Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Language Nationalists - Nation's Asset or Liability?

Just as quick as our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad emphasised the importance of English language, the response of the language protectionists were immediate.

In an unlikely pairing, between the Youth wing of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party and Dong Jiao Zong (DJZ), the Chinese educationist movement, they held a joint press conference calling to "reverse [the] policy on English", as reported in the New Straits Times on Saturday.
...DJZ which felt that it will erode the characteristics of national-type Chinese schools and ultimately spell the end of Chinese schools in the country.

... Dong Zong treasurer Chow Siew Hon said the movement was not against using the English language, but feared that Chinese schools risked losing their characteristics.
While I believe that the intent of these Chinese educationists are noble, I believe that their ultra-defensive stance to the use of the English language in Chinese schools have become a tad irrational. If you have ever stepped into a Chinese primary school, the only language ever spoken in these schools are Mandarin and certain Chinese dialects, depending on location. The use of English to teach Mathematics and English will not in any way significantly alter the "characteristics" of Chinese schools. I may understand their apprehension if the government is forcing these schools to teach more subjects in Bahasa Melayu. However, in this case, it's a genuine attempt to improve the standards of English among all students in the country.

PAS Youth deputy chief Idris Ahmad, on the other hand, said the move was arbitrarily implemented without any preliminary studies on its effectiveness
Idris said the Government risked creating a wide gulf between the people if it failed to take into account the education needs of all races.
I have to completely disagree on the above. It is my opinion that should the Government reverse the policy on teaching Mathematics and Science in English, it will be the reversal which with risk "creating a wide gulf between the people". The children who happen to be born in well-to-do families will speak more and better English, and those who are not so fortunate will not have sufficient exposure to the language from a young age to gain a foothold in the language. The gap will just become wider and wider.

We live in an unequal world and society, and I do not expect to be living in one other than just that. However, in the world of inequality which often boils down to the family, country and race in which a person is born to - the key opportunity to equalise the inequality is through a good education. If the misguided interests of the language nationalists prevents our young Malaysians from picking up critical skills such as the English language - then they are risking the perpetuation of inequality in our society.

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