Monday, June 15

People are so dependent on crutches it's humiliating

I came across this article in Utusan Malaysia on Thursday, 11th June. Yes, people, I do read newspapers. Occasionally. Whenever there's one in front of me, that is. So stop that smirk I see on your face. Yes, you. So, anyway, the article. Feast your eyes.
ARKIB : 11/06/2009 PPSMI wajib dimansuh KUALA LUMPUR 10 Jun - Dasar Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris (PPSMI) wajib dimansuhkan mengikut Islam kerana ia mendatangkan kemudaratan kepada anak bangsa. Pengerusi Sekretariat Himpunan Ulama Rantau Asia (Shura), Abdul Ghani Samsuddin berkata, lebih 800 ulama di negara ini bersetuju bahawa dasar itu wajib dihapuskan secepat mungkin berdasarkan nas-nas naqli serta dalil-dalil agama. Jelasnya, kanak-kanak golongan miskin yang berada di luar bandar kebanyakannya tidak mampu menguasai bahasa Inggeris bagi memahami ilmu sains dan matematik. "Itu jelas satu bentuk kemudaratan. Berdasarkan nas-nas naqli, dinyatakan bahawa sesuatu yang mudarat dan boleh membawa kemudaratan adalah wajib dihapuskan," katanya. Beliau berkata demikian dalam sidang akhbar selepas mengetuai penyerahan memorandum 'Muafakat Ulama Mansuhkan PPSMI' kepada Majlis Raja-Raja Melayu melalui Penyimpan Mohor Besar Raja-Raja, Engku Tan Sri Ibrahim Engku Ngah di pejabat Penyimpan Mohor Besar Raja-Raja di sini hari ini. Memorandum setebal lima muka surat itu mengandungi 11 tuntutan yang didakwa diperakui lebih 40 persatuan ulama dan disokong oleh beberapa persatuan lain. Turut menyertai rombongan itu adalah Presiden Presiden Teras Pengupayaan Melayu (Teras), Mohd. Azmi Abdul Hamid serta Timbalan Pengerusi Gerakan Memansuhkan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris (GMP), Prof, Shaharir Mohamad Zain. Antara tuntutan yang terkandung dalam memorandum itu adalah:
  1. Menolak pelaksanaan PPSMI dalam sistem pendidikan negara.
  2. Mendesak agar tulisan jawi kembali diperkasakan dalam sistem pendidikan negara termasuk menggalakkan urusan rasmi menggunakan tulisan jawi sebagai identiti negara.
  3. Menegaskan kerajaan, khususnya Kementerian Pelajaran tidak boleh berdalih dengan alasan pencapaian Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) atau Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) dijadikan asas bagi meneruskan atau memberhentikan pelaksanaan PPSMI.
Rough translation (coz I'm too lazy to translate the whole bloody thing):
Learning and Teaching Science and Mathematics in English Act (PPSMI), implemented by the government some years ago, MUST (capitalized to emphasize wajib, which means if you don't do this you'll burn in hell) be abolished as it is, get this, harmful toward the nation's youths. The chairman -- excuse me -- chairperson of Sekretariat Himpunan Ulama Rantau Asia (Shura) stated that over 800 ulama (learned, religious men) in Malaysia agreed that the Act should be abolished immediately, following Islamic dictum (nas) and proof (dalil). He explained that most poor children in rural areas cannot master English to effectively learn Maths and Science taught in that language. He went on to say that this is clearly harmful for those children (I'm trying hard to keep this translation unadulterated and to refrain from adding my own comments here. Read on for my comments in additional info). This guy actually led a group of pro-Malay language enthusiasts to submit a 5-page-long memorandum to the Sultanate. Among their demands are:
  1. to reject the implementation of PPSMI
  2. to push for the usage of Jawi (the Arabic lettering format) in writing in the Education System, in official context, and as a national identity.
  3. to tell the government not to use the results of UPSR (Standard 6, end of Primary School), PMR (Form 3, mid Secondary School), or SPM (Form 5, end Secondary School) to decide whether to continue with or to stop PPSMI.
