Isnin, 9 September 2013

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Malaysia Today - Your Source of Independent News

How far are we distant from each other?

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 02:53 PM PDT,1287053147,1/stock-photo-the-word-language-in-many-different-languages-62976823.jpg

The Chinese community must get rid of the figure dispute and find a way to narrow the perception gap, as well as resolve the internal conflicts and the conflicts with the government, to find a way out for Chinese school students.

Tay Tian Yan, mysinchew 

The gaps among 210, 240 and 270 minutes are actually the perception gaps of the Chinese on languages, as well as their ambivalence for Bahasa Malaysia.

For many existing and past Chinese school students, Bahasa Malaysia is a nightmare. Future students do not seem to be able to escape the fate, too.

Could you still remember those days?

We have to memorise vocabulary and idioms while learning "pantun", restructuring sentences, palace language, ancient language, etc.

Wow! It was like learning an alien language.

There were always students being punished during Bahasa Malaysia lesson in primary school. Some were asked to stand in a row outside the classroom while some were asked to stand on the table. They were punished for not being able to make sentences with a particular word, not doing their homework or failing tests.

Well, it was all the language's fault.

Why is Bahasa Malaysia so hard to learn? What is the use for learning it?

These are frequently asked questions.

Many thinks that Bahasa Malaysia is all about "apa apa" and "sama sama" as English, instead, is used in colleges or universities. And except for public service departments, the language does not seem to have much usage in workplaces.

Why should we master Bahasa Malaysia then?

However, when Chinese primary school students with poor Bahasa Malaysia skills continue their studies in secondary schools, their misfortune begins.

More than 80% of Chinese primary school students continue their studies in national schools using Bahasa Malaysia as the teaching medium for almost all subjects, particularly after the abolition of the teaching Science and Mathematics in English policy. Even if they choose to study in Chinese independent high schools, they still cannot run away from learning Bahasa Malaysia.

Thus, classes become more and more boring while the syllabuses become more and more difficult. Life becomes harder and harder.

About 25% Chinese students drop out of school after Form 3 and half are eliminated after Form 5.

Bahasa Malaysia is their fatal wound and the future of many Chinese students has been destroyed because of it. Since they possess no SPM certificate, they are not qualify to apply for any colleges or universities. They wouldn't have a chance even to enter vocational schools.

Guess what they do then? Well, I think we wouldn't have to guess.


So, is it important to master Bahasa Malaysia?

As nationals, of course it is important as it is the national language. However, we will not discuss this part today.

From the typical Chinese mentality point of view, mastering Bahasa Malaysia may not be so important. It is not the mother tongue and its economic value might not be high either. For many people, it is the third language after Chinese and English, the sequence differs for different people, of course.

However, it is still very important.

It is the only official language and the country's first language. The government wants to expand its usage and improve its standard through education policy.

It is the common language of the Malays. It is also their icon and soul, just like the Chinese language for the Chinese community. Therefore, the Malay community defends and promotes it.

It is where the contradiction lies.

The Chinese community thinks that it is not so important and might put it at the third place, but for the country and Malays, it is very important and must be prioritised.

The Chinese community thinks that Bahasa Malaysia is having a limited practical value for the long run, but the immediate problem is, poor Bahasa Malaysia skills do not only affect learning in secondary school but it could end the hope to enter universities and destroy the future, too.

Whether it is important to master Bahasa Malaysia or not, is also a problem of perception gap.


This brings me back to the 210, 240 and 270 dispute.

Almost all Chinese groups and Chinese-based political parties oppose to the proposal of increasing the Bahasa Malaysia learning time for Chinese primary schools to 270 minutes. They believe that it would affect the characteristics of the schools and even change their nature.

The Education Ministry, however, argued that many Chinese school students are facing problem to catch up in secondary schools and it resulted in serious dropout rates. To improve their skills of the language, of course the learning time must be increased. Moreover, the learning time for learning Chinese language has not been affected as the time is appropriated from the abolished lessons of learning Science and Mathematics in English.

There are also some voices from the Malay community. They think that the Chinese's opposition to the increase of Bahasa Malaysia learning time is a move of rejecting the language, not respecting its status and affecting national unity.

This is the perception gap.

Chinese groups, such as Dong Zong and Jiao Zong oppose to the 270 minute proposal and cannot accept the 240 minute proposal. Dong Zong even accused that it is intended to change the nature of Chinese primary schools.

