(Penang, Thursday): It is most regrettable that the government will proceed with its plan to teach mathematics and science in English in Chinese and Tamil primary schools even without Barisan Nasional consensus as clearly indicated by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad yesterday (Malaysiakini) which will mark a fundamental change in the equation of political power in the ruling coalition.
It is equally regrettable that no serious attempt had been made to achieve a national consensus on the best and most effective way to raise English proficiency as well as standards in mathematics and science to enhance Malaysia’s international competitiveness involving all political parties, whether in government or opposition, and the whole gamut of educational, literary, cultural and civil bodies transcending race and language.
Instead of building on the common agreement among Malaysians, whether political parties, educational bodies, literary or cultural organizations on the importance and urgency to raise the English proficiency and standards in mathematics and science in schools and universities, and use it as a basis to build a national consensus to seek out the best way to raise English proficiency and mathematics and science standards in schools and universities, the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, the Director-General of Education, Datuk Abdul Rafei Mamat and other Education Ministry officials have refused to engage in any dialogue, seminar, discussion or explanation on the educational merits and demerits of the specific proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One.
DAP requests for meetings and discussions with Musa and Abdul Rafei solely on the educational aspects of the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese and Tamil primary schools have not received any answer or response.
The government can use threats to invoke its arsenal of draconian laws like the detention-without-trial Internal Security Act and its control and censorship of the mass media to shut off public debate and drive opposition to the proposal underground, but in a democratic society, this is a recipe to alienate the voters and cause national division and not the way to win the hearts and minds of the people.
In a democracy, the government must be prepared for the open argument and debate and the battle of ideas, which separates free from unfree societies.
Although Musa said his
Ministry had done “all the academic
studies that we need, I do not think anyone need to do anymore” about the
proposal, not a single one of these studies had been made public and neither
Musa, Abdul Rafei nor any Education Ministry official has the confidence or
conviction about the educational
soundness of the proposal to venture out of closed-door Barisan Nasional and
government meetings to publicly debate
the proposal solely on its educational merits.
If Musa is so
convinced about the educational merits and soundness of the proposal to
use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One,
why is he afraid or reluctant to have public and even
television forums whether with DAP leaders or other political party
leaders and educationists who have
grave reservations about the educational merits to use English to teach
mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One, although in full
support of efforts to raise proficiency in English, mathematics and science?
Such public forums
will give the Education Minister
the opportunity to demonstrate his
mastery of the subject as well as to expose the ignorance and even
irresponsibility of those who question the merit and soundness of the proposal
– unless he is himself not confident about the case for such a switch of
medium of instruction for Std. One!
So far, the
government has not thrown any light but only generated heat on the issue –
refusing to make public whatever
educational studies and supporting arguments it has for the proposal,
preferring instead to accuse the critics for being “language and
education extremists” (coined by Lim Keng Yaik on Sunday), chauvinists,
anti-English, anti-IT, antediluvian, disloyal and anti-national elements.
This will be
a very sad way to celebrate the 45th National Day in a
fortnight’s time, especially as the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad has suddenly discovered the problem of racial polarization among
students in the universities – a
subject which had been the constant theme of DAP leaders for the past three
DAP calls on
Mahathir to seriously consider convening a roundtable conference of all
political parties and organizations concerned about education to achieve a
national consensus on the best and least divisive way to raise the standards of
English, mathematics and science in schools
based on the common agreement among the full cross-section of the
Malaysian society on the
need for greater proficiency in these subjects.
Let the 45th National Day mark a new beginning
for nation-building in Malaysia, where there is a rediscovered ability on the
part of Malaysian leaders, regardless of party affiliation, race, religion,
language or culture, to build on the common agreements already existing
among Malaysians to reach a new and greater national consensus, instead of
creating greater discord by disregarding such
areas of common agreement among Malaysians.