Archive for category English

Another sign of Malaysia becoming a failed state – Razaleigh says “our civil servants can’t even write a simple letter”

Yesterday, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that a former UMNO leader who claimed Malaysians are embarrassed by their nationality should be cast into the ocean.

Najib cannot be more wrong.

Is Najib saying that Malaysians should preen with pride when they are overseas and berated for being Malaysians as the country has ascended the stratospheric but exclusive club of “global kleptocracy” –castigated by the US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions at a recent international conference as practising “kleptocracy at its worst” in the case of the international multi-billion 1MDB money-laundering scandal? Read the rest of this entry »


This first generation immigrant just got into all eight Ivies

by Harry Shukman
The Tab

Read the essay about learning English that won her a place at every single Ivy

Yesterday Cassandra Hsiao heard the news that she made it into not just one but all eight schools of the Ivy League. With offers to study at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Penn, she now has to choose which world class institution she’ll join in the Class of 2021. A writer, journalist, and one-time rapper (in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda), Cassandra explained how she nailed her applications – and shared her common app essay that helped get her there.

How does it feel to get into every single school in the Ivy League?

I’m still processing it. It’s not something you expect when you open these college messages on your portal. I saw a yes and a yes, a congratulations after a congratulations. It’s totally surreal. It’s still sinking in. I had a moment to myself yesterday where I was just sobbing. I celebrated with my parents. This is quite the honor, to have these fantastic institutions accept me. It’s really something.

Your parents must be super proud.

Oh yeah! They’re over the moon. They’re a huge part of why I was able to accomplish this really. You can’t do it without the support of your parents. They believed in me and encouraged me to follow my passions along with my teachers, my friends, mentors, life mentors, industry mentors – these are the people who I really owe a lot to. God opened a lot of doors for me and put these people in my life who were able to see something in me and nourish me. There’s no way I would have been able to do this without them. This thing is really a group effort. So thanks to all the people in that group.

What did you focus on in your common app essay?

My parents are immigrants – my mom was born in Malaysia, my dad was born in Taiwan. When I was about five we moved here. English is not their strength and it was interesting to me growing up in a house of immigrants, how we interact with language. Words that don’t translate will seep into our own – the way I talk at home is very different from the way I talk outside of home. Sometimes when I was growing up people laughed at me for things I said that sounded completely normal to me but were not to them. So I wrote about that experience.

Read Cassandra’s essay in full Read the rest of this entry »

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Congrats to Abang Johari as the new Sarawak Chief Minister and seven areas of Adenan legacy that should be upheld and fulfilled by both Sarawak state and federal governments

Firstly, let me congratulate Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg on his appointment as the new Sarawak Chief Minister.

He has a tall order to uphold and fulfill the Adenan legacy in at least seven areas viz:

1. Devolution, decentralisation and restoration of powers from Putrajaya to the Sarawak government not only in keeping with Malaysia Agreement 1963 but also in line with universal developments and trends on devolution and decentralisation of powers and jurisdictions.

2. Increase of Sarawak’s oil and gas royalty from the current amount of five per cent to 20 per cent to maximise the benefit Sarawak can get from its resources, whether forests, waterways, environment or minerals especially oil and gas.

3. Restoration of previous Sarawakian and Malaysian proficiency of English. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib Wrong to Blame Malaysians

by Kee Thuan Chye
Yahoo! News
Jan 14, 2014

Prime Minister Najib Razak is wrong to blame Malaysians for the country’s standing in comparison to Japan and South Korea. He says Malaysia is not as developed and economically advanced as those two countries are because Malaysians lack strong will and fighting spirit.

This is bullshit.

He should instead blame his own party, Umno, and its partners in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. If it were not for the New Economic Policy (NEP) and its continued existence to this day, almost a quarter-century past its original termination date of 1990, we would not be in the state we’re in now.

The NEP made us economically less competitive. Investors were reluctant to put money into ventures for which they had to yield 30 per cent share to partners who brought hardly anything to the table.

The NEP triggered a massive brain drain that is now recognised as one of the factors weakening our hopes of becoming an advanced nation. Read the rest of this entry »


Let parents have bigger say in tweaking our half-century old education policy

— BH Toh
The Malay Mail Online
December 29, 2013

DEC 29 — More than fifty years ago, Malaya achieved independence through cooperation among the various races. Native Malays formed the biggest ethnic group. Besides many other smaller indigenous groups, the Chinese and Indians were the second and third largest racial group at time.

Given the highly complex and diverse racial mix with each group speaking mainly their own respective mother tongues without a common language, our leaders at that time must have, after careful and cautious considerations, prudently decided that it is best to accommodate the mother-tongue language demands of the larger racial groups. Chinese and Indian vernacular schools were allowed to continue alongside mainstream schools that were mostly English medium ones legacy of the British era.

Eventually, all those English medium schools became Sekolah Kebangsaan, using our National Language as the main medium of instruction. While these vernacular schools struggled along at times, they managed to survive and some are actually doing quite well today in terms of enrolment. Read the rest of this entry »


After the Good Start, Let’s Do it Right

By Kee Thuan Chye
Penang Monthly (November)

Two months ago, I wrote in this column about the issue of English and asked whether our government would give the language the importance it deserves and get our students to learn it wholeheartedly. Since then, we’ve heard the good news that the Government has decided to make English a must-pass subject at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations from 2016.

This is a good start. At the very least, it sends out the message to students to take the language seriously when at present many of them don’t. The official sanction should also get things rolling and prompt education planners to prepare for the 2016 target. It may be only three years away, but a short deadline can sometimes be as effective as a longer one, if not more so. It’s all about having the will to do it. And speaking of will, students are more likely to find the will to improve their English when they are pushed to do it than when they are led to believe that English is irrelevant to their daily lives or even harmful to their own culture and identity.

Even so, supporters of English are sceptical, and understandably so. Read the rest of this entry »


Don’t Talk Big, Mahathir, You Brought Down Our English

By Kee Thuan Chye
Yahoo! News

Not that I want to knock Mahathir Mohamad, you know, I’ve knocked him so many times before, but I cannot tahan laa when he tries to act innocent and say things should be like this or that now when he never did anything when he was prime minister to do the right things himself. In fact, for some things, he did the opposite.

Take what he now says about our graduates not being able to get jobs because they fail at interviews – because their English is poor. Now, let me ask him, when he was PM, did he do anything to make Malaysian students learn the language seriously other than learning Maths and Science in English? No, he didn’t!

He didn’t have the guts to go one step further and give more emphasis to learning English in schools. He floated the idea of bringing back English-medium schools but that petered out. He was only testing the idea. When it didn’t work, he pulled back, like a tortoise head into its shell.

He didn’t even make passing English at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exam compulsory. In fact, English ceased to be a must-pass subject in 1974, when he was education minister. He said Malay students might fail the whole SPM if English was a must-pass. Instead of spurring them on to master the language so that they would pass it and SPM as well, he gave them the easy way out. After that, succeeding generations of students couldn’t be bothered with English. He was responsible for that mistake. The National Union of Teachers protested, but did he care? Read the rest of this entry »


Why are our English teaching standards so low?

Khairie Hisyam Aliman
The Malay Mail Online
September 16, 2013

SEPT 16 — Recently we heard that out of 60,000 English teachers nationwide, about 70 per cent of them did poorly when sitting for the English Language Cambridge Placement Test.

Last Monday, Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said these English language teachers, classified as “unfit” to teach the subject, had been sent to courses to improve their command of English.

“The ministry will also consider sending them overseas for exchange programmes to take up TESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language) courses,” a news report quoted him as saying, while adding that a good portion of these teachers had enrolled in local English courses.

Well, now talk last year of Malaysia possibly importing English teachers from India is put in a different perspective. But the core of the problem is also brought to light — what’s up with our teacher recruitment process?

While I am all for continuous self-improvement whatever your job title is, these “unfit” teachers have no business teaching English in the first place. If they are unfit to teach English to our kids and have to be trained further to be good enough, how is it that they became English teachers in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »


At Last, the Right Decision on English

By Kee Thuan Chye

One of the brightest things to emerge in these gloomy days is the Education Ministry’s announcement that English will be a must-pass subject at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations from 2016.

This is something that has been a long time coming. English used to be a must-pass subject until it was stopped from being such so long ago that I can’t even remember when. But what resulted after that was a drastic drop in the standard of our competency in that language. Then the ripple effect caused the standard to drop even further as people who were not proficient enough in English came to be trained to teach it in schools. I have heard many horror stories emerging from that situation.

At one time, Malaysia was among the top countries in Asia that were proficient in English. But nowadays, most Malaysians can’t string a sentence together properly and without making grammatical errors. These include English-language teachers themselves – not just those teaching in schools but also those teaching students learning Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL), and even English Literature, in universities. This is embarrassing. Read the rest of this entry »


Decisions makers in Ministry of Education are no-brainers

– Lok Kong
The Malaysian Insider
July 16, 2013

No one would like to belittle the ones who make decisions and policies in the Ministry of Education. But these no-brainers were and still are making bias, useless and stupid decisions/policies.

Anything against their whims and fancies are taboo. They abruptly abolished the English schools left over by the British; they abruptly U-turn to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia in all national schools; they suddenly make 3 subjects compulsory at private tertiary institutions. They are (!) Islamic and Asian Civilization, (2) Ethnic Relations and (3) Malaysian Studies. They must be taught in Bahasa Malaysia just to name a few major ones. All these stupid policies will retard the progress of Malaysia for many years.

Being no-brainers, they cannot cognitively think these policies are bad for the country as a whole generally and the Rakyat in particular. Being no-brainers, they are unable to think of good policies to educate the students to be useful and productive. Being no-brainers they enact policies that cause the huge brain drain in this country. Being no-brainers they eventually doom Malaysia.

Education is the most important for the nation. It takes good education policies to educate the Rakyat in many years. In Chinese culture it has been said that it takes 100 years to educate meaning very long time. How can the PPSMI show results after very short time? It was started in 2003 (Form 1), the first cohort can only graduate with first Degree in 2010 or 2011 and with MBBS in 2013 or 2014. It is very stupid to make 100% U-turn to stop teaching the Science and Mathematics in English and in Bahasa Malaysia instead. This flip-flopping within short time is not acceptable. What is the basis for doing so is best known to them. These no-brainers are nuts. Read the rest of this entry »


Which is which, Datuk Mary Yap?

— BH Toh
The Malaysian Insider
Jun 15, 2013

JUNE 15 — One of the earliest statement made by Datuk Mary Yap upon her appintment as Deputy Education Minister was “I believe that one of my roles at the ministry will be to ensure the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 is well-implemented”

Today, she was reported saying “the shelving of the policy to teach Mathematics and Science in English is only temporary.”

What a puzzling surprise! I do not recall reading or hearing any such statement from PM, DPM, Education Minister or Ministry ever they made the decision to abolish PPSMI. I am very certain because I have been following this issue closely as my son was almost a direct casualty of this decision made in 2009. Just to be extra sure, I even spent the afternoon googling but found zero articles that reported so – nothing from either the online or printed medias.

To top it all, this “temporary” was also not specified anywhere in the Malaysian Education Blueprint!

So, which is which, Datuk Mary? Read the rest of this entry »


16-Day Countdown to 13GE – Najib has become a “kiasu” and “kiasi” Prime Minister, mortally afraid that the most famous political prophecy of RAHMAN in Malaysia will come true with him as the last UMNO/Barisan Nasional Prime Minister!

By 12 midnight in 16 hours time, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would have created double “history” – firstly, first time in nation’s 56-year history, allowing a State Assembly (Negri Sembilan) to be automatically dissolved before Parliament; and secondly, establishing a record of “indecisiveness” as Prime Minister, even putting the fifth Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdullah to shame, while he continues to agonise on when to dissolve Parliament for the 13th General Elections!

There are no signs that Najib would dissolve Parliament before midnight tonight, ahead of the automatic dissolution of the Negri Sembilan State Assembly.

In fact, it now looks likely that another State Assembly, Pahang, will automatically dissolve on Apri 5, 2013 before the dissolution of Parliament.

