Maths and Science in English – A rocket which will never take off!

Art Harun analyzes, dissects and critiques in his inimitable style the proposal to teach Science and Maths in the English language and the opposition to it and gives Pakatan Rakyat a deserving spank on its stand on the issue as well.

I have written about this topic on Navel Gazing no less than twice. Since the issue has now transformed into a full blown political one, complete with a demonstration, the proverbial tear gas and all, I think I should write about it again.

First of all, I wish to make it clear that I support the freedom of expression. And this includes the right to assemble peacefully. I support the right of all the people who assembled in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday to make known their stand against the teaching of Maths and Science in the English language in our school.

That however does not mean that I support their cause. I also do not support their reasons or rationale for their cause.

As I understand it, the purpose of their assembly was to voice their objection against the teaching of the two subjects in English and the reason for their objection is that the move would relegate the status of Bahasa Malaysia (or is it Bahasa Melayu? or Bahasa Kebangsaan? or Bahasa Baku? whatever lah!) and reduce its status as the official language of Malaysia. Bahasa Malaysia, apparently “mestilah dimertabadkan”. As if language is something that can be put on a pedestal, moved around and idolised like some Maharajah! The whole cockamajik about this can be read here.

It is a great disappointment to note that even the National Laureate, Bapak Samad Said, joined the bandwagon. It is of even greater concern that Pakatan Rakyat made this issue a political one during the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Pakatan Rakyat should not descend into this lowly gutter politics! In seemingly championing this issue, it has descended into the lowness of hypocritical BN politics and reduced itself into a pragmatist political outfit which is ready to exploit whatever issue(s) which would bring it political support for the day; that is living for the moment without any clear plan for the future. That is politik lalang, in the Malay lingo. And I find that nauseating! If you all would permit me, itu politik murahan!

But is it any wonder that Anwar Ibrahim is championing this issue? After all, it was during his tenure as the Education Minister in the BN government not so long ago, who championed this and that in Bahasa Malaysia. Road names were changed into Bahasa Malaysia. Birch becomes Tun Perak. Jalan whatever becomes Maharajalela. Even the names of Victoria Institution was to be changed in Bahasa Malaysia name. I wonder what it was to be. Institusi Gambir? And it was all in the name of “memertabadkan Bahasa ibunda”. The sad state of the level of the English proficiency among our students now is, to a certain extent, contributed by Anwar Ibrahim and the policy of the Education Ministry he helmed before. And so, wonder no more.

If the objection against the usage of English for the teaching of the two subjects is premised upon the fact that it is demeaning to the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the official language, I would like to ask:

  • all these years, when Bahasa Malaysia is the lingua franca of our schools and universities, how many great literary and academic works in Bahasa Malaysia have been published?
  • how many great works in other languages have been translated into Bahasa Malaysia for the benefit of all our students who now don’t even know the different between ‘go’, ‘went’ and ‘gone’?
  • how many great works in Bahasa Malaysia have been translated into other languages for the benefit of the rest of the non-Bahasa Malaysia speaking world?
  • lastly but definitely not the least, what is the extent of the usage of Bahasa Malaysia in the commercial world?

The truth is, the pride and dignity of a race is in its achievements. Not its language. Or the way the people dress. Or the way the people scream and shout about how lofty its language is. Or whatever. In the olden days, the Arabs learned Latin, Hebrew and even Greek just so that they could learn the old and established works of the Greek, the Jews and the Romans. And did the Arabic language vanish into oblivion because of that? I just cannot understand why the fuss over this.

As for the Education Ministry’s move to teach the two subjects in English just so that the English standard may be improved among our students, to this I say, ‘You all are laughable in your stupidity!’ Just imagine a Form 2 student. All his school life he has been taught Maths and Science in Bahasa Malaysia. That means 8 years of his life. Then one fine day he wakes up and goes to school and “campur” becomes “add”; “tolak” becomes “subtract” and “pecahan” becomes “fraction”. In science, “buah pinggang” suddenly becomes “kidney”; “karbon dioksida” morphs into “carbon dioxide” and “khatulistiwa” becomes “equator”. How in heaven does that make his command of the English language better?

And what about the teachers? All these time they are teaching Maths and Science in Bahasa Malaysia. On that same fine day they have to switch to English. And don’t forget, they are also the product of a school system which taught them in Bahasa Malaysia. It’s like the proverbial buta leading the buta! Are you all nuts?

Please. If the thinking is that the standard of English would suddenly improve by teaching these two subjects in English, don’t even bother. It is not going to work! A more total and holistic approach is needed to achieve that objective. This is not going to work.

As simple as that.

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Posted on 10 March 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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