Amidst the wave of opposition, they have actually neglected the fact that Chinese primary school students are indeed having difficulties to catch up when they continue their studies in national secondary schools.

For many Chinese groups, the questions of how to improve Chinese school students' skills of Bahasa Malaysia and how to overcome the early dropout problem are not the focus of their concern.

From the point of view of their ideology, the Education Ministry is having some hidden agendas and therefore, they must resist to defend Chinese primary schools.

However, while they are concerning the future of Chinese primary schools, they should at the same time care about the schools' future. While adhering to their philosophies and ideologies, they must also take reality into account.

As for the Education Ministry, to enhance Chinese primary school students' Bahasa Malaysia skills, not only the learning time should be emphasised, but more attention should be paid on teaching method and teacher issues. It has neglected the question of how to cultivate students' interest in learning Bahasa Malaysia and strengthen their confidence.

Moreover, have they set the standard too high for Chinese primary school students? It is a question that must be taken into account.

The more difficult the syllabuses are, the greater the learning pressure would be and the lower interest and confidence the students would have. This is not the way to enhance students' skills of the language.


A fight to keep Gerakan relevant

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 02:42 PM PDT

The next leader of Penang Gerakan will either be a 'fighting cock' or an idealistic lawyer, both of whom hope to keep the party from sinking into oblivion after two disastrous general elections.

Joceline Tan, The Star 

GERAKAN politician Teng Chang Yeow returned from abroad only on Saturday night.

The former Gerakan secretary-general arrived at the Penang party headquarters in the morning yesterday with a big delegation to hand in his nomination papers to contest the chairmanship of Penang Gerakan. It was definitely a show of strength on his part.

His Gerakan friends and local reporters had not seen him for quite a while because he had been spending time on work and business after his party was again wiped out in the general election.

His business takes him abroad a lot, mostly to China and Taiwan.

Chang Yeow is about to make a comeback in Gerakan politics after resigning all his political posts on the night of the general election as a way of taking responsibility for his party's disastrous performance.

His hardcore supporters are delighted. They not only think that he is the man to lead Penang Gerakan, some even think he should go for the Gerakan presidency later this year.

But that would be like trying to make an omelette before the egg is laid. First, he has to secure the Penang chairmanship against the other contender, Baljit Singh.

Baljit was a no-show yesterday although his nomination papers arrived at the headquarters. His absence was quite strange but he is holding a press conference today on his bid for the top post.

His candidature came as a bit of a surprise even though some party members had been talking about it for several days. He is a lawyer who is in charge of the party's legal and human rights bureau and is supposed to be Gerakan's version of Karpal Singh.

Like Karpal, he is quite fearless, with a booming voice and sound opinions but just as there will never be another Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu in Penang, there will also never be another Karpal Singh.

The party will decide on the new Penang leadership line-up at the state convention on Sept 15. A total of 14 others are vying for the six exco posts. Lawyer Rowena Yam won the Wanita leadership uncontested and Hng Chee Wey also won uncontested as Youth chief yesterday.

Although the top contest is between Chang Yeow and Baljit, most see it as a proxy fight between Chang Yeow and outgoing Penang chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan.

The two are known as the "young Teng" and the "old Teng" and the feud between them has been going on for so many years that people can't even remember how it started.

The Dr Teng camp had apparently approached several other people, one or two of whom would have given Chang Yeow a good fight. But they had given up on politics while another potential candidate Dr Thor Teong Ghee claimed that he wanted to focus on his medical practice.

That was how Baljit ended up being the fall guy. No one really expects him to win but those behind him are hoping he will be able to embarrass Chang Yeow by getting at least 35% of the votes.

The "old Teng" camp does not want Chang Yeow to win uncontested because that would make him too powerful. Chang Yeow has an aggressive political style and he has accumulated his share of enemies through the years.

In fact, the proposer for Baljit's nomination was Dr Lim Boon Han who hails from a powerful Gerakan family in Nibong Tebal. Chang Yeow had made an enemy out of Boon Han during the general election when he contested the Bukit Tengah state seat which Boon Han had been eyeing.

"The contest is less about ideology or principle than personal feuds," said a party insider.

Shortly after nomination closed at noon yesterday, Chang Yeow held out an olive branch to the other camp and said he wished to work with them.