Oh, hey, will you look at that. I actually ended up translating the whole damn thing. For my cousins in Perth and Paris, this proves that I love you guys (feel free to roll your eyes here). The government implemented teaching Science and Mathematics in English a few years back, initially for Primary Schools only, and then followed by Secondary Schools, basically when those Primary School-goers grew up and entered Secondary School (or high school, whatever). Well, the government keeps on implementing new devices every few years or so to torment school goers I'm actually thankful I now belong with the working class. To me, personally, this was a good move. English is an international medium for business, as well as for higher learning. Mandarin and Japanese too, but let's not get that far. Most subjects in universities and colleges are taught in English. Most textbooks for such students are in English. Some of my friends failed their first year Professional Exam in uni because they could barely understand the lectures, and they had trouble understanding the reference books. Of course, having some of the lecturers teaching in a thick Southern Indian accent didn't help one bit. Even I had trouble understanding "Yeeyh Wai Eay Yehl Yuu Arr Ohw Yenn Aiy Sieh (HYALURONIC)". And this is a fact; not kidding. But those who persevered improved, and are now zombies -- er...I mean doctors -- in the Health Ministry. (Caution: Highly scandalous paragraph. Skip if you're the sensitive type) The Malays and other indigenous races of Malaysia are already given a mighty crutch. Article 153 in the Constitution protects our special rights and the benefits that come along with it, be it in education or in business. Seriously, don't go flaming me as a traitor of my own race. I'm not questioning the Article. I'm just saying that we are handed this privilege just by being born Malay, or Kadazan, or Iban, or some other indigenous race. We are given a free boost, a head start if we decide to participate in the competition. Other races have to do it on their own. When someone mentions withdrawing part of the crutch, everyone bitch about, complaining about everything. But if we look at our current situation, how many people actually make full and effective use of the help freely given? (Continue here) Now we have these so-called learned religious men flaunting Islamic teachings to protect another major crutch. They want poor villagers and rural people to stay poor, to deprive them the potential of good, solid education when these children grow up. They want these children to later on fail in education and get cheated on in business endeavors simply because they have difficulty mastering English. Likely, they didn't think about this future issue, just the ones at hand (like condemning whatever move the current government makes). That's why we need visionaries (i.e. evil, faith-deficit guys and gals) to think long-term benefits and consequences of any major decision that would affect the country as a whole. I get where Malay Language activists are coming from. Article 152 in the Constitution states that Malay Language is the national language, and is used for official occasions. This protects the language from being eliminated altogether. But with most subjects being taught in English, Malay Language could become obsolete in later generations. It certainly is headed there. It doesn't matter that the language itself is hardly original, but has a majority of words borrowed from other languages. It doesn't matter that the written language differs greatly from the everyday spoken language. Take my brother for example. He actually wrote 'amik' instead of 'ambil' for 'take'. We usually pronounce it as 'amik' or 'ambik', and rarely use the correct term 'ambil'. Imagine the gut-splitting laugh the whole family had when he showed us the test paper in dismay, generously decorated with red ink throughout the page. Slightly off topic, but bear with me. Malay Language, learned by all school-goers, is one of the glues that hold our nation together. I converse with Chinese and Indian patients in Malay (or using crude sign language and drawings, while jotting down 'Language Barrier' on the clerking sheet). With the so-called educated ones, I converse in Layman English most of the time. Easier for me to communicate, easier for them to understand. Win-win situation. Oh wait. What if everyone becomes educated and can converse well in English? Imagine the horror! Then anyone who's anyone can browse the internet for information of various diseases and can better understand their ailments. Oh the nightmare! Sarcasm aside, in a future where globalization is the in-thing, we cannot afford to lag just because we can't master English. And why can't we master English? Some zealots are complaining that learning in English is harmful toward the nation's youths. We are now all about One Malaysia. The rest of the world has already promoted One World ages ago. (Caution: political sentiment ahead. Skip if you're the sensitive type) Before we reached independence, the British only allowed Primary Education, segregated and taught in each race's native language. They didn't encourage higher education. The communists didn't encourage any education whatsoever. Why? Simple. Knowledge is power. If the locals understand English, they can't be cheated off their rights as human beings. If the locals can get access to higher education, they will band up and fight for their independence. Oh wait. That happened in our country. Our neighboring countries shun us for achieving our independence not with brute strength, the manly way, but with words, like a wuss. Well, we kept the killings at the minimal, yet we got our independence. Because of visionaries (evil, faith-deficit men). We retained more than enough manpower to build the country after gaining independence. (Continue here) These zealots are trying to prevent the youths of our nation from gaining education at its maximum potential. So what makes them different from those oppressive colonialists? Well, I may be exaggerating things a bit, but frankly I don't see the difference. Unless Malay Language is used internationally, by the whole world, stopping teaching learning Science and Mathematics in English because it is harmful to the nation's youths is just maintaining the crutch that will keep our children crippled. People can always say, "We learned in Malay back in the good ol' days, and we're educated. We're doing OK." And they're right. I learned Science and Math in Malay. I'd like to think I did OK. But I'm talking about learning at its fullest potential here. I found the transition from learning in Malay medium to fully English medium in uni seamless because I'm good in English in the first place (not bragging, mind. Just stating a fact). The same can't be said for my friends who weren't so good in that language, although their minds are far brighter than mine. That being said, teachers need to brush up their mastery of English in order for them to teach properly, and to make this move work. They cannot say, "Eh, susahla nak ajar guna Bahasa Inggeris," because that mentality will affect the students under their care. OK. You can start flaming me for the evil, faith-deficit guy that I am. For those of you who made it this far, and think along my train of thoughts, please share this with the whole world.