06 November 2011

Get out of our way.

I actually meant to write about this on the 5th of November, for poetic reasons, but this will have to do.

A lot has been said about the teaching of Math and Science in English, and our Education Ministry's constant flip-flopping of this policy. The crux of the matter is that a lot of us urban parents would like our children to be educated in English, as most of us are of the generation that endured primary and secondary education in Malay, with mixed results.

I guess most of us urban students turned out alright, but that's also because most of our teachers spoke good English and could explain stuff to us in the many instances where Malay was insufficient. Most of these teachers are now retired and/or dead.

Among my peers, who were mostly the better-performing students in school, I can think of maybe one or two who opted to do STPM - everyone else, including myself, opted for foreign tertiary programs such as A-Levels, ADP and SAM, followed by foreign university programs, done either overseas, or through local affiliate colleges. And this was 15 years ago.

Personally, my best academic years were when I learned in English, which also happens to be my first language. And for the record, my command of Malay sucks. I barely passed my Malay exams in school, and I can barely hold a conversation in Malay before descending into gibberish.

Long story short, the Malay language was more of an obstacle for me to overcome than a medium that opened doors in the quest for knowledge - and i do not wish my children to be burdened by such a pointless exercise borne of testicle-carrying politics and little else.

And seeing that the Education Ministry is clueless about how to solve this problem, and is incapable of solving this problem, I would like to propose an incredibly simple solution that requires minimal effort on their part (which is what they're accustomed to, i think).

The solution: Let private schools freely teach curriculum from other countries.

If you look at The Laws of Malaysia, under Act 550 (also known as the Education Act 1996), there are sections 73 to 78, which fall under Part VII of the Act: Private Educational Institutions.

Specifically, Section 74 states that "A private education institution providing primary education or secondary education or both shall comply with the requirements of the National Curriculum and shall prepare pupils for prescribed examinations."

This section should be scrapped. There are other sections pertaining to the teaching of Malay and Malaysian Studies in private schools where the medium of instruction isn't English, and I have no problem with that.

However, by scrapping Section 74, there would actually be a chance for a much larger group of Malaysian students to learn under better-structured primary and secondary education systems from countries like England, Australia, the USA and, God forbid... Singapore.

Think about it. This would give many urbanites a very good reason NOT to migrate to these other countries - apart from better job opportunities, most of us are thinking of migration (or have already done so) because we're worried about our kids' education.

With regards to the whole national unity thing, I'm pretty sure you'll see a pretty even spread of students of different races in these schools, and all of them will likely intact willingly with each other because they're more like to speak the same language and would be from middle- to high-income families.

This is of course based on the assumption that these students want to learn in English and want a better education. Or at the very least, their parents want them to and are willing to fork out thousands of Ringgit per semester to do so.

I can also guarantee that there will not be enough places for everybody in these schools, and parents will be booking places 6 years in advance to make sure their kids get in.

This high demand is a foregone conclusion. There are a large number of people who, given the choice, would rather have their kids learn in English rather than Malay.

It is ridiculous that special exemptions are given to Chinese and Indian schools to teach in their mother tongue, yet for the significant number of Malaysians who use English as our main form of communication, we have no such right!

We're a product of Malaysia's history - our forefathers came here, thrived under British rule and we are now the most educated and most likely to push the country forward economically, culturally and socially. It is our right to be educated in the language that we were raised in.

And if the Malaysian Education Ministry can't give us what we want, then at the very least, GET OUT OF OUR WAY.