The threat by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin
Zin yesterday that the government will not hesitate to use the Internal Security
Act (ISA) against “extremists who continue to stoke racial sentiments” to
oppose the proposed use of English to teach science and mathematics in Chinese
schools is most deplorable.
It is the latest in a series of escalation to manufacture an artificial crisis of racial
confrontation over the controversy over the
use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools in Std. One
next year as there are certain
political forces who want to have an excuse to
justify a government crackdown on dissent
another Operation Lalang mass arrests under the ISA when there is no air
of racial tension or confrontation in the country at all.
It is most regrettable that Barisan Nasional leaders have
been increasingly resorting to
extremist rhetorics to give the impression that Malaysia is in the throes
of a grave racial confrontation and crisis – when this is completely
untrue and baseless.
The latest contributor
is the Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr.
Lim Keng Yaik who fully endorsed the warning by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday to “cultural and education extremists”
among Chinese educationists to stop
“playing with fire” or face action!
There is a controversy
over the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in national,
Chinese and Tamil primary schools from Std. One next year – but this is not a
racial issue and there is no racial confrontation over it, as it is not one race
but all races who are upset by the proposal.
All Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese or Indians, are one in their agreement on the urgent need to raise English proficiency to check the rot in the decline of the language created by short-sighted and failed government policies of the past.
are strong disagreements
among all racial groups as to whether
the proposal to teach mathematics and science from Std. One next year is the
best or even the proper way to address this problem.
Although there is widespread disquiet and even opposition
to this proposal in the Malay society, this is not a racial or anti-Chinese
phenomenon –as it is not the Chinese community which is forcing on the Malays
the switch in the medium of instruction for mathematics and science in
the national primary schools. Furthermore, there are also Chinese and non-Malay
students in the national primary schools who will be similarly affected by the
Similarly, the opposition to the use of English to teach
mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools from Std. One is not a racial
or anti-Malay phenomenon as it is not the Malay society already upset about the
switch of medium of instruction in these two subjects in national primary
schools which is forcing this measure on the Chinese primary schools – which
have 60,000 Malay and non-Chinese pupils – but the multi-racial Barisan
Nasional leadership comprising UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, SUPP, MIC, etc.
The same applies to Indians who are upset by the similar
move in Tamil primary schools – not an anti-Malay or anti-Chinese phenomenon,
as the MIC President, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu is leading the campaign for such
a switch of medium of instruction.
There is no racial tension or confrontation in the
controversy over the use of English to teach mathematics and science in
national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools – and no one should try to create
the impression that there is such racial tension or confrontation, especially as
Malaysians are preparing to celebrate the 45th National Day in
less than three weeks.
Malaysians have been urged to participate in the Merdeka
month celebrations so that it could also be a special attraction to woo more
tourists to earn tourist dollars for the country. This is another classic case of the right hand not knowing
what the left hand is doing – as how can tourists be attracted to Malaysia
during the Merdeka month celebrations when other Barisan Nasional leaders are
assiduously trying to create the impression that Malaysia is in the throes of a
racial confrontation and crisis over the English teaching issue, with talk about
racial unrest and use of ISA?
Mahathir said in Ipoh on Sunday that the issue of the use of English in the teaching of mathematics and science should not be politicised as it is not an element of politics but relates to a language for the acquisition of knowledge.
I fully agree that
this is a serious educational issue and I call on him not to clamp down on media
and democratic space for full debate on the educational merits and demerits of
the use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std.
One, whether for national, Chinese or Tamil primary schools.
on bilingual education worldwide in the past three decades have shown that using
a second language as a medium of instruction from too early stages can impede
the development of thinking skills of children resulting in low achievements in mathematics, science and
languages – which are powerful educational arguments against the use of
English to teach mathematics and science from Std. One.
Is the Prime
Minister prepared to allow a full public debate on the educational merits and
demerits of the use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary
schools from Std. One, with the Education Ministry
taking a full part by producing educational
studies, surveys and supporting grounds for such a move?
Malaysia cannot afford another national crisis like the
Operation Lalang crackdown on democracy and human rights – as the immediate
casualty will be Malaysia’s economic recovery resulting from a further erosion
of Malaysia’s international
competitiveness already in a critical
stage in a changed global and regional context following China’s entry into
the WTO, outdistancing South East
Asia as the magnet for foreign direct investments.
Let Malaysia show the world that Malaysian nation-building
on the eve of the 45th National Day is not so fragile and that
Malaysians have the maturity to
debate and decide on issues on how
to enhance Malaysia’s international competitiveness and educational questions
like the use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary
schools from Std.One without plunging the country into a new national crisis of
concocted inter and intra-ethnic tensions.