He admitted that there were differences but that should not prevent them from working as a team.

His camp had also contemplated approaching Baljit to come on board with them. But too much water has flowed under the bridge and Baljit has told people that members should have a chance to choose.

Wong Mun Hoe, the Gerakan coordinator for Bayan Baru, rightly pointed out that this is his party's last chance.

The new leadership, he said, will be responsible for deciding the direction and fate of the party.

"The party has hit rock bottom. Whether the party is heading to oblivion or if it will remain relevant will depend on the new batch of leaders. There is a lot riding on this election.

"Whoever wins next week, I hope he will be big enough to accommodate everyone. For a party to survive, we need to accommodate dissenting voices," said Wong.

Kenapa Anwar gagal? (Bhgn 2)

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 02:27 PM PDT 

Anwar seharusnya keluar terus daripada bayang-bayang Umno dan serahkan perjuangan parti itu kepada golongan muda yang tidak pernah menjadi ahli atau menyertai Umno. 

Sudah tiba masanya, pemimpin muda seperti Rafizi Ramli dan Nurul Izzah diberi peranan yang lebih penting dalam memilih bakal-bakal pemimpin akan datang. 

Oleh Musli Oli, FMT 

Rumusannya pada PRU 1969, 1999 dan 2008, parti-parti pembangkang menyertai pilihan raya  tanpa seorang general yang hebat tetapi masih mampu menggugat kerajaan Barisan Nasional. Berbeza dengan  PRU 2013,  parti-parti pembangkang telah berpengalaman dan cukup bersedia serta mempunyai seorang general perang yang berpengalaman dan dianggap sebagai ikon kepada perjuangan reformasi..

Tetapi masih gagal. Persoalan besarnya kenapa?

Jika soalan itu ditanya kepada pemimpin PR, rata-rata jawapan yang diberikan – proses pilihan raya tidak telus. Keputusan BN menang telah ditetapkan. Suruhan Jaya Pilihan Raya atau SPR menipu!. Itulah jawapan dan alasan yang paling mudah. Jawapan yang tidak memerlukan satu post mortem  mengkaji dimana kelemahan dan kesilapan parti pembangkang. Tanpa disedari, dengan memberi alasan seperti itu, kesan negatif bukan kepada pemerintah tetapi kepada parti pembangkang. Alasan bahawa SPR menipu hakikatnya adalah senjata yang memakan tuan.

Seminggu selepas pilihan raya, penulis bertemu dengan  seorang aktivis muda yang menyokong  DAP. Pertemuan itu berlaku disebuah kedai gunting rambut di Luyang, KK, Sabah. Kawasan Luyang termasuk dalam DUN dan parlimen yang dimenangi DAP. Anak muda itu menceritakan bagaimana mereka sanggup balik ke Sabah dengan perbelanjaan sendiri dan menggunakan wang ringgit serta kepakaran mereka untuk membantu menangkan PR khususnya DAP.

"Ada yang datang dari Australia, Canada, Australia dan Amerika. Kita betul-betul buat kerja dan banyak pakai wang sendiri"

"Kita mahu sokong PR kerana mahu negara Malaysia baru yang lebih adil pada semua bangsa. Tapi bila sudah kalah Anwar cakap, SPR tipu! Kalau tipu, apa guna balik Sabah? Apa guna buang duit? Next time, kita diam-diam. Tak payah balik Sabah. Apa guna? Kalau SPR tipu, bagus sokong BN la. Sama-sama cari makan"


Apakah anak-anak muda yang mendokong reformasi telah putus asa? Barangkali tidak. PR masih mendapat sokongan di kawasan bandar dan pinggir bandar. Masih ramai di luar sana inginkan satu gerakan perubahan yang menyeluruh yang boleh memberi "new deal" yang lebih baik kepada golongan muda. Persoalannya, Apakah Anwar Ibrahim masih boleh menjanjikan kejayaan terhadap gerakan reformasi setelah gagal pada PRU lalu?

Apa kurangnya Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah yang pernah menentang Umno dan BN? Seperti Anwar Ibrahim, Ku Li juga menjadi mangsa politik Tun Mahathir. Mungkin tidak dipenjarakan, tetapi Ku Li masih mendapat simpati dari orang Melayu kerana teraniaya seperti Anwar. Ku Li  dipinggirkan Umno Baru setelah Umno diharamkan. Ku Li dikatakan menang pada pemilihan 1987 tetapi tidak menjadi Presiden Umno kerana permainan politik kotor Tun Mahathir.

Ku Li menubuhkan Semangat 46 dan berjaya menggabungkan parti pembangkang PAS dan DAP dalam APU. Ternyata APU mendapat sokongan daripada semua kaum. Malah kelebihan kepada Ku Li berbanding Anwar Ibrahim, ialah partinya mendapat sokongan daripada parti PBS yang memerintah negeri Sabah pada ketika itu. Tetapi Ku Li gagal menumbangkan BN.

Faktor utama kegagalan Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah ialah kegagalan beliau dan partinya menarik minat golongan muda dan pengundi baru untuk sama-sama menentang BN. Ku Li masih berpolitik dalam ruang lingkup  UMNO. Memilih pemimpin-pemimpin daripada Umno bukan orang-orang baru yang mendokong perubahan. Dalam pemilihan calon-calon, orang-orang yang sama dipilih.

Anwar Ibrahim mengulangi kesilapan besar Tengku Razaleigh bila buat pertama kali sebagai Ketua Pembangkang mengetuai PR dalam PRU yang lalu. Secara umum, Anwar Ibrahim mendapat sokongan padu daripada golongan muda. Pakej yang dijanjikan kepada orang muda amat menarik seperti mansuh PTPTN dan sebagainya. Secara keseluruhan populariti Anwar kepada pengundi baru dan "silent majority" lebih bagus berbanding Ku Li. Tetapi bila tiba masa yang amat penting, seperti Ku Li, Anwar Ibrahim terus dibayangi Umno.


Why pick on Indians?

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 02:14 PM PDT 

Why haven't the names of gang leaders from other communities been made public? 

Frankie D'Cruz, MMO 

The naming of alleged Indian gang leaders publicly is one of those upsetting stories from which nobody emerges well.

Certainly not those named. Not those who came out with the list, which has proved embarrassingly naive. Not the Indian community that seems to be the only ethnic group in the country that commands the underbelly of society.

Why haven't the names of gang leaders from other communities been made public?

How did law enforcement come out with a list with the "actual" number of gangsters from the various ethnic groups with Indians topping the roll of shame?

Oddly, Indians headline gangsterism in Malaysia despite the police saying such ruthlessness is ethnically spread. If the gang leaders are a serious threat to society, why are they still on the loose?

This column has always professed a steely resolve to act against the whole continuum of gangsterism.

That means no soft-pedalling or negotiation with those threatening violence against us.

But with the unwavering resolve by the authorities, shouldn't we display moral clarity to ensure this menace is effectively defeated?

The issue of crime and ethnicity is often devoured by politicians and anti-crime activists who are inclined to stir sociological and political controversies.

In the face of public fears over security, I can't fathom why Indians are in the spotlight. Why do Indians get more attention from the police at roadblocks these days?

Over the weekend, a friend and his pals in Alor Star — all Indians, all professionals in their 50s and 60s — despite identifying themselves to police officers had their personal details noted at a checkpoint enroute across the border to Danok.

They were told by the cops that they were acting on instructions to note the details of all Indians going into Thailand. 

Criminal profiling?

Associate professor P. Sundramoorthy of Universiti Sains Malaysia holds that if Indians appear to represent 71 per cent of gangsters in Malaysia, that does not necessarily mean that other ethnic groups are not dominant in gangland activities.

Sundramoorthy, who is with the research team on crime and policing, School of Social Sciences says: "The probability is that the type of gangland activities involving Indians might be more visible and violent, thereby drawing tremendous public attention.

"By the same reasoning, selective types of gangland criminal activities classified as low visibility and less violent may be committed disproportionately by other ethnic groups but they go undetected or are difficult to investigate.

"Obviously, they receive less media and public attention, leading many to believe that Indians are the dominant characters involved in gangland activities in this country."

In the United States, he says, the same scenario applies to African-Americans and Hispanics as the type of gangland criminal activities these two ethnic groups are involved in are extremely visible from a criminological perspective.

"Unfortunately, this has led to unwarranted negative labelling, stigmatisation, feelings of prejudice and acts of discrimination."

He shared a personal experience to illustrate the point he was making.

"Recently, I was driving my Nissan Frontier truck with Kedah registered plates towards the Botanical Gardens in Penang when I got stuck at an intersection due to heavy traffic.

