Wednesday): The country
has been plunged into confusion on the government’s proposal on the use of
English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from next year
following the meeting of
all the 15 Barisan Nasional component parties yesterday on the summons of the
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as illustrated by the
conflicting headlines and news reports in the mass
Utusan Malaysia today carried
the front-page headline “Liong Sik diarah main peranan – Isu BI: Mesyuarat
Khas BN mahu komuniti Cina diberi penjelasan” reporting that Abdullah had
directed the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik to play a
“more serious role” in explaining the issue of the implementation of English
in mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools to the Chinese community,
including Dong Jiao Zong. It said
Abdullah wanted Liong Sik to “immediately meet” Chinese organizations
“which are obstacles to government efforts to implement the new government
Berita Harian ran the
headline: “Elak percanggahan – Nasihat Pak Lah tangani isu bahasa Inggeris”
reporting that Abdullah reminded Barisan Nasional leaders not to make
conflicting statements on the issue of the use of English to teach mathematics
and science, which would only cause confusion, and that any solution must be
sought inside the Barisan Nasional and not through the mass media.
Both the New Straits Times and
The Star carried surprisingly similar front-page headlines on the BN having
reached a consensus, except that the former, if true,
carried a scoop that the
consensus was that mathematics and science would only be taught in English at secondary schools.
Thus the front-page headline
of The Star is “PARTIES AGREE – BN leaders reach consensus on improving
English” but no mention of the nature of the consensus, while The New Straits
Times was more specific with its headline: “BN reaches consensus – Maths,
Science in English: It’s for secondary schools only, say sources”.
The question is whether the 15
Barisan Nasional parties have reached the consensus to revoke the Cabinet
decision of July 19, deciding that English should not be used to teach mathematics
and science in primary schools, whether national, Chinese or Tamil, but only for
secondary schools, or whether the consensus reached by the 15 Barisan Nasional
parties yesterday was that no consensus has yet been achieved?
Malaysiakini yesterday came out with a completely different version when it
reported that Abdullah had asked
the leaders of the Barisan Nasional’s Chinese-based parties to reach a
consensus on the English language issue before reverting to the government with
Be that as it may, two things are clear:
As a result, the whole meaning and purpose of the 45th National Day to be an occasion for all Malaysians, regardless of political affiliation, race, language, religion and culture to reaffirm their unity and one-ness as Malaysian citizens have been seriously jeopardized.
There is still time, however, to turn the situation around and even to transform the “crisis” over the English language issue into an “opportunity” for Malaysian nation-building and national unity.
The 45th National Day ten days away will be historic and unprecedented if an all-party roundtable
conference could be held before it to announce a national consensus on raising
proficiency of English, mathematics and science in primary and secondary
schools as well as the universities.
DAP reiterates its call to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to convene a roundtable conference of all political parties before National Day on August 31 to achieve a national consensus on the best and least divisive way to raise the standards of English, mathematics and science in schools and universities 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.