Education is for all, it’s time we think of the bigger picture affecting all children.
MY colleague received a press statement sent by a very high-ranking official of a government department recently. It was personally written in English by the official and sent by WhatsApp to ensure it was speedily delivered.
The only snag was that his command of the language was so horrendous that my colleague had to suggest to him, politely, that he might want to stick to Bahasa Malaysia to ensure accurate reporting on our part. He got the message. A new version was eventually sent.
Then, there are also the vice-chancellors of a few public universities who face the same language problem despite having spent much time in overseas universities to pursue their post-graduate studies.
We have also met Malaysian diplomats who cannot carry out a proper conversation in flawless English and we know some of them even shy away from social functions, which is a shame as this where they can pick up nuggets of information for their intelligence reports.
A few generations, yes, a few generations, are paying the price – unable to speak and write in proper English – because of our education system.
At best, they may have some semblance of communication English, but without the proper foundations in grammar, many are unable to even string a sentence together correctly.
Because English is just a subject, there is hardly any opportunity to use and practise the language on a regular and extensive basis within the school system.
That’s how low we have sunk. Forget about the occasional use of some Latin words to make the language more refined, if not, more classy. Getting through the basics is tough enough.
It is no surprise, therefore, that they really struggle when they reach tertiary level where much of the information is in English.
And even upon graduation, many employers are reluctant to hire them when they cannot function properly in an environment where the working language is English.
Controversial MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar became the butt of every joke on social media when he introduced a hashtag #earthquack for his postings on the earthquake situation in his home state.
Well, we also can see that some of our Chinese politicians, from both sides of the political divide, struggle with English, judging by some of the postings they make on Facebook.
Every now and then, we have reports about bad English in an English examination paper. We have more or less gotten used to the fact that the English in many of our official websites are littered with mistakes.
It doesn’t seem to bother our politicians and decision makers one bit, as they will simply shrug off calls to allow English as a medium of instruction in our education system.
Why should they be worried as many of them are able to send off their children to boarding schools overseas at a young age? After all, the only ones that would bear the consequences would be the students in the rural areas.
The Ruler of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, recently suggested that English be made a medium of instruction – he didn’t say make English THE medium of instruction.
The reality is that English, as a medium of instruction, is already available but it is restricted only to private and international schools, mostly in urban areas.
And despite the high fees charged, more urban parents are opting to send their children to such schools because they simply want their children to be proficient in this international language.
The urban-rural divide is accentuated because while children in the rural areas are sometimes teased for using English, it is perfectly normal for English to be used at home in middle-class Malaysia.
And with greater exposure to the language, the urban children do have an edge over those in the rural areas.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. As his Royal Highness the Sultan of Johor said, these politicians are using nationalism and race to champion communal rights and the Malay language at the expense of the English language.
They are doing so to protect their interests and political positions. Unfortunately, many seem to buy into their agendas.
We must also be clear that the lack of proficiency in English cuts across all races.
Many Chinese parents send their children to Chinese schools at the primary level because they want their children to be able to speak and write basic Chinese as they eye the growing economic power of China.
Many shy away from the national schools because there is a strong perception that these schools have turned more religious in character with a single race dominant in the overall attendance.
The national schools that many of us from my generation and earlier grew up in, where English was the medium of instruction, were different as all races were well represented.
But in our current situation, many Chinese parents also find that sending their children to the Chinese primary schools does not help their children have a good command of English either.
The English proficiency of the majority of Chinese teenagers, because of their background in Chinese schools, is just as bad as their counterparts in the rural schools.
They live in the Chinese world, watching Taiwanese and Hong Kong movies, with little interest in the real world.
Their worldview is shaped pretty one-dimensionally and because of the environment they grew up in, they are unlikely to have real friends from those of other races.
Many of us in our 50s have been lucky – we were probably the last batch of the English-medium schools where we sat for the Malaysia Certificate of Education (MCE) and the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examinations.
The English-medium schools were neutral grounds as students of all races attended such schools and the best friendships were forged there.
We had real friends from all races because we were growing up together for at least 10 years in the schools. It was not functional friendship at work, but real bonding as we studied and played together.