"On the other side of the road, parallel to my car, was an old Kembara with a male in my age group but from a different ethnic group.

"I was smoking, with my windows open, and about to shake my head as a gesture of frustration about the traffic flow when he started to wind up his windows and pressed the locking mechanism in his car. He appeared to have a sense of either fear or uncertainty about me.

"It was obvious from his facial and body expression that he was profiling me. I had this urge of wanting to point my index finger at him but decided otherwise to avoid any conflict.

"At the same time, I may have also been over-reacting based on the current publicity of Indians and gangs."

He says criminal profiling based on ethnicity can be abused and misused although profiling as a law enforcement intelligence gathering tool is extremely useful if used prudently and responsibly.

"Irrespective of the various factors that are associated with crime, the association of ethnicity with crime is both weak and strong," says the disciple of criminology of more than 30 years.

Sundramoorthy says some crimes appear to be ethnically defined "but in reality there is no single type of crime in this nation that is committed by one single ethnic group".

He adds: "Our personalities and behaviour are nurtured by various socialisation agents in our day-to-day environment.

"The choice of crime committed, even by a specific ethnic group, may be related more to lifestyles rather than biological or genetical composition.

"Thus, it is crucial that in a multiracial society, we do not demonstrate our feelings and acts of discrimination by blaming ethnicity as the cause of crime. There are many socio-economic factors that contribute to criminality."

Clearly, the law of unintended consequences haunts our deeds.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.


Blind Spots in the Malaysian Education Blueprint

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 12:23 PM PDT 

Like the other blueprints of the past, including "Vision 2020", this latest effort is full of the language of educational correctness – "improving access to education, raising standards (quality), closing achievement gaps (equity), promoting unity amongst students, and maximising system efficiency"… 

Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser

The Malaysian Education Blueprint acknowledges that education standards in the country have deteriorated so seriously that we have fallen into the bottom third amongst countries in the global indices that measure achievements in maths, science and other such basic competencies. Our achievements have even fallen below that of Thailand!

Like the other blueprints of the past, including "Vision 2020", this latest effort is full of the language of educational correctness – "improving access to education, raising standards (quality), closing achievement gaps (equity), promoting unity amongst students, and maximising system efficiency"…

Sounds good but can it deliver? Allow me to allude to some blind spots and contradictions that I have noticed in the blueprint. These have impeded Malaysian education and national unity for many years and unless remedied, we will surely not achieve the noble aims of the blueprint.


One of the reasons often quoted by observers for the unattractiveness of national schools is their increasingly religious slant:

"The dominance of religion within the national school system is why non-Malays are increasingly removing their children from the environment, said former Umno minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim." (malaymailonline, 21.8.2013)

Malaysia's Education Philosophy was formulated in 1988 when the country was in the grip of the terror of "Operation Lalang" and many dissidents were at Kamunting detention camp:

"Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God…"

To begin with, such a formulation contradicts the stated aim of inclusiveness in the blueprint for it excludes all devotees of pantheistic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as those who practice ancestor worship, including many Chinese, Orang Asli and other indigenous people. Under international human rights law, parents have a right to have their children educated in a way that is consistent with their religious or philosophical beliefs. This means that schools are obliged by international law to provide a safe respectful space for students to come together in their diversity of faith. By honouring such an inclusive aim in practice, there would be no implicit or explicit attempt to indoctrinate children with religious beliefs that conflict with those of their parents. The recent case of Orang Asli children who were slapped for not reciting the doa provides stark evidence of a reality that is the polar opposite of the stated aim of inclusiveness. (Malaysiakini, Oct 26, 2012) And as we have seen in the recent "canteen" school case, we should also bear in mind that children have rights over and above those of their parents.   

The stated aim of inclusiveness is not simply a phrase for appeasing Malaysian minorities; it embodies the important principle that for our education system to be on par with the best in the world by 2025, it must be secular in philosophy and practice. Thus, a progressive school system would respect all pupils equally and teach in a neutral, objective way about the different faiths that people have.

The role of Malaysian schools is to bring diverse children together and teach them subjects that have a basis in scientific fact, like mathematics, languages, geography, history and critical thinking. These provide the knowledge and skills that are vital to their performance in the global achievement indices, TIMSS and PISA that the blueprint benchmarks.