This raises the question whether Najib will allow six other State Assemblies to be dissolved before the automatic dissolution of Parliament on midnight on 27th April 2013 – namely Johore and Malacca (19th April), Selangor (20th April), Perak, Perlis and Kelantan (26th April).

Already, Najib has chalked up many dubious “records”, including:

*the longest unelected Prime Minister without a mandate from the voters;

*leading an “expired” Cabinet and Government, as the present 12th Parliament is 18 days past its five-year natural life, as it was elected on March 8, 2008; and

*a Prime Minister who has been on election campaigning mode for the longest period in history – four years in a week’s time when it will be the fourth anniversary of Najib’s becoming the sixth Prime Minister on 3rd April 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »


Has Umno helped Malays?

P Gunasegaram
Mar 14, 2013

QUESTION TIME When former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in typical acerbic but unsubstantiated fashion that Malay rights, privileges and its position would be affected if the opposition were returned in Selangor, it begged two other questions.

What did he do for the ordinary Malay during the long 22 years he was in power from 1981 to 2003, and how much was he responsible for the lack of their progress? And to broaden the question further, how much has Umno done for the Malay on the street and in the kampung?

A good starting point to answer the question is to look back at the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the seventies which provided the framework and target for economic redress between the races. The noble twin aims of the policy which few argued with were the eradication of poverty irrespective of race and the elimination of race identification with economic function.

This restructuring was supposed to have come from an increasing economic cake so that no community would feel deprived from the process which would be made over 20 years.

But the reality was different. While there was much effort in equalisation of opportunities initially through the education of Malays and giving them chances for jobs in the government service and the private sector, the policy morphed into one that focused on the equalisation of outcomes instead.

This resulted in drops in educational standards and minimum qualifications to accommodate weaker students instead of helping weaker students to cross existing bars by increased and better tuition. Read the rest of this entry »


With polls this year, whither PPSMI?

– Hussaini Abdul Karim
The Malaysian Insider
Jan 11, 2013

JAN 11 – What has happened to the circular MOE sent to all schools last year recommending a ‘soft landing approach’ allowing all national schools to continue conducting the teaching of mathematics and science in English until 2015?

That decision made by the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Education, I understand, was made to allow all national schools students who started learning those subjects in English to continue until they complete Form Five.

The people welcomed that decision and we thought, BN is more people-friendly than Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) that wanted PPSMI to be abolished immediately. Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS) also do not support the re-instatement of PPSMI but Democratic Action Party (DAP) does and they both support the increase in the content in using English language at national schools to make our students bilingual.

In fact, they also support the learning of foreign languages, including vernacular languages, in national schools.

However, it seems that many, if not most or all, headmasters of national schools in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, have made their own decisions to stop using PPSMI and have instructed their teachers to only teach those subjects in Bahasa Malaysia beginning from the new school term this year.

I understand that many other schools have also switched upon the directive of their respective schools’ headmasters and they are now teaching mathematics and science in Bahasa Malaysia.

Has the circular been cancelled or replaced by a new one or are headmasters now allowed to make their own decisions? Read the rest of this entry »


Desperation in December

by Rom Nain
Jan 6, 2013

Desperation evidently does strange things to God’s creatures, including some already-anxious Malaysian politicians and their minions. And nowhere has this been more obvious than during the recent month of December; a period often hyped as the season of cheer and plenty, but this time around coming across as the season of fear and stupidity.

At least for some.

If pushed for a time frame, I’d say it all began barely a week before Christmas. Perhaps inspired by a previously silent (though certainly not holy) night and the medically recommended seven hours of sleep, not one, but two prominent individuals came up in the mainstream media on Dec 20 with what they must have thought were brilliant suggestions.

The fact that they are both Malaysians linked to BN, however, made many doubt their brilliance. After all, the days of cemerlang, gemilang, terbilang went out the window with the ‘retirement’ of poor Pak Lah (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) and has largely been replaced, since late 2008 at least, by years of temberang.