I feel really sorry for many Malaysian kids who do not have friends outside their own race as they are not be able to shape their thinking in a more open way.
So, when a hot issue comes up in the country, especially those involving race and religion, they are not able to see things from another perspective.
Like many, I also worry about the future of Malaysia and our children, as the performance of our schools continues to falter. Beyond our concerns over language skills, we should be even more worried about the quality of our education.
Our ranking in Science and Mathematics is already reportedly low, although our politicians question its accuracy. But the reality is that many of us are no longer surprised by such trends.
Our politicians will continue to tell us that all is well and fine in our schools, and that we have little influence to change anything. Some of us may believe that to be so.
But if we really care for the country, we should not be afraid to propose radical changes for the sake of our future generations.
Education is for all and it is totally selfish if we only think of our own interests while the majority are stuck in a system which does not empower them to reach for the stars.
The Penang Government will also become shaky if DAP carries out its threat to pull out of the Selangor administration.
SELANGOR Mentri Besar Azmin Ali was in Kelantan the day DAP declared that Pakatan Rakyat had ceased to exist.
It was quite ironic because there he was, looking so cosy and chummy with his Kelantan counterpart Datuk Ahmad Yakob while there was hue and cry elsewhere over the news.
The PKR deputy president is not the sort to wear his feelings on his sleeve and he seemed unruffled even as the rest of his party was behaving as though ants had invaded their pants.
Azmin was there for the signing ceremony to build homes for those displaced by the great floods last year and he had brought along several state exco members and civil servants. Selangor will build 60 houses at a cost of RM6mil in Kuala Krai, the Ground Zero of the Kelantan floods.
Was it his way of telling everyone that ties between PKR and PAS are on track even if DAP is pulling away?
The PKR deputy president has struggled to remain calm in the days following what some have termed as the “death of Pakatan”.
The jury is still out on whether Pakatan is really dead or still alive.
The joke is that Pakatan is going through the seven-year itch. It has been seven years since the three parties came together under the Pakatan umbrella and it seems like the threesome have begun to get antsy about their significant other.
PAS election director Datuk Mustafa Ali’s tongue-in-cheek take is that the coalition haspengsan (state of unconsciousness).
PKR’s admission that the coalition still exists but can no longer function formally suggests that Pakatan is in a wheelchair – it can still roll on but cannot walk or run.
Itchy, pengsan, in a wheelchair or whatever you call it, Pakatan is in a bad place at the moment. The coalition that won 52% of the popular vote in the general election and which regained Penang and Selangor with bigger mandates has squandered its opportunities and made a mockery of the new politics that they promised.
It is broken and that is perhaps the most accurate definition at this point in time.
PKR sources said their ketua umum Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is furious that one party should decide on the status of a three-party coalition. He finds it “bloody arrogant” and has made it known to his party.
Well, he has a point there – this is a three party set-up and it needs at least two to decide.
Emotions are high and the administer for Anwar’s Chinese Facebook “Ah Hua Gor” had posted: “Thank you DAP for burying PR”.
Lee: ‘We are in uncharted waters’.
The DAP cybertroopers came down so hard on him and even put pictures of his children online that he had to apologise and take down the posting.
“The word from our topmost leadership is that there must be continued engagement even if we cannot work as a formal pact,” said PKR vice-president Shamsul Iskandar.”
DAP’s haste to issue Pakatan’s death certificate was aimed at appeasing its Chinese support base which has become very critical of PAS. It needs to distance itself from PAS or risk losing support in the next general election.
There is a very strange situation going on. PAS has severed ties with DAP and DAP is dead against PAS’ Islamic agenda but both do not want to leave. They are waiting for each other to get out.
As a result, DAP has resorted to pressuring PKR to choose between the two parties. But PKR feels that it does not have to choose because it can work with both parties.
Behind the scenes, Selangor DAP is threatening a pullout of sorts from the Selangor government if PKR does not choose.
Selangor DAP chairman Tony Pua has been the most hawkish of the lot. He has been quoted in the Chinese media demanding that Azmin choose between DAP and PAS.