For this to happen, teachers need the autonomy to teach their subject/s freely without any interference regarding their religious affiliations, or lifestyle choices, and be free to answer questions of ethics, beliefs, etc. in an objective way. Progressive education is about character building which is more meaningful through literature and music rather than through didactic moral education.


The blueprint has neglected democracy. It has failed to reinstate our Independence heirloom of an elected local government which involves a decentralised education system engaged with and responsive to the needs of the local community. Many have forgotten that local education authorities were part and parcel of elected local councils, as was the case before these elections were abolished in 1965.

Decentralising education can serve to make the education system more efficient as well as more democratic. Decentralising power away from the ministry of education and dispersing it to elected councils creates the conditions for better public services and a more robust society. Local councils are then responsible for the fair distribution and monitoring of funding for the different language streamed schools built according to need, rather than political preference. They are responsible for the co-ordination of admissions and allocation of places available at each school. They are the direct employers of all staff in schools and have a responsibility for the educational achievement of school children.

Although the blueprint espouses objectives to encourage creative and independent thinking students, it lacks the concrete programmes and other activities needed to enable students' self-governance and exercise their assertiveness, at least at upper secondary level.


There is a glaring contradiction in the blueprint's commitment toward promoting unity and inclusiveness for it hardly considers the development and growth of the SRJK schools and Independent schools within the national education system. Considering Chinese and Tamil schools were part and parcel of the national education system at Independence 56 years ago, there is no reason why sustaining them today, in our much more developed state should be a problem. There is also no reason why the Malaysian education system cannot accommodate some English-language streams for those children whose mother tongue is English, when we have had so much experience handling English-language education since colonial times.

Although the education minister keeps insisting that the government has no intention to do away with Chinese and Tamil education, the reality shows that these schools have been treated like step children in the national education system all these years and government leaders continue to denigrate these schools as being obstacles to integration.

Under Section 17.11 of the Education Act 1996, all schools in the National Education System have to use Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction:

"17. (1) The national language shall be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions in the National Education System except a national-type school established under section 28 or any other educational institution exempted by the Minister from this subsection."

The Education minister has just said that the existence of the vernacular schools has been guaranteed under section 28:

"28. Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Minister may establish national schools and national-type schools and shall maintain such schools."

The Chinese and Tamil schools that were established before the 1996 Act – practically all of them- exist only at the pleasure of the minister. They have not actually been formally exempted by the minister from using Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction. And how many "national-type schools" have been established by the minister under section 28 since 1996?

The fact remains that whilst the population of the Chinese and Tamil Malaysians today has doubled since Independence, their mother tongue schools have decreased in absolute numbers – from 1350 to 1285 Chinese schools, from 880 to 550 Tamil schools. The scandal of overcrowding in these schools makes a mockery of the lofty aspirations in the blueprint. The BN government's claim of achievement during the GE13 was allowing ONE secondary school to be built by the Chinese community in Kuantan. That is the sad reality of section 28 of the 1996 Education Act.

The gross discrimination in financial allocation to the Chinese and Tamil schools (less than 5% of total allocation to all schools) through the years further demonstrate the lack of commitment by the government to mother tongue education of the non-Malays as a cornerstone of inclusiveness.


The blueprint does not make any positive statements about Chinese and Tamil schools, nor does it point out special challenges that they face and need to overcome, such as learning Bahasa Malaysia (and English) as a second language rather than sharing a common curriculum with the SK schools.

Learning second languages effectively is not simply a question of increasing the contact hours for the students. The proposed 240 minutes of BM and the same number of contact minutes of English for Chinese and Tamil schools smacks of a quantity fixation rather than quality learning of second languages. As with the previous curriculum of learning maths and science in English, the amount of curriculum time in the Chinese and Tamil schools for this, has been arrived at through political horse trading rather than the demands of effective language teaching.

Has any thought been given to the effect of all these extra hours that Chinese and Tamil primary school children will have to endure under the new curriculum?

In the UK, where second languages are taught, the standard is a one 40-minute French lesson a week. The UK may not be the best example of second language teaching and a 40-minute lesson in a foreign language is hardly enough. But by the age of 11, pupils are expected to speak the language in sentences with appropriate pronunciation, express simple ideas with clarity and write phrases and short sentences from memory. They will also be expected to understand basic grammar and be acquainted with songs and poems in the language studied.

