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Education Malaysia 2011: One School System Revisited

school one education race malaysia

JMD raised something rather interesting in his post “One School System – It’s now or never

Read previous posts on the One School System & National Language:-

In one hand, those who desire to see a more unified and integrated society are labeled as racists while on the other hand, those who support the Chinese and Tamil schools had labeled themselves as victims. Never mind the fact that Chinese and Tamil schools are in fact, schools that were established based fundamentally and historically on racial grounds. But according to these opposition members, vernacular schools are not racist. The One School system is!

Are we racist in trying to get all our children to be together? I am sure we are not.

It is just a matter of time when we have a complete segregation of society where the two main race will not interact with one another in a lifetime. Do we really want this?

Anthony Loke must be delusional if he still wants to blame the government for not giving assistance for the students in Chinese vernacular schools to increase their proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia. But then again it is not vintage DAP if they do not blame the government for everything.

The most cost effective way is for everyone to enroll in national school where Bahasa Malaysia is the main medium of instruction.

(Read further and we may understand now why the Opposition may not be ready to run the country yet)

When my son was about to embark his journey into primary school early this year, one of the tougher decision that faced me and my wife was whether we should enrol him into national school or a nearby more prominent Chinese school.

I say “tough” because the dilemma was presented to us by our family members, close relatives and family friends. Between me and wife, the decision was all too simple and easy – we already opted for national school for our kids many, many years before. After all, we too went through national school when we were young and I guess we did alright when we left school. Further, there is no other better place to learn up the national language and interaction with fellow Malaysians than in national schools.

For us, education is a matter of effort, preference and options – it does not necessary that you need to go to a Chinese or Tamil school to get a good education (going to private schools will, of course, be another ball game but then how many ordinary Malaysians are well off to send their kids to private schools?) and in this high-tech age, it comes from the Internet and other avenues as well.

So, we dismissed our relatives’ concerns and enrolled our son in a national school. When we went to his school on the first day, we noticed that in my son’s class; almost 98% of students were Malay students. We gathered that the missing non-Malay students were in the nearby Chinese and Tamil schools. The remaining non-Malay students in the class including my son had trouble speaking Bahasa Malaysia fluently and had to contend with speaking only English with the other fellow students and not mingle well with the rest who only spoke Bahasa Malaysia.

It looked like a problem to us and my wife even insisted on sending our son for tuition on Bahasa so that he can pick up fast and not left out on the education and interactions with fellow students and teachers. But I decided that sending our son to tuition would be a waste of time (and money) as we were sure that although he may struggle for a few months, he will pick up the language on his own. Now, he can speak and write Bahasa fairly good and get well with the rest of his fellow classmates. So there is really no issue with language at national schools.

So, what is stopping us from going to the same school, learning to interact with each other and strive for the betterment of our beloved nation? Why the different schools and the sorry excuse that Bahasa Malaysia, being our national language is not important for advancement in career and further studies? Doesn’t speak in one language means we will be more united?

Before we put the blame on cheap politics, we also need to address the concerns of the parents who still send their kids to Chinese and Tamil schools. It is not much and it is not impossible for the Government to address them, considering that the education system in this country forms the backbone of nation-building.

What are the concerns?

1. Quality of teaching and teachers

When we wanted our son to go to national school, the main concern raised by our relatives was the quality of teachers in the national school. Some, I am afraid have not even mastered the other main language – English. Chinese school, on the other hand, may not have fared better (you need to master Mandarin instead) but they seem to have better teachers.

They even have programs for students for the weekends and the amount of homework given may even frighten the bolder ones. When it comes to education policies in our national schools, we seem to have gone backwards with not teaching Mathematics and Science in English.

But that seems to be changing – in 2011, the Government introduced KSSR (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah) and one of the thrust of the new curriculum which focuses on six key areas namely communication, spiritual attitude and values, humanitarianism, literacy in science and technology, physical and personal development is to produce holistic individuals

And what I have seen so far from the books and methods of teaching in Standard 1, it looks like we are on the right path. We may need to fine-tune the curriculum here and there in the future but I won’t say it is worse than before. It looks in par with Chinese and Tamil schools but less stressful (excluding the stress that my son gets at home, of course)

2. Preservation of Chinese and Tamil language in schools

Frankly speaking, I don’t see how Chinese and Tamil students will lose touch of their own language by going to national schools if efforts are done to have special classes on the said language. Tamil school was my last option for my son but even after enrolled in national school, he picked up the Tamil language fairly better than the rest of us.

The school has dedicated teachers for Chinese and Tamil language and the non-Malay students are made to participate in these classes without any negative impact on the core syllabus and mastery of the Bahasa Malaysia and English.

