There has been endless polemic since the government introduced the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.
In 2002, I remembered clearly how MCA was deeply involved in objecting to this policy change. The party stand was firm.
MCA feels that with Maths and Science in English, then Mandarin, as the medium of instruction in Chinese primary schools will be severely curtailed since it would be used only for Moral studies and Bahasa Mandarin only.
We felt there are better ways to learn English rather than through 2 rather technical subjects.
There is also the argument that children learn faster and are more competent in learning by using their own mother tongue.
The government strikes a compromise by allowing students the alternative of using English or the mother tongue in learning Maths and Science.
It was obviously a political decision. Now that Tun Dr. Mahathir is not around to push this policy, we are hearing more and more dissenting voices.
Some from the “Gerakan Mansuh PPSMI” again said that the move of teaching Maths and Science is English has challenged the status of Bahasa Melayu as the national language as stated in the constitution.
It is surprising they are singing this tune strongly only 6 years after implementation of the policy. Some speculated that some Pakatan politicians have a hand in it including the demonstration on Saturday, 7th March 2009. Some even suggested that if Dr. Mahathir was still the Prime Minister, then they would have not dare to take the matter to the street.
Some well-known Malay literary figures were involved in the demonstration. They fear the decline of the status and standard of BM in the Malay community with the continuous implementation of PPSMI.
It must be a surprise to a lot of us, that some of the most outstanding Malay literatures were written during the 50, 60 and 70s, when English was the Lingua Franca in the country then.
Since the compulsory implementation of BM as the medium of instruction after May 13th, there is hardly any outstanding modern Malay Literature.
After BM becomes the Lingua Franca from the 80s, there is a lack of efficiency and command of English to an extend where graduates are unable to string a proper sentence in English – what we call Rojak English.
The education system is highly politicized by both the political divide. We talk of scoring points and winning the emotional support of the rakyat. We forget we are talking about education of our children.
While we continue to argue, the standard of education in this country continues to decline. Any senior HR manager and civil servant will share with you the story about the low standard of communication skills and general knowledge that they have encountered with our graduates.
As a Malaysian, we have to equip ourselves minimal with skills in BM, Mandarin and English.
I pick up my Mandarin and BM after I become a Wakil Rakyat in 1986. I am still on the learning curve. Anyway, we never stop learning if we have an inquisitive mind.
English and Mandarin will become equally important, especially with IT revolution and China becoming a global economic power. Mandarin becomes the most popular and fastest growing foreign language in a lot of developed and developing countries.
A lot of business studies undergraduate from European and American universities have exposure of at least 1 semester in China to understand Chinese culture, Chinese language and the dos and don’ts when dealing with China. This has definitely boosts the importance of Mandarin.
When I was visiting the Suzhou Education Centre, I met quite a number of foreign students and lecturers, mostly business studies undergraduate and MBA students, studying in Suzhou for the “Mandarin and Chinese experience”.
Universities from Malaysia should be looking into this. We should depoliticize the learning of English and Mandarin in this country.
The bigger picture is about education for the rakyat. Language, in order to survive the test of time must have commercial value.