In the rest of Europe, children begin to learn a foreign language from the age of 8-10, but elsewhere they begin earlier. Less than 10% of total teaching time is generally devoted to learning foreign languages in European primary schools, a figure which improves for secondary education.

In Singapore where English is taught as a first language, Malay, Chinese and Tamil are taught as second (mother tongue) languages. Schools adopt differentiated teaching approaches to cater to pupils from different home language backgrounds. In Singapore, Mother Tongue Languages are taught for functional purposes, with an emphasis on listening, speaking and reading skills. Nonetheless, teaching is tailored to meet the different learning needs of pupils, with more engaging and appealing teaching materials that capture pupils' interest. Pupils take a Core Module, while those with little or no exposure to the second language may take Bridging Modules. Pupils with the interest and ability to go further can take the Enrichment Modules. 

Thus, the teaching of BM and English in Chinese and Tamil primary schools should be carried out in a more thoughtful way to ensure effective learning and not to impose an even heavier curriculum on our already stressed out kids through quantitative horse trading.


The blueprint recognises that "it is imperative for students to interact with and learn from fellow students and teachers of every ethnicity, religion, culture, and socio-economic background". However, programmes like the Student Integration Plan for Unity, or Rancangan Integrasi Murid Untuk Perpaduan (RIMUP) which fosters interaction across different school types through co-curricular activities have floundered because "funding for RIMUP has dropped significantly, reducing the frequency and intensity of these programmes."

There should be a greater commitment by both the government and the Chinese and Tamil school lobbies to create such activities that promote closer integration. It would be the responsibility of local education authorities to provide state-of-the-art-facilities for the common use of schools of the different language streams in an education precinct. These should include libraries, IT centres, and stadiums, concert halls and common activities organised to include all the different school streams in a precinct.

The Chinese schools of Malaysia have managed to survive for nearly two centuries mainly because of community involvement in their well-being. This has included the school board, alumni association, as well as parents and teachers' organisations. This can serve as a model to be emulated elsewhere, in the blueprint.

Such community involvement and engaged peoples' organisations are key to the success of local government initiatives and must be encouraged rather than controlled by the whims and fancies of the Registrar of Societies.

Integration can only be achieved through a consensus that is built through an objectively constructed history and literature recognising the contributions of all the ethnic communities in our country. It will fail if school text books present prejudiced reconstructions by bigots who try to spread their ideology of racial dominance.

The Education Blueprint will only inspire Malaysians if it can convince us that the blind spots that have been pointed out can, and will be put right.

To keep or to change Jalur Gemilang?

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 11:36 AM PDT 

The sole function of any flag is to deliver a message. The on-going controversy on the Sang Saka Malaya flag is not so much about the flag design, as a matter of fact; it is about the other version of the history about the fight for the country's independence. 

Khoo Ying Hooi, TMI 

A Merdeka eve incident involving the raising of the Sang Saka Malaya flag led to Datuk A. Samad Said's controversial midnight arrest. Earlier, Hishamuddin Rais and Adam Adli Abdul Halim were also detained for the same incident and both are being investigated under the Sedition Act 1948.

In fact, this is not the first time that the authorities have taken action under the Sedition Act 1948, on those caught raising the Sang Saka Malaya flag. Last September, the police arrested two youths for allegedly flying the Sang Saka Malaya flag during the countdown to the eve of the 55th Independence Day.

Red and white are historically the colors of the archipelago Malays. The Sang Saka Malaya flag was used by the first Malay party, Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM), that was established in 1945 and had fought against the colonial British for the country's independence. It is a red-and-white flag with 12 yellow stars set in four columns and was proposed as Malaya's national flag back in the 1940s.

Flag debates are, however, not new. In Australia, for example, there is a constant dispute over whether the Australian flag should be changed. The main issue concerned the removal of the Union Jack symbol in its design. The main intention is to move on from the British heritage.

Interestingly, the former prime minister of Australia, Paul Keating in 1992, had also publicly supported a change in the flag. Australia is one of the few countries in the world where a change of the design of the national flag is advocated. Those who advocate the flag change in Australia are convinced that an alternative flag design would be more suitable in representing Australia than the flag that they are currently using. However, until today, such proposals for change have not received full acceptance from its citizens.

Reflecting on this, the call for flag change in Malaysia and Australia share one common similarity, that is, the historical explanation. Similarly, the flag debates also happen in New Zealand. It is not unusual that the national flags change over time, normally in such occasions; it contemplates major change in the country's constitutional arrangements or it could be due to a change of government.

