Parliament should allow debate in English for one sitting every week to promote the mastery of English by Malaysians as well as overcome the hangover attitude that speaking English is being anti-national or un-Malaysian
by Lim Kit Siang
the call by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday to
Malaysians to master English as proficiency in the language is vital for
success in a globalised world.
What is needed is a quantum leap in the campaign for Malaysians to master the English language, which must involve overcoming the hangover attitude that knowing and speaking the English language was somehow being anti-national and un-Malaysian.
Dramatic efforts must be made to convey the message effectively to all Malaysians that it is in the national interest to enhance the country’s international competitiveness in the era of globalization and information and communications technology for Malaysians to master the English language.
For a start, I propose that Parliament allow debate in English for one sitting every week to promote the mastery of English by Malaysians as well as to overcome the hangover attitude that speaking English is being anti-national or un-Malaysian.
Until the mid-seventies, the Malaysian Parliament used English and Bahasa Malaysia for debates. When Bahasa Malaysia became the compulsory language for parliamentary debate, MPs were allowed to use English for terms or extracts after permission of the Speaker.
Parliament, which meets four days a week from Monday to Thursday, should prescribe one day a week where MPs could use English for debate as of right without having to ask for permission from the Chair. This will give a powerful demonstration effect and send a clear and unequivocal message to all Malaysians of the seriousness and importance of the campaign to get Malaysians of all age groups to master the English language to ensure that the nation can take her rightful place in the international arena – whether the global market place or the world of diplomacy.
The various State Assemblies should follow the example of Parliament, and allow at least one day in every State Assembly meeting where English could be freely used by Assembly members for debate.
In this connection, the government should be level-headed, rational and not go overboard in the campaign to promote the mastery of the English language among Malaysians.
It should be prepared for instance to review the “political formula of 2:4:3” to teach mathematics and science from Std. One in Chinese primary schools when a proper educational formula will give equal regard to the triple objectives in Chinese primary schools, viz: preserve mother-tongue education, raise English proficiency and maintain/uplift the traditional high standards in mathematics and science.
In fact, a level-headed and rational approach to educational issues will warrant a full assessment of the controversial education policy that required Science and Maths to be taught in English from Std. One for all primary schools, whether national, Chinese or Tamil, as to whether this is the most educationally sound route to produce future Nobel Prize winners in mathematics and science for Malaysia!
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor