The first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in
New York and Washington last year has come
and gone without incident worldwide, but no one can escape
the far-reaching repercussions of the traumatic events last year which
killed over 3,000 innocent lives from over 80 countries.
Malaysia is no exception. I
would trace the following five events
as the result of the post-September
11 new political scenario:
The Barisan Nasional leaders know that the people are not
happy about all these five developments, but they are confident that come
next general election, they could get the voters to support the Barisan Nasional
because their trump card is to tell the people that they have to choose between
the extremist Islamic state proposed by PAS and the “moderate” Islamic State
of UMNO despite all their unhappiness with
regard to various aspect of Barisan Nasional policies.
If the voters in the next general election fall into the Barisan Nasional
into believing that the only choice they have is to choose between the
“extremist” Islamic state of PAS and the “moderate” Islamic state of
UMNO, there is no doubt that they will choose the latter, whatever their
unhappiness over a whole range of Barisan Nasional policies.
But this is a false choice, for Malaysian voters have a third option – to
say “no” both to the PAS
Islamic State and the UMNO Islamic
State and to make clear that while
Malaysians do not want terrorism or any form of extremism to rear its ugly head
in Malaysia, they want the 45-year fundamental constitutional principle that
Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation where Islam is the
official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state to continue to be the
nation-building cornerstone for generations to come.
It is in the light of this 45-year constitutional principle that the DAP has
launched the “Restore freehold status of Chinese education” movement to
instil national consciousness that the status of Chinese mother-tongue education
has undergone drastic changes from the Razak Education Report in 1957, when it
could be construed as having “freehold status”, to the 1961 Education Act
where it was reduced to “TOL” status and the 1996 Education Act where it was
no different from that of “squatters” as they were not given legal recognition or even mentioned.
Claims by Barisan Nasional leaders that Chinese primary schools cannot be closed or “touched” because of clear provisions in the 1996 Education Act is without basis or merit, as I had mentioned during the debate on the bill in Parliament in December 1995.
The time has now come for Phase Two of DAP’s “Restore Freehold Status for
Chinese education” movement to
emphasise the great contribution of multi-lingual
education to successful Malaysian nation-building and for Malaysia to
be a key player of the
international global community.
This should be one outcome of the recent educational controversy over the use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One.
On Tuesday, the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad gave a parliamentary reply to the DAP Secretary-General Kerk Kim Hock, citing four studies which he said supported the government’s policy to use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools.
What is shocking about all these four studies is that they are about the effects of bilingual education and the academic performance of ethnic and linguistic minorities like Greeks and Spanish-speaking Mexicans trying to master English in the United States – which can have no bearing on the performance of Malay students in national primary schools, where Bahasa Malaysia is the mainstream medium of instruction.
I must stress here that there is national consensus among all communities on the urgent need to raise English proficiency in Malaysian schools and universities, but the issue here is whether the right way is by using English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One.
If the four studies on bilingual education and academic performance of language-minority students in the US mentioned by Musa are to be quoted, it is in support of the preservation and development of mother-tongue education, whether Chinese or Tamil primary schools in multi-racial Malaysia and the opposition to the use of English to teach mathematics and science from Std. One for national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
Although the United States is a mainstream English-speaking country, it is a
nation of great ethnic, linguistic,
cultural and religious diversity, with over
80 different mother-tongues of ethnic minorities although 75 per cent of the
language-minority (LM) school-age population are Spanish-speaking, the largest
Musa should have produced studies from countries like China, Russia,Taiwan,
Japan, South Korea, which are power-houses in mathematics and sciences but which
do not use English as the medium of instruction or local studies of Malaysian
students in the different streams of education.
In fact, while the schools in the US have bilingual education for
language-minority students, the Chinese schools in Malaysia are one step ahead
in offering trilingual education.
Before I came to the dinner, I saw a Malaysiakini report quoting Musa as
advocating “bilingual education in the broader sense”.
Musa and the educationists in government seem to be quite confused as to what
is the real objective of introducing the policy to use English to teach
mathematics and science.
At first, they said that the
objective is to raise the standard of English. When it is pointed
out that only limited terms in English are used in mathematics and science,
raising the proficiency in
mathematics and science became the objective.
When it is pointed out that most of the countries which are power-houses
in mathematics and science, topping the world in Mathematics and Science
Olympiads and other international assessments do not use English to teach in
these two subjects, such as China, Russia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, there
is now a third objective – that bilinguals are academically better than
DAP welcomes a full and proper debate on whether Malaysia should adopt a new
policy of bilingual or even trilingual education.
For the past few decades, the
linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity in Malaysia have been
regarded as a “nation-building problem” instead of as a “nation-building
resource” and educational and nation-building policies had been designed to
make such a “problem” disappear based one
one-language, one-culture, one-religion principles.
In an era of globalization, a society that has access to multilingual and
multicultural resources is advantaged in its ability to play an important social
and economic role on the world stage.
The challenge of Malaysian educators and policy-makers is to shape the
evolution of the Malaysian national identity in such a way that the rights of
all citizens, regardless of race, language, culture or religion, are respected,
and the cultural, linguistic and economic resources of the nation are maximized.
The second phase of the “Restore Freehold Status for Chinese education”
should send out the clear and important message that Malaysia’s cultural,
linguistic and intellectual capital will increase dramatically if policy makers
stop seeing culturally and linguistically diverse children as “a problem to be
solved” and instead accord proper recognition to the enormous contribution
multi-lingual children can make not only to the nation but also to the
international global community.