But there is no point mastering Chinese and Tamil if one cannot master the national language, Bahasa Malaysia and English first. As true blood Malaysian, it is rather shameful if you are still struggling to speak and write in Bahasa long after you have left school.

As of many things in this world, when we start with something new or radical, we are going to face problems. But if that new and radical thing will ultimately solve sticky situations like racial tolerance, unity, etc, then we should strive for it. One School System is the best solution for national integration, no doubt about that – the question remains, for how long we are going to keep our national treasures, our young ones grossly segregated.

Indeed, One School System – It’s now or never…

7 thoughts on “Education Malaysia 2011: One School System Revisited”

  1. Perils of an English Language handicap

    MOHD Solihan Badri, director, Corporate Communications Unit of the Education Ministry, in his replies to many of my letters published in the mainstream English newspapers last year, spoke passionately of our education policy and how amendments and improvements since the introduction of the KBSR/KBSM syllabus in the seventies had benefited our students and people. It has now been perfected even more with the introduction of the “Memartabatkan Bahasa Mal-aysia dan Memperkukuhkan Bahasa Inggeris” (Upholding the Malay Language, Strengthening Command of English – MBMMBI) syllabus which will be implemented in the 2012 school term.

    According to him, the original Razak Report on education that formed the basis of our present education policy – which was followed by two amendments over a period of thirty years, culminating in the introduction of the MBMMBI syllabus – has resulted in a vast improvement in the use of our national language, and in an almost total loss of interest in other languages such as English, Mandarin, other local dialects and foreign languages, which meets the aim of the education policy squarely. The popular Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI) syllabus was also found to be unsuitable after being used successfully for almost eight years and has since been scrapped. The use of only one language by all, regardless of race or religion, is also designed to be the catalyst to make the 1Malaysia concept fully acceptable to all.

    I agree with him on all counts.

    However, considering the handicap of our people being proficient in only one language, our ability to communicate with people outside the country will be affected and perhaps even rendered impossible. If the situation is not checked, in future, many of us may not be as equipped as our hearing and speech impaired citizens. We will only be able to speak and write in Bahasa Malaysia, a language which only Malaysians will use; but the hearing and speech impaired would at least still be able communicate with their counterparts worldwide as many people use sign language. Therefore, it can be easily translated into various world languages for use by people who are not hearing or speech impaired.

    Since the government is stubbornly adamant about putting aside English Language in order to make our national primary and secondary school students and our people proficient in only one language, and relegating all other languages to an abyss, I urge my fellow Malaysians to learn sign language to remain in communication with people outside the country. When the need arises, I believe we shall have more than enough people to teach us.

    There are many interpreters who can comfortably translate sign language into various world languages, but few who can do the same for

    Bahasa Malaysia. In order to do business globally and to enable our diplomats, trade representatives and company representatives, communications remain extremely important.

    Our country has vast economic potential, and with our abundant natural resources and having more and more talented people in future, we cannot allow our limitations (inability to communicate normally) to thwart the country’s development; and with sign language, albeit a little slower, will allow us to communicate in order to continue and increase the sales of our products and services overseas. It will also enable us to continue our diplomatic ties and do business as usual.

    Our country can also be the world’s future hub and leader in the use of sign language.

    1. Interesting insight, thanks

      It will be “suicidal” if we just focus on the national language at the expense of wider use of English.

      I have seen bright people who are really good in what they do but due to lack of mastery in English, they lose all opportunities that comes along.

  2. I think the above points and arguments are valid but I think I have another point to make. Back in the 80s we Malaysian knew that our education system (and hence syllabus) was behind Singapore, and yet 30 years later today it is still a fact! Instead of changing too many things that make things simpler, we should make something better ie the quality of our system and syllabus. It has to be more competitive, not more “A”s in the results (many students were passed with very low marks?)

    So its not about English/Malay, its not about national/chinese/tamil, its not about one session, its not about how many subjects, its not about national service and certainly it is not about increasing teachers’ pay. It is about producing a generation with quality!

    1. From the briefing that was provided by the state education department early this year on KSSR, it does look like we are on the right track to provide more real life related education system BUT the problem would be flip flop policies and political laced poor judgements

  3. English-medium schools: Don’t ignore reality
    HUSSANI ABDUL KARIM, Shah Alam, Selangor
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    I AM concerned about the current state of affairs and, more importantly, the future of our nation.

    I do not have any objection to Bahasa Malaysia being used as a medium of instruction in national primary and secondary schools. In fact, I am proud of it.

    I find it absurd, therefore, for Zamri Mahmud of Kuala Lumpur (“BM has global potential” –NST, June 1) to assume that I, as the writer of the letter, “They can give us a leg up” (NST, May 19) am anti-Bahasa Malaysia.