Recently, Chinese media reports quoting sources from Selangor DAP claimed that if Azmin did not choose, DAP state exco members would resign after Hari Raya. The DAP had done the same thing to force Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to resign.
The anonymous DAP leader also demanded that Azmin sack the PAS state exco members who want to ban alcohol sales in Selangor.
Azmin did not retaliate. Instead, he used the personal touch to reach out to DAP leaders when he met them in Parliament a few days later. He approached the MPs personally, asked for their understanding and urged them not to make such public statements.
Shamsul: ‘Continued engagement goes on'.
“The three parties in Selangor have to respect the wishes of the voters who gave them such a big mandate. People are fed-up with the politicking, we need to find a way to manage things until the term runs out. Dissolving the state assembly is an option of last resort,” said DAP’s Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi who is also a columnist in Sin Chew Daily.
However, Ooi did not rule out a “final fallout” taking place between DAP and PAS.
The blame game is still going on but the fact is that all three parties contributed to the crisis.
PKR sparked it off with the controversial Kajang Move. PAS regarded it as a disrespectful unilateral decision and refused to support Dr Wan Azizah for the Mentri Besar post.
Then PAS moved to introduce hudud law in Kelantan which erupted in a war of words with DAP. The PAS muktamar decision to severe ties with DAP was the catalyst to DAP jumping the gun to declare that Pakatan is finished.
It was a domino effect phenomenon, and it is unclear whether the last domino has fallen yet.
The perception is that PKR has the most to lose if DAP pulls out from the Selangor government.
But PKR will not take it lying down, it can also pull out from Penang and put Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s government in jeopardy.
In Penang, DAP has 19 out of 40 state seats, PKR has 10, PAS 1 and Umno 10. The Penang government can still survive as a single-party government but it will be a government standing on one leg.
It will be a very weak government that is unable to pass laws in the state assembly or make major decisions. It will also become a near mono-ethnic government that will be highly unstable.
And if the Selangor DAP state exco members carry out their threat to quit, PKR could do the same to Lim’s state exco in Penang. In the end, both governments could come tumbling down.
Ooi: Final fallout ahead for DAP and PAS.
“We are in uncharted waters, we need to exercise restraint. A tit-for-tat game is not good for anyone,” said former Kajang assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh.
The political chatter is that DAP’s aggression in Selangor is also connected to DAP wanting a bigger slice of the pie in the state such as appointments to important state GLCs and other government posts. There is also a rumour going around that a Selangor DAP leader wants to become the Mayor of Petaling Jaya.
DAP is trying to change its Chinese image, hence, its attempt to recruit pretty Malay girls and high-profile Malay names. It is trying to recruit credible Malays whom it can put as candidates in the next general election.
New multiracial flavour
The party is also trying to woo the PAS moderates who lost in the recent party PAS election. It will be quite a catch if big names like Mohamed Sabu or Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa sign up.
It has managed to recruit national laureate Datuk Samad Said while law professor Dr Aziz Bari, who contested but lost in the general election on a PKR ticket, may soon join DAP.
DAP does not want to depend on PAS or PKR for the multiracial flavour if it wins well again.
That is the DAP plan for the next general election and the day when Selangor has its first DAP Mentri Besar may not be far off.
But the “Pakatan is dead” pronouncement has made things terribly awkward for the three parties.
Will DAP state exco members still attend the weekly state exco meetings with their PAS counterparts? Is it going to be business as usual or will it be like a funeral?
The Penang government has begun to use the term Kerajaan Negeri Rakyat Pulau Pinang. Will DAP politicians in Selangor follow suit or will it continue to labour under the old name? It is so easy to say die, but the devil lives on in the details.
DAP leaders have also begun promoting the notion of a new political realignment.
Veteran Lim Kit Siang said the new coalition will comprise political forces of like-minded people with the interests of the people at heart.
Hmmm ... wasn’t that what they said when they set up Pakatan Rakyat?
Everyone had settled in with their popcorn and soft drinks to watch the Mahathir-Najib action movie.
But that was so yesterday – the audience has moved on to a more gripping thriller called the “Death of Pakatan Rakyat”.