You got to hand it to Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Nordin. We may not agree with his warped views but this PKR lawmaker has never been afraid to speak up. It's his right as much as we disagree with him. By the way, he sits in the Pakatan Rakyat's Higher Education Committee, the shadow Cabinet of the coalition. That's frightening, isn't it?
He has not just applauded the move to stop the use of English to teach Maths and Science, the official stand of the BN and PR, but he has asked for Jawi to be reintroduced as the foundation for Bahasa Melayu. Zulkifili has defended his stand, saying there was no reason to be apologetic as Malay was the national language. In any case, what good are the English-speaking Filipinos who are merely exporting maids - that's his own words in his blog - and he has also called for the political will to close down all non-national schools.
With views like Zul Nordin, no wonder both sides of the political divide are adopting a similar stand in this issue. The reality is that on the ground, continuing the use of English to teach the two subjects would mean more failures. To fail in English and to fail further in Maths and Science was not acceptable. That's the logic. Those who push for the use of English are in the minority, let's face it.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad's blog may have garnered much support for English but if Utusan Malaysia and the Chinese newspapers were to carry out their own surveys, they too, would have overwhelming support for the use of Bahasa and Chinese. The only difference is that MCA politicians and the educationists prefer English to be used at the secondary level. Not all the way, as some other politicians prefer, to appease their voters.
So in Malaysia, you have a situation where you study almost everything in BM, Chinese or Tamil at the primary level, then study in BM for most subjects at the secondary level. At the local universities, the lectures are in BM but most of the books are in English. No wonder, we have half-baked graduates from local universities. When I was studying in UKM, I had friends who were required to attend English proficiency classes asking me to help draft out their essays - so they could memorise it line for line for their exams. I never heard of such a thing until I entered the university. I am told that's pretty normal in all local universities.
So, in the name of nationalism and realpolitik, we are prepared to forego our competitive edge. If we are not proficient in English, we will go nowhere. That's a fact. Except for Indonesia, the minute we fly out of Malaysia via KLIA or LCCT, we have to start using other languages. In Hong Kong, they have gone back to using English to teach Maths and Science. The fact that HK is under Chinese rule has not affected their decision. Yet, the ever practical HK people understand the economic-political value of Chinese.
Enough has been said by all sides. The fact is that a decision has been made and we have to get used to the idea that those who wanted to keep English has failed. It's better that the focus of their energy is engaged towards ensuring more teaching hours in English and training proper English teachers for our schools. Read Patrick Teoh on Zul in niamah.blogspot.com