Khamis, 21 November 2013

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When education becomes a political tool

Posted: 20 Nov 2013 10:10 AM PST 

We have politicians who think that the dumbing down of the education syllabus to achieve 'politically expedient' examination results is an education policy. 

CT Ali, FMT 

We may not know each other's name. We care not what religion the other practised. We all spoke Malay because it is the language we all understood. Language integrates!

The Malay language made us one. The Malay language allowed us to understand each other. The Malay language was ours to use as and when it was necessary for us to communicate across the racial divide.

No need for 1Malaysia lah!

Any Malay who could speak Mandarin or Tamil got our respect and the same goes for a Chinese being able to speak Tamil and an Indian being able to speak Mandarin. But everybody had to know enough Malay to get by or else they would be looked upon as not playing ball with the others.

Is this not the Malaysia that we old timers remember?

What we needed to learn was English. Damm! We went to school to learn English. That was a chore because it was a foreign language for all of us – a language you need to master for education. But master it we did.

And so Malay was the language for integration and the English language became our language for education, administration, government and business.

And then came May 13, the NEP, Ketuanan Melayu and all the attending 'must do' that the government said was needed (so said Umno) to integrate the people into 1Malaysia demi kepentingan negara!

Malay became our official national language.

Fast forward to 2013. The Malay language is still the language of integration minus the politically incorrect nuances and colloquialism that has allowed all the races in Malaysia to embrace it as their own.

But the transition of the Malay language from the language of integration to one of administration, government and education has been, at best inadequate and at worst, it has been the reason for the rapid decline of our proficiency in the English language.

This in spite of what our government said in 1956: "No secondary school pupil shall be at a disadvantage in the matter either of employment or of higher education in Malaya or overseas as long as it is necessary to use the English language for these purposes" (Razak Report, 1956:1 2).

The language question perplexes us. Our multi ethnicity gives vibrancy to our culture. The Malay language defines us. It is our most obvious attribute.

Do they not speak Thai in Thailand, Mexican in Mexico? For our integration, our cohesion and our togetherness as a Nation, Malay is indispensable and we are all agreed on that in fact and in practice.

But the English language is a language of relevance. It is a universal language that is understood by scholars and educated people everywhere.

Yet our mastery of the English language far from being maintained at the standards it has achieved in the past, has now declined at an alarming rate over the years – and have done so to our disadvantage!

The preferred lingua franca

Today pride in our national language is worthless if our children are not sufficiently proficient in the English language to enable them to be educated to the best of their ability globally and our people are unable to use English as a means of communication and do business on the world stage.

When did the English language become a liability to Malaysians? Is not English a politically neutral language to all of us?

Today the Malay language dominates on paper whereas the English language dominates in fact and all attempts to impose the Malay language on all Malaysians have succeeded in law but not in fact.

Just as the attempt by the Indian government to replace the English language with Hindi had failed because of vehement opposition by non-Hindi-speaking groups.

No such dissent is allowed/possible in Malaysia for now because this BN government does not allow dissent.

I would venture a guess that if a referendum was done today on the question of what would be the preferred lingua franca – the preference for English would dominate.

Umno does not see the need to change its own name into a suitable bahasa equivalent. Like they have done in religion, this Umno-led Barisan Nasional government sees a political advantage in championing the use of Malay as the national language but not in the upholding of its principles to make Malay the national language in the manner Umno has decreed it to be so.

We have today jaguh kampung students who have consistently score A's through their Malay medium education but are unable to compete globally against others because our Education Ministry has failed to equip these students with adequate skills to master the English language at the level expected of them when they are sent overseas by the same government to further their education.

While our student labour under this unnecessary burden, our people are disadvantaged by this government's preoccupation of using language as a political tool.

A political tool with questionable short term advantages and possibly irrepairable long term harm to the very fabrics that hold our society together.

Over 50 years of irresponsible tinkering with the education of our young by the Education Ministry to embellish superficial gains in examinations results and meet politically selfish goals has certainly now consigned our students to the unenviable tasks of becoming increasingly isolated and unable to compete on a level playing field with other students globally.

This, together with the decline in the use of and proficiency in the English language by Malaysians, augers ill for the future of our ability to acquire information, education and knowledge in a world where all that has to be done through the English language.


My tryst with a Penan & my questions for Datuk Torstein Sjotveit

Posted: 20 Nov 2013 10:07 AM PST
What we see is a Federal government which admits in its 2014 budget that much work remains to be done to delineate the boundaries of Native Customary Rights land – in effect declaring we do not know who owns much of the land. 
Today, I met a Penan. I met him outside the Headquarters of the Malaysian Police in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur.

This Penan's 12 year old son and a teenager were arrested in Ulu Belaga a couple of weeks ago in Sarawak. The 2 boys had been detained by the police together with 8 adults because they, together with about 300 Penans, had blocked a road in a remote area in Sarawak, in Ulu Belaga.

The 300 Penan men, women and children are even now blocking the road with their small, sick, despairing bodies. They are doing this in order to achieve 3 goals: (1) delay construction of turbine-houses for the Murum dam until (2) prior agreements made with them are fulfilled and (3) they are reasonably compensated for all their troubles.

The facts of the case are hard to figure, and here lies the tragedy of Malaysia. Though the Peninsula and Sabah/Sarawak are separated by a huge expanse of the South China Sea. we claim to be one nation. Yet, we have very different cultures, and have very different laws and systems of administration.

Today, in the Peninsula, at least on the West Coast, we have vast swathes of plantations and we have numerous industrial centres.

In the Peninsula, we know how to determine who owns what land. We think of land titles ('geran') and Sale and Purchase Agreements. We think of searches in land offices. We think of lawyers' fees and we have clarity about when a transaction involving land is 'completed.'

In the Peninsula, we know that over the past several decades the timber in vast expanses of 'government owned' jungle has been harvested. We know the land has then been converted into plantations, not least by FELDA settlers. And, in some cases, jungles have made way for dams. (Happily, we have no plans to create new dams in the Peninsula.)

In the Peninsula, we know that there are expanses of land which have been gazetted as national forests. We know that such land must not be used for purposes other than preservation, education and enjoyment. We know that we have to be ever vigilant against greedy people who subvert such restrictions.

In the Peninsula, we have a hazy notion that the rights of the indigenous peoples have been settled: we believe they are allowed to hunt and gather in the jungles and to continue treating the jungles as their home for as long as they wish. Sadly, we don't know how many indigenous people there are, how we keep track of their numbers, how they can assert their rights, etc. We just 'trust and believe' they are being treated justly.

In the Peninsula, we think the issues of indigenous peoples are settled. We don't expect to see blockades or protests under the banner of Jakun, Negrito or Sakai or other indigenous peoples.

The indigenous peoples in the Peninsula were broken and repressed long before the age of cheap travel, tourism and internet.

Today, the world recognizes the ecological importance of jungles. Today, we have satellite images of the destruction of forests. Today, there is global interest in universal justice, etc. And today, we have tools and opportunities to act upon what we know.

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