Sunday March 18, 2012
Knowledge is power and power is success
By Tunku Munawirah Putra
To be a knowledgeable nation, Malaysia must have policies to ensure that the education given is at par with those in the league.
KNOWLEDGE seeds wealth creation. Without knowledge, innovation will not take place. It is time to accept that knowledge and skills have become the global currency of the 21st century economies.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), through a New York Times article recently, showed the correlation between the countries’ performance in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test scores and their available natural resources.
Malaysia took part in this test for the first time last year, and our PISA result was below the average score, with the language of the test being in Bahasa Malaysia.
This study proves that countries with few natural resources – like Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Finland – performed better in their tests compared with those who are resource-rich but lag in their PISA scores such as Kazakhstan, Qatar and Malaysia.
However, an exception was made for certain developed countries like Canada, Norway and Australia, which have high test scores and vast natural resources, because these have established deliberate policies of saving and investing the resources instead of just exploiting them.
It added that countries with low natural resources needed to be innovative in order to compete with those blessed with natural resources such as oil.
In these countries, education has strong outcomes and a high status because the public at large understood that it must live by its knowledge and skills, which depend on the quality of education.
Every parent and child in these countries knows that skills will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them, so they build a whole culture and education system around it.
Therefore, if Malaysia aspires to be a highly skilled and knowledgeable nation, and to be in the league of those with high natural resource and high test scores, it too must have policies to ensure that the education given is at par with those in the league.
Malay civilisation post modernisation
Late last month, we attended a roundtable discussion organised by the Institute of Malay Civilisation of Universiti Sultan Idris. Titled Tamadun Melayu Pasca Modenisasi, it was chaired by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Perdana Leadership Foundation.
It was inspiring to see Dr Mahathir’s tenacity and perseverance in his stand for the concept behind the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI).
He spoke extensively at the opening and closing of the event, trying to convince and persuade a distinguished group of learned Malay nationalists as well as the Government, represented by Deputy Education Minister Dr Puad Zarkashi, to see the reason why it was important and necessary to develop knowledgeable Malays.
Dr Mahathir was adamant that in order to advance, the Malays must have access to the latest and state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, which is widely available in English. He stood firm that knowledge is best acquired in its original language.
The nature of scientific discoveries is such that they are fast changing and develops at warp speed. Our country neither has the expertise nor the ability to translate at speeds necessary to keep pace with the rest of the developed world. But if we are geared with English, we will be ever-equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge.
But sadly, no attempt was made to report on Dr Mahathir’s recent plea on the importance of scientific and knowledge acquisition in the development of Malays post modernisation.
This group has of late resurfaced, still unwilling to even consider the option for those who want to continue with PPSMI. This, they claim, has somehow to do with the nation, country and religion.
They have to understand that in order to build and develop Bahasa Melayu, there must be knowledge in the first place to enrich it, otherwise the language will not be able to go through a meaningful development.
Only then can they appreciate and accept that Malays cannot live by being good at only one language, but must be geared to living and thriving in the bilingual and multilingual global environment.
It is time to wake up to the fact that knowledge and skills have become the global currency of the 21st century economies.
PAGE concurs with and supports the Government’s efforts to ensure that our national language, Bahasa Malaysia, is given high regard and remains the main medium of instruction in national schools.
At the same time, we firmly acknowledge that the subjects of Mathematics and Science are best taught and learnt in their lingua franca of English.
Tunku Abdul Rahman also wrote about country and nation with regard to education.
“The basic principle that must be followed is to give the people of this country the best education available to enable them to give in return their utmost to the nation,” he wrote.
“I maintain that the education we give to our people must continue to be in English, making full use of their knowledge acquired in that international language by applying it in Bahasa Malaysia to the benefit of the people and the nation as a whole. In this way, Malaysia as a major producing country can make the best of both worlds, nationally and internationally.” (Looking Back, Chapter 50)
On the matter of religion and knowledge, in his book Islam, Knowledge and Other Affairs, Dr Mahathir noted that “The fact that Islam, according to the Quran, enjoins upon Muslims to seek a good life in this world and in the afterlife is deliberately ignored. If we study the true teachings of the Quran regarding Islam’s attitude towards the intellectual development of human beings, we cannot but be struck that the first message to Muhammad pbuh was ‘iqraq’ (read) and reading must impart knowledge to the reader” (pages 3 and 32).
Who can be more right? Two great former Prime Ministers or the opposing faction of the Government masked as hardcore left wing idealists milking this issue for political gain?
Some people are just content to remain ignorant and will use whatever means to impose and restrict freedom and liberty. There should be no restriction in the acquisition of knowledge.
This is a Kodak moment, heed the warning of the Kodak company of 131 years; it is closing its doors because it didn’t adapt when it had the chance.
National Education Dialogue
We welcome the call for the National Education Dialogue by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and we wish to be extended invitations to attend one or more of the discussions nation-wide, as we also have a network of state representatives.
We hope that after the General Election 2012, the decision from the dialogue as well as the findings and recommendations of the education review panel will be made public.
The decision of the education review and transformation plan should be in harmony with the expectations of the stakeholders, and be in sync with the parents’ wishes according to the Education Act.
Policies will have to change with the times but they must be in line with the underlying principles of what is best for the future of the country and its diverse set of people; that direction and principle must be cast in stone.
Change is necessary for the purpose of continuous improvements. When the next Education Minister takes on the education portfolio, it is our fervent hope that there will be no changes made without prior consultation with the stakeholders.
What is needed is an honest and transparent dialogue before any policy change, coupled with the political will to sincerely carry it out.
This is to ensure continuity and consistency in developing our nation from the very beginning. Nurturing our young must be for their best interest and shielded from political expediency.
> Tunku Munawirah Putra is honorary secretary of Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE).