Sunday August 28, 2011
Need for right type of education
By TUNKU MUNAWIRAH PUTRA
Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman himself said the study of science and mathematics should be continued in English for a long time.
IT has come to be pointless to reason with national linguists and those who are in denial of how important English proficiency is to survive and thrive in this era. Their focus is on defending the martabat of our Malay language as the core of their struggle. They are not concerned about the importance of acquiring knowledge or the future employability of our children. This is anti progress. They certainly are not in the spirit of Merdeka and nationhood that our forefathers worked hard in building.
Mastering both Bahasa Malaysia and English is a must these days, and not one at the expense of the other. Needless to say, languages are tools, and the right tools are needed to complete the job in the most effective way. Malaysia needs to progress, and it needs to make the correct choices and capitalise on its competitive advantage.
The Barnes Report 1951, the predecessor of the Razak Report 1956 for the National Education of Malaya, states that, “We emphasise, however, the importance of taking advantage of every modern method of language teaching which has proved successful in any part of the world.”
It is the ultimate objective of the national education policy, according to the Razak Report 1956: “This country must bring together the children of all races under a national education system in which the national language is the main medium of instruction, though we recognise that the progress towards this goal cannot be rushed and must be gradual.”
By retaining the teaching of science and mathematics in English, the national school can be made the school of choice. It fits well within the allowance provided, that the national language is made the main medium of instruction. The national school must be made desirable for all.
Since the announcement to abolish the visionary policy of the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English, many have opted out of national schools. This shift has further separated the pupils that were initially meant to mix together in harmony. This threatens the peaceful and harmonious balance we have been enjoying all these years. The moderates must remain steadfast in their pursuit to make our nation a more progressive and peaceful Malaysia.
This Merdeka, let us reflect upon some wisdom of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and ponder on his thoughts on the progress and the education of this new nation.
“The Malays are no match to the Chinese, Indians and other foreign capitalists. As a result of economic competition and other impediments, it was not possible for the Malays to achieve a higher standard of living.
“Good education was beyond the dreams of the Malay masses.
“My wish is to see the country enjoy peace and happiness for all time. I am convinced the people themselves can bring this about, if they and their descendents will only, I repeat, look upon this country as the sole object of their loyalty, their home and their place where they can rest their tired bones.”
That was 1977, his 20th Anniversary Merdeka speech.
The Tunku wanted people to remember that there was a time when he was acclaimed “Bapa Malaysia”, that it was an endearing term meant to indicate the role he played in the birth of the nation.
The following excerpts are his thoughts in his book, Looking Back, 1977. He hoped this book would serve to correct any basic errors and be useful for reference, as it came straight from the horse's mouth, a metaphor he liked to use as a life-long fan of horse racing.
In his owns words, this was the importance of education and the continuation of Science and Mathematics in English.
“Another matter which is causing me concern is the need to provide our people with the right type of education, bearing in mind that the official language of this new nation is Bahasa Malaysia.
“At this stage of our development we cannot afford to do away with the core of higher education; to which every parent or studious boy and girl aspire. So whether we like it or not, the study of science and mathematics should be continued in English for a long time perhaps for many, many years to come.
“It is education which helps to build a nation, and if the future of this country is to be safeguarded, then we must depend on the intellectuals to give their support. The right kind of education is a necessity for the nation.
“I risked my political career when I stood firm on the issue of making English the second language of this country. I gave all the reasons why it should be, and finally it was accepted. Though I gave my opponents reasons to attack and denounce me, I stood my ground.
“Whatever changes are considered necessary for our new nation to achieve progress, careful thought must always be given to how policies and planning are carried out. One wrong move can bring untold harm both to our people and to our country.
“The people have an unquestionable right to expect that the Government and Members of Parliament they elect, and the officers of the Civil Service, whose salaries they pay, shall, in return for the confidence and trust they have received, honour the obligations they have to the people, and that means to all the citizens of Malaysia.” (Extracted from Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj, “Plight Of The New Muslims Beyond The Fringe After Conversion,” Looking Back, p 248.)
The Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) wishes everyone Happy 54th Merdeka and Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
Tunku Munawirah Putra is honorary secretary of PAGE. She is a partner in a content development company and has two daughters aged eight and 10. She is Tunku's youngest granddaughter.