    When I suggested that English-medium schools be reintroduced, I never even hinted that national schools that teach in Bahasa Malaysia should be closed or for these schools to stop using Bahasa Malaysia to teach.

    I believe national schools using English as the medium to teach and national schools using Bahasa Malaysia can exist side by side and complement each other.

    Let people then choose which school they want to send their children to. It is no use having a language that has global potential, but in reality, the potential cannot be realised. Please, let’s all be honest about this and accept reality.

    Is it a sensible thing for us to wait 100 years for Bahasa Malaysia to develop and to be on a par with English language? And by then, English will still be 100 years ahead and we will still be playing “catch up” with it.

    Are we going to continue accepting and tolerating the current low standard of English, and let our people be mocked by others?

    I spoke with my friend, Professor Dr Gerhard Leitner, honorary member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities at the Free University Berlin, Germany, who is an expert in the study of English and would like to share his views.

    Leitner says: “The development of English has been known around the world for decades and there has been ample time for Malaysia to act accordingly. From what I read, it seems the country is still stuck in a conflict of identity formation (a matter of power and politics) and, as a result, there seems to be a sense of uncertainty, a clear disadvantage.”

    He says there are some features regarding the development of English in other parts of the world worth considering here.

    For instance, Germany has a long tradition of English language teaching going back to the late Middle Ages. Over the past 20 years or so, bilingual policies have been implemented. There are public and private schools that use English, French, Spanish, etc. as vehicles of learning.

    “There is a lot of dynamic development going on in Europe. There is, I believe, little debate about endangering mother tongues, though this is one of the consequences for smaller but developed languages like Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, etc., let alone Maltese or Romanian. As for Malaysia, there should be little doubt about the status of Bahasa Malaysia. It is strong enough to cope with bilingual schools and Malaysians can be rest assured that Bahasa Malaysia will always remain where it belongs”.

    Solihan Badri, writing on behalf of the Education Ministry, in “Measures taken to improve proficiency” (NST, June 1), gave an account of the development of the education system based on the 1956 Razak Report. He said its aim was to foster unity through a system using the national language as the medium of instruction. He also spoke of measures taken in accordance with the Education Act 1996 to promote national schools as a place of social and cooperative living of future generations — a place where they would be trained and educated to be worthy and loyal Malaysians.

    But look at the results. Has the system achieved its aims? Are the measures taken the right ones?

    What I see is some disunity between the races. I notice too that intra-racial disunity is beginning to rear its ugly head.

    Also, Malaysians from different communities speak the national language differently, including the younger generation, who went through a common national education system. In Indonesia, everyone speaks Bahasa Indonesia the same way regardless of which community they are from.

    Having our own citizens here, who come from various communities, speaking the national language differently, doesn’t help much in fostering unity.

    Therefore, something must have gone wrong somewhere and this must be identified and corrected. While beliefs in different ideologies and politics may be the main reasons for these problems, the school system must also take a major part of the blame.

    I believe English-medium schools can solve these problems or at least alleviate them.

    Leitner suggests: “Wouldn’t it be possible for Malaysia to show a stronger sense of national maturity and forget setting a competitive frame: Bahasa Malaysia versus English? Could it be debated that the goal should not be bilingualism even (Bahasa Malaysia and English) but trilingualism? Have Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, for all; English and then one of the other local languages or another Asian or European language, as the other two options.”

    I urge the prime minister and the government to do a thorough analysis of the results of the education system and then make changes to suit the times.

    Our country’s potential to be a rich and developed nation can be achieved faster if our people speak and write good English.

    Read more: English-medium schools: Don’t ignore reality

    If you google ‘nst’ and enter ‘English medium schools’ in their search box, you will find more articles on this subject and some are from me.

    Best regards.

    1. This is even more dangerous…

      “The Najib administration has not decided on switching back to English for Science and Mathematics (PPSMI) because several Cabinet ministers feel any change would be another embarrassing flip-flop”

      The Government afraid of doing the right thing because they don’t want to be embarrassed? It is not a big surprise considering we have half past six, 3rd world mentality politicians on the driver’s seat

  4. Interesting blog post, BJ. I believe the Malaysian school system is in need of a bit of tweaks

    1.) bring back national English-medium schools so that Malaysians whose English is their mother tongue have the right to send their kids there

    2.) do away with the streaming system after Form 3 and replace it with a broad based education system like what United Kingdom and the United States have so that Malaysian students are allowed to choose subjects of their choice rather than based on their PMR results

    3.) place emphasise on arts, music and humanities education for arts and humanities inclined students

    4.) allow the teaching of ICT for both urban and rural students to teach them how to be computer literate

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