ruling party! No less the double talk that national language will forge national unity when from 1970s till now, it is contentious that we are more united than divided! Which shows that every side is using an outward extraneous justification for a real hidden agenda undeclared.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 8:00 am

    That PSSMI is precisely double think is because it is trite that if one is not proficient in English medium – and there not enough proficient English teachers inthis regard – how could one learn mathematics/science through such a medium that one is not proficient? All – English, mathematics and science- will suffer! Those who support PSSMI wants to make it a chink in the present Wall/Castle of Resistance against English importance by those who have a vested and political interest in national language being not competed against by English. The fact is if English were recognised policy-wise as necessary for implementation it will not only complement but also so compete – successfully – both in terms of usage as well as symbolical and practical terms with the national language. See what happens if a few English medium schools were re-established? Everyone will compete for children to been enrolled and a quota system will have to be in place to determine who gets the privilege! Privilege it is for that’s why our elites send their children to international schools and abroad that masses could not. To the question – “Can we be global players or just “Jaguh Kampungs”? People in power would prefer they and their children global so as to rule Jaguh Kampungs. Why would they want otherwise?

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 8:12 am

    The most cogent reason to re-establish importance/usage of English is not only to be adaptive to Globalised World but to allow the country to be economically progressive so as to bring wealth to all, especially the majority race, which ironically have been marginalised by the very policy established in the 1970s supposedly to buttress symbolically their political supremacy and enhance their socio-economic well being.

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 8:32 am

    There is a simple way to actually argue for PPSMI – How do you say “NEP is AN ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM, NOT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION” – In English, its pretty simple to understand, I have yet to hear a version in BM that makes it simple – the most important policy in this country and there is no way to put the issue simply the people who need to understand it most…

  8. #8 by yhsiew on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 9:00 am

    “…please reintroduce schools, using English as the medium of instruction”, what saith ye then MCA?

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 11:49 am

    Govt (Paud) says exclusion of PPSMI from Education Blueprint 2013-2025 should not be an issue as the Blueprint has already covered “Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English (MBMMBI) programme”. Now this may not be an issue if part of “Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English” programme is not only to promote English literature (Shakespeare) as what PM said but also to carry on science and mathematics in English, if only to promote greater currency of usage of the language. However it becomes a big self defeating policy if implementation of MBMMB involves coming out with new maths/scientific malay words Iike “segi tiga sama kaki” for isosceles triangle, Oksida (for oxide) fotointesis for photosynthesis and silinder for cylinder, which is more like an attempt to strengthen Bahasa Malaysia than English and even then it is arguable that Bahasa Malaysia is actually strengthened by all these kind of pseudo new terms of weird spelling! And as far English Science/mathematics go, all will suffer further!

  10. #10 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 2:23 pm

    The Experiments undertaken by MOE all these years are essentially based on the Politicians’ intention to make changes to suit their political agenda while hiding under the Western [ mostly US] more open system of more liberal approach of not wanting the students to be hard pressed for REAL results. In the 90s, while attending graduation ceremonies at Sheffield and LSE, it was noted that most of the so=called ‘business oriented subjects’ was ‘dominated’ by non-White graduates. They seemed to prefer the most laid-back subjects like archaeology, Dramas, History etc, Though this should not be interpreted as lack of challenging exercise to the mind; it was interpreted that their society could AFFORD it. In fact, some of the local parents were complaining then that their Universities have had given away too many of those courses to ‘outsiders’.
    Today in spite of massive unemployment, many of those jobs requiring more technical skills go begging for applicants. We too seem very idealistic in trying to match the so-called modern Western perception of things! The issue: Is our current state of affairs ready for such scenario? We all are drawn to conclude that our system will not produce Bill Gates or Steve Jobs but at the same time what happen to the rest of their society? The US hiked up the tariff of steel to prevent imports from China and India, that industry in US is still what it was. The US Government salvaged GM and Ford by ensuring that their workers are paid per day for the same job that the average Chinese and Indian automotive employees would be paid for a month! The GM workers are paid us$52 per hour or $416 per day equivalent to rmb 2,700 or rps 16,000
    Yes the American public will continue to pay by printing more greenbacks. By the way can BNM do the same??

  11. #11 by sotong on Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 6:43 pm

    We are more divided than before……education policies are a total failure.

  12. #12 by Loh on Monday, 1 October 2012 - 10:55 pm

    ///If PPSMI has failed certain sectors of the population, I can only say its implementation left much to be desired. That’s definitely not efficient instruction. We have to train our teachers a lot, lot better. Since 2003, some RM5 billion has been allocated and spent in the implementation of PPSMI. Abandoning it now, surely would mean RM5 billion of public expenditure down the drain! And what about our rights as parents to educate our children according to our wishes?///–the author

    Teachers in Chinese primary schools that I talked to were of the opinion that PPSMI is useless and is a waste of time. Young school children should learn the concept of arithmetic and it is better done with the main medium of instruction. They can certainly introduce English for learning subjects in secondary schools.

    Mahathir introduced PPMSI to harm primary school children. That was why he did it just before he left office.

You must be logged in to post a comment.