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Hysterical hostility

Posted: 08 Sep 2013 06:21 AM PDT

Some of our politicians seem to be seeing shadows behind everything where there is none. From their perspective, there is intrigue, a hidden agenda and suspicious motives everywhere.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

THERE seems to be no end to politicking in Malaysia. We thought the campaigning that reached its peak in the run-up to the general election in May would slowly wind down once the people had decided. But that was only wishful thinking.

We still are in election mode, judging by the endless bickering, growing suspicion over what everyone is saying, and the perception of a hidden agenda behind each issue.

After the polls, there were more ceramah and protests. Taking disputes to the courts was not enough in the battle to conquer the court of public opinion. And we all thought, naively, that everyone would just take a breather.

We all suffer from political fatigue. To be blunt, most of us probably feel nauseated. Surely the politicians, who are humans too, would want to get a break and make up for lost time with their spouses and family members. But no, they can't seem to stop.

Everyone is talking about crime, the increase in the cost of living and the looming financial slowdown.

Well, we are also talking about Bosnian sperm.

But there seems to be a wide disconnect between our lives and that of our politicians, regardless of their political affiliation.

We do not see any of them explaining to us why our ringgit is weakening and how we should face the problems, even if there are external factors beyond our control. Those with children studying overseas are probably watching the exchange rates with eagle eyes and they certainly want to know what the future will hold.

Malaysians would also like to hear how we should gear up for the softening market as businessmen grapple with escalating costs and declining revenue and profits. It is not just a worry for those who run companies but also for their workers.

Instead, politicians are trying to outdo one another, trying to score points by making some pretty outrageous demands just to get their name and pictures in the media.

The main political parties in the country's ruling coalition – Umno, the MCA and the MIC – are all holding their party polls very soon. PAS is having its internal polls too while the DAP is conducting a fresh election after its earlier vote tally blunder, which it continues to blame on a technical glitch.

In the case of the three main Barisan Nasional parties, we are talking about elections at all levels – from the branches to the divisions right to the top hierarchy.

We are pretty sure, judging from the activities on the ground and the desperate insecurity demonstrated by some politicians, that they are not doing much these days except to ensure their party positions are secured, or to get back a position.

Many have attempted to be champion spokesmen of their communities, flexing their political muscle, with some espousing views that smack with racial overtones.

Even the movies are not spared as politicians make laughable statements when they have not even watched the films and are unlikely to do so. But speak they must, and so they do.

Some of our politicians seem to be seeing shadows behind everything where there is none. From their perspective, there is intrigue, a hidden agenda and suspicious motives everywhere.

Reaction to the movie Tanda Putera is one example. The hysterical hostility towards the movie is unbelievable. I was among the earliest to be invited by Datuk Shuhaimi Baba, the director, to watch the show and to give my views.

I told her there should be more films like this because the world is beginning to think that we only watch movies about gangsters, ghosts and wife-beating husbands.

In Tanda Putera, the Chinese were not blamed for the riots but the communists and political activists were. This is the big difference which the politicians do not want to understand.

So is the unnerving reaction to The New Village. It is a period movie about new villages set in 1949, when most of us were not even born and the country was caught in a fight with the communists. We are now in the year 2013, yet we are still grappling with the ghosts of the past!

The communists in China have all become capitalists, drinking fine French wine, enrolling their kids in British boarding schools, keeping mistresses and becoming corrupt, as ordinary politicians in a democratic system do!

The only thing commie about the ruling elite in Beijing now is that they still carry party membership cards and uphold the red ideology to avoid a real election! Anything else red would be red wine and Manchester United.

We are still unsure if The New Village will ever make it to our cinemas. After all the party polls are over, perhaps.

Maybe by Christmas, although by then it would really be good luck to the producer because who would care about new villages in December and January as many of us would want to go on holidays and celebrate the year-end!

The holiday season is all about parties – celebratory ones, not political parties – and we just want to be silly, more than some politicians, as we usher in the coming year.

And we really hope that in the coming year, we will finally see the end to mindless politicking.

And can we please appeal to our politicians that they remember why we voted them in – to run the country, make us feel safe, plug financial leakages, seriously fight graft, postpone expensive projects and, if possible, stop using taxpayers money to put your faces on billboards?



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