Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Again, on the teaching of Maths and Science in English



Relegated to a Pekan Rabu economy?
Azly Rahman



We are reverting to teaching Maths and Science in Bahasa Melayu. With the eroding emphasis of English Language, are Malays going to only flourish in their Pekan Rabu-type economic enclaves, and being one with their universe of ketuanan Melayu? Since the language of science is still English, will future generation going to be doomed to become consumers of scientific ideologies still orchestrated by the Western industrial powers? Will we continue to see only a class and caste of English speaking Malaysian scientific, economic, political, and cybernetic elite controlling the less-fluent Malay-speaking mass happy with their mastery if understanding Malay-language tabloids? Will literacy in Malaysia only mean one's ability to only read or be interested in reading Malay Language materials? Fundamentally, what will be the long-term consequence of Malay nationalism in this over-glorified but under-reflected world of globalized economies in which the English Language is still king of linguistic pop and multinational corporations still roam the word in search of indentured slaves paid an American dollar a day?

These are difficult questions for any country dealing with the complexity of teaching this or that subject in the English Language. Rather than dwell on the problematique and the semiotic of linguistic turn in the pedagogical complexities of this lingua franca, let us explore these questions and propositions concerning the switch (again) in the teaching of Maths and Science.

1. Educationally, are teachers "not competent" and confident in teaching in English because they are not willing to work hard in improving themselves? Malaysian educational system is partly based on the English schooling system in which the residual effect of English-mediumed school still being felt. The Malaysian environment is an English-language rich environment. Billboards, TV shows, print, digital, and broadcast media are rich in English as well. Code-switching is prevalent. Anglicization of the Malay language happens all the time. With the informal and hidden curriculum of the English language in operation, why are our teachers still incompetent?

We pamper our teachers too much. Our teacher trainers in education faculties need to work harder in instilling the "skills of surviving as a teacher" in their training programs. Radical strategies in teacher training need to be designed; one that will put English language as the center of importance.

2. Economically, our open society has installed landscape of economic domination in the English Language. English-speaking corporations -- from Sime Darby way back then to Halliburton way down in Johor -- dominates the country. These corporations keep scientific and technical secrets not in Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, or Tamil but in the English language. High level negotiations on how to best profit from the functional yet limited-English speaking cheap labour Malaysia is offering happens in the English Language, in the boardrooms of hybridized English-sounding cities such as Cyberjaya, nestled in meaning-less installations with names such as "The Multimedia Super Corridor" or "The Iskandar Development Region". Just like the Malay mind being perpetually being colonized by Malay tabloids and junk newspapers, through Malay-only proficient devotees of ketuanan Melayu ideology, the Malaysian economy of the future will be one whose class of people will be controlled by those who owns the means of ideological and corporate capitalist production from abroad; the exploitation facilitated by English speaking modern little brown brothers. We continue to become yes-men and women to international robber barons we install as this or that members of International Advisory Panel of this or that corridor raya.

3. Culturally, we will only prepare our youth with the ability to merely consume fetishes and crumbs of artifacts of the global corporate cultural industry; products that are imitations of a copy of a copy of a copy of cultural artifacts mechanically produced devoid of any sense of authenticity. Hence while Britain got talent and America creates idols through their useless shows, Malaysians, primarily through the Malay-speaking Akademi Fantasi and Malaysian Idol and other copy-cat cultural constructions of the most perfect imitations of fetishes, become clones of low-brow culture. The mastery of English of our previous and current generation of youth is so poor that only the "hedonistic and edutainmenistic" aspect of the English language is mastered and happily embraced, rather that the "humanistic, revolutionary, liberating, and supra-nationalistic" aspect of it. Elsewhere I have written about the need to master the English language so that we will not become slaves to technological domination but become masters of our destiny through our close reading of ideas of from English writers who opposed all form of colonialism. Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta, Nyerere, and even those who overthrew the British empire found inspiration in writings such as The Magna Carta, Discourse on Inequality, Walden, and Das Kapital.

4. Ideologically, the English language is more progressive than Bahasa Melayu in terms of promoting revolutionary change. Too much emphasis on the artistic and literary aspect of the Malay language may turn the Malays into more close-minded people, given that the Malay language through its complex yet discernible style of addressing, over-glorifying of court language, overemphasis on indirectness of presenting points of view, and overindulgence in maintaining the psycho-narrative Master-slave and oppressive style of speaking and writing -- all these are anathema to the egalitarianistic nature of the English language. Sit in any speech presented by a Malay-speaking ADUN and one by say, an American community leader. Compare the style and opening remarks and one can see the way language play manifests itself. While the English language speaker do not waste time on going around making a point, the Malay style will make sure that the audience are put to sleep with a roundabout way of overpraising this or that person, laced with inappropriate jokes at time. Over-indulgence in matters of respect for politicians (however unworthy of respect many should be accorded with) in many an occasion such as in school ceremonies is a mark of the abuse of the Malay language.

