Tell me, can the tripartite Pakatan electoral pact agree on any contentious issue?
After their landmark indecision on hudud, the three partners are now saying different things each about the teaching of Math and Science in English (PPSMI).
PAS and PKR have gone on record as opposing PPSMI whereas DAP has issued a press release saying the Education Ministry must allow individual schools a free option in the matter.
Party information chief Tony Pua even went to the extent of stating that “a determined majority of parents have expressed a preference” for English. Clearly the ‘majority’ claimed by Pua is just the headcount within the DAP sphere.
Thus it is imperative that PAS and PKR publicly clarify their stand on DAP’s straying from the policy agreed by its two partners.
DAP disdains national language
In its press statement on Oct 30, DAP said the government must not hold back “advanced students” for the sake of those who may lag behind.
Blogger Mohd Shubhi reads the DAP statement as implying that Bahasa Melayu is the language for stupid folks whereas English is for clever people.
The DAP position, according to Shubhi’s interpretation, holds that those who want to retain BM as the medium of instruction comprise parents whose children are dumb. “Those who want English ostensibly have smart kids.”
“I can see now,” he wrote in wartashubhi.blogspot.com, “why many Chinese the likes of Tony Pua consider speaking in Malay to be a low-caste practice. Hence it’s unsurprising that so many among them splutter when speaking BM as it merely reflects their genuine feelings of disdain.” (my translation)
Bangsar M’sia scoffs at BM
I took part in the mammoth anti-PPSMI rally as I’ve been against it from Day 1. You can read my article ‘Maths and science: The case for BM’ (March 12, 2009) here.
Recently I came across several letters to the editor by Feizrul Nor Nurbi on the topic. Since he makes a lot of sense, I’m reproducing portions of his arguments below.
Replying to readers’ comments, Feizrul observes that some of the PPSMI supporters are instilling a notion that BM is an “inadequate, weak language – something that deserves no respect and appreciation”.
In ‘PPSMI – not the Magic Bullet‘ (FMT, Nov 1), Feizrul writes:
“The explicit and implicit notion that ridicules Bahasa Melayu as the Bahasa Kebangsaan really astounds me. There were those willing to discard BM altogether, arguing the language has nothing to contribute in this globalised era, while some have shown an alarming outright disgust at the language altogether!”
He is describing the attitude problem of the Bangsar Malaysia crowd and wants to know what it is they think makes them so Malaysian [First].
“Again, the gist of their argument is that not speaking in BM does not make them less Malaysian. Well fellow Malaysians – what does make you Malaysian? It is the roti canai and teh tarik you have every morning? That income tax you pay?”
M’sian 1st putting their kids first
FMT had also published another of Feizrul’s letter a day earlier where he warned that the government succumbing to optional PPSMI “will open the proverbial floodgates of never-ending demands from irrational parents”.
In his letter ‘English for all – not for select few‘ (Oct 31), Feizrul notes: “The reality is, in Malaysia, education has degenerated into a class war – the battle between the haves and the have-nots.”
The ‘haves’ that Feizrul mentions could easily be those living in Damansara Utama and Subang Jaya whose political representation is the DAP Hasnah Yeops.
Feizrul makes the point that the demands by affluent parents in urban areas comes at the expense of the weaker learners. There is always a limit to resources stretched between competing groups (e.g. the cost of training teachers to teach Math and Science in English vs providing electricity and classrooms to rural schools).
If the education authorities allow this going of separate ways as agitated for, what is to stop the indulged parents from asking for more and more options being made available to their ‘smarter’ children?
Feizrul gives the examples of Advance Math/Physics for the ‘haves’ and Basic Math/Physics for the ‘have-nots’ in schools.
We’re talking about 7 year olds
The favourite refrain of the Malaysian Firsters is about how English is the premier language of science and technology.
Nobody’s disputing its stature but the fact remains children in primary school are not Boeing engineers requiring university-level Maths.
I and others have made the same point before, or as Feizrul puts it across just as well:
“While I certainly agree on the matter of English references available, it strikes me as odd that a school-goer from the age of 7 would ever need to depend on these cited abundant references. Do Standard One students need to study the Mathematical journals and papers written my MIT professors for them to learn addition, subtraction, division and multiplication? …
“Does teaching the basics in English add extra value to the whole experience? My answer is a wholehearted ‘No’. Basics are basics, you can learn them in any language, 1 + 1 will always result in 2 …”
PPSMI not majority choice
In my own article in 2009, I wrote that “Close to 70 percent [of the pioneer UPSR batch] were not confident enough to sit the exam in English.”
Feizrul similarly highlights that more than two-thirds of the kids rejected English in answering their papers.
“Back in 2008, when the UPSR results were announced and the Ministry of Education elatedly stated 31% of candidates answered the Science paper in English – did any of the PPSMI-proponents stop and think of the remaining 69%? Was there any study done to understand why this majority elected to answer in their mother-tongue? …
Feizrul believes that in the eagerness of the [Bangsar Malaysia] parents to provide the best for their children, “they have knowingly or unknowingly trampled on the futures of the 69%”. (See his letter ‘PPSMI – Quality vs Language’ in Malaysia Today, Nov 1)
He is quite correct that only one side of the campaign is prominently aired in the media and these are the views of the PPSMI proponents who themselves speak English at home [as well as declare that English is their mother tongue].
“These people, who have been making such hue and cry regarding the policy revocation,” says Feizrul, “are those who are able to prepare their children adequately”.
He asks them to “spare a thought to those parents unable to present similar preparations to their children”.
M’sian outlook confined to Bangsar
Feizrul reminds the pro-PPSMI group that there are other Malaysians “living below the poverty line, those from the kampungs, those families who have never spoken a word of English in their entire life”, and urges them to “stop being selfish.”
“And to expect their children to attend their first day of school and learn not one, but three subjects in English? It is just plain and simple murder!” (see PPSMI – An Opposing View’, Oct 19)
While Feizrul is only highlighting the obvious, his appeal evidently fell on deaf ears judging from the hostile responses he received.
The Malaysian Firsters do not even possess an awareness of how others perceive their posturing, just as they lack connection to the world outside Bangsar Sentral and the perimeters of DAPland.
They’re thumping their chest, loudly, that they represent Bangsa Malaysia. Pakatan supporters proclaim how wonderful it is that their Chinese evangelist politicians willingly wear tudung but they are blind to the plight of Malays who will suffer from PSSMI.
This irony is of course lost on the navel-gazing Firsters.
Mutakhir (Nov 3): OK for Pakatan to disagree on PPSMI says Guan Eng