In any case, on Dec 20, the media widely reported that Johan Jaafar, chairperson of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel (CCPP) had “proposed that all parties send their list of candidates contesting in the 13th general election for vetting by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)”. Read the rest of this entry »


Najib’s proposal to source English teachers from India is “crossing of the Rubicon” marking the failure of the Malaysian education system to reverse declining standards and to prepare the new generation of Malaysians for the challenges of the 21st century

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s proposal in New Delhi yesterday to source English teachers for Malaysian schools from India in a bid to help alleviate the shortage of teachers in English and to improve proficiency of the language in Malaysia marks the crossing of the Rubicon for the Malaysian national education system – as it is a sad admission of the failure of the Malaysian education system over the decades to arrest and reverse declining educational standards and to prepare the new Malaysian generation for the challenges of the 21st century.

In the recent past, Malaysia had been sourcing English-language teachers from the United Kingdom and the United States, ignoring the rich reservoir of available local talents to teach the English language. Now the Prime Minister is proposing to source them from India. Will Malaysia next source English teachers from the African continent?

This is undeniably a grievous psychological blow to the nation which had rightly prided itself as a country with high international standards and attainments in English language when it achieved Merdeka in 1957, and should now be sending Malaysians as English-language teachers all over the world, including India, as one of our precious international assets.

Instead, Malaysia has degenerated to become an importing nation for English-language teachers from foreign countries. What a national shame! Read the rest of this entry »


I do not know whether to laugh or to cry – the standard of English in Malaysia has really fallen to disgraceful and abysmal low after four decades of Umno/BN rule.

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. Read the rest of this entry »


Just teach them in English!

by Azly Rahman
Dec 13, 2012

The refusal to teach Mathematics and Science in English is not just an ideological position but an idiotic one as well.

It is an attempt to self-fulfil a prophecy that the rural children, especially the Malays, cannot be challenged and must continue to be given easy passes through social promotion.

The refusal to acknowledge that English is currently a language of scientific progress, more than Bahasa Melayu, is an example of hypocrisy in dealing with success on the part of our policymakers and Malay language nationalists.

Based on spurious research findings headed by a teacher training university, sanctioned by other public universities, the government has erred in its decision that will not only impact the future of Malaysian children in a continually globalised world, where English is the lingua franca.

And this will open up avenues for the establishment of classes of schools, increasing the demand for the setting up of private schools that will emphasise the English language as a language of instruction and a rigorous curriculum that will prepare students for a competitive world. Read the rest of this entry »


God, comedy and the Umno general assembly

Kee Thuan Chye
The Malaysian Insider
Dec 2, 2012


The Umno general assembly has often come across as reality comedy. Its ‘performers’ unwittingly amuse us with their unintentionally comic turns. This year, they didn’t disappoint.

Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, whose family is embroiled in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal that forced her not to renew her senatorship, says that for the upcoming general election, she is a winnable candidate. God help her.

Indeed, God was invoked on several occasions throughout the general assembly, sometimes for the sake of seeking his help.

President Najib Abdul Razak urged Umno members to pray hard to God in order to win the general election. “Let us pray so that with His blessings, we will continue to be the country’s ruling party,” he said.

The subtext of that smacked of a loss in confidence. Read the rest of this entry »


Education the key to a better Malaysia

— Hussaini Abdul Karim
The Malaysian Insider
Nov 26, 2012

NOV 26 — “Education is the most powerful weapon, we can use it to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela.

The country needs to change for the better and whoever leads the government that will be determined by the results of the coming 13th general election (GE13) must make change happen as soon as possible and not just continue with rhetoric only.

Given the political situation in the country now, and with the “help” of the Internet, regardless of whether it is spreading nuisance or pleasantries, I do not think it is possible for any coalition of political parties, either Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, or individual political parties to win by a two-thirds majority anymore.

Those days are already gone as hinted in the last general election when a political tsunami favouring the opposition happened. In the coming GE13, I think it is more realistic to believe that it will return results such as a simple majority, split votes or even a result that will culminate in a hung Parliament and there will be individuals who contest as independents or candidates who represent smaller political parties in selected constituencies to play the role of “kingmaker” after winning their respective contests in those constituencies.

It is therefore “smart” for all political parties to think about how to handle the many fence-sitters all over the country; their number is perhaps more than the total number of voters with set minds, who will determine the outcome of GE13. Read the rest of this entry »