5. Politically, literary figures championing the teaching of Maths and Science in Bahasa Melayu are themselves well-versed in the English language and have used it to their advantage. Intelligentsia they are and intellectuals they necessarily are not.

Intelligentsia are not those who have the intelligence in intellectualizing the role of the intelligentsia but those who have been institutionalized by the ideologues who failed to intellectualize their role as implementers of intelligent policies.

By sending a message to the younger generation that the English Language is of lesser importance and one need to take to the streets to do that, the case for encouraging the mastery of this lingua franca is closed. Blind nationalism, confusion of the role of promoter of language, and submission to the will of this and that ideology of ketuanan this or that, and most importantly over-reliance on questionable university-sponsored research findings on the root cause of failure amongst schoolchildren vis-a-viz the teaching of Maths and Science in English -- all these become foundations of the straw-man arguments of the Bahasa Melayu nationalists. Their missionary work in discouraging the mastery of a language that will help us struggle against neo-colonialism is preposterous yet pervasive, plunging the proletariat into yet another pool of Prozac-ed people fit to be pawns in this post-industrial game of predatory global politics of production.


Again, as in many analysis of Malay dilemma, Malays are sucked into yet another black hole of dehumanization and intellectual despair -- this time through an over-indulgence in their own language that has very little philological, epistemological, and ontological bearing to the language of Science, Mathematics, and Scientific and Technological Application. Our youth will be well-versed in singing English songs they hear from gangsta, punk rock, heavy metal, or even thrash metal and bhagra combined. Their next level of achievement will be sending short messages in broken English and working hard for a slot in Akademi Fantasi and Malaysian Idol -- while the Malay Language nationalist celebrate their victory on the streets again, as aging intelligentsia.

In a globalized world, we will prevail as a nation of Pekan Rabus, selling pirated copies of Michael Jackson's Thriller.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Azly,
I pity my children. But that is my fate to be born Malaysian, something I cannot change. However I can help my children progress and get out of this rotten system of an education that the powers that be in Malaysia call it. I can and I will.

Who I pity more are the Malay children, esp those in rural areas. Will they ever rise and be on par with the rest of the world? No,on par with the rest of the country?

In our country, if a segment of the population is weak in English, what do we do? We lower the bar for them.

If a segment of the population is weak in Sc and Maths? We lower the bar for them. If a segment of the population cannot pass an exam? We lower ... you get it.

We have been lowering the bar while countries such as Spore and Hongkong have been raising theirs in the name of progress, and that is why our education system is so pathetic. You know it.

What can the average Malaysian do? Migrate? Study elsewhere? As it is homeschooling has become more and more popular.
Do we have to do everything ourselves in Malaysia?

The police fail in protecting our homes. What do we do? We pay RM30 a home to hire a guard to protect our taman!!! Look around. The new residential developments are gated communities, so the older areas created a gated taman themselves by installing a boomgate and a pondok and paying a guard!!!

The public transportation system is a joke. What do we do? Thousands of professional moms quit (at a huge loss to the human capital) so that they can be home and ferry their kids around because it is so inconvenient, not to mention unsafe, to let our kids use the public bus.

DO we have to do everything ourselves???
That is the plight of modern day Malaysians, Chinese, Indian, Malay. EVERYONE is doomed.

What can I do, Dr Azly??? What can I do????

Peter Gan said...

Meanwhile, while those who are at the receiving end of this decree on "dehumanization and intellectual despair" mourn the demise of common sense, parents esp. with school going children are plunged into deep, dark despair pondering the future of their little ones.
Ponder we must, mourn we will, even cry out loud if we wish. But just for now. Right now just let us be in this moment of desperate disbelief!

vinnan said...

Now you know why the Chinese educationist insisted on Math and Science to be taught in Chinese parallel to the PPSMI. UMNO will always act for its own greed and political expediency for this is what 'Ketuanan Melayu' is all about. In many ways I must thank the UMNO shithead for giving my kids an edge over the Malay students. Am I cynicalhere? Perhaps I am. However, I am also realistic. Malay graduates in the real world lose to the non-Malay graduates not because they are stupid or lazy but because their ability to operate in different cultural environments make them less valuable to the employer. This is not to say that all non-Malays are functionally multi-lingual but the fact that many non-Malay parents are not bounded by this 'Ketuanan Melayu/Bahasa shit makes them more receptive to the idea of being multi-lingual. Then again isn't it UMNO's goal to keep the rural Malays stupid and pliable so that the latter will always believe UMNO's 'Ketuanan Melayu' shit. Mahathir for all his faults will probably be the last Malay politician to have the balls to face down the language Talibans. The rest of UMNO are no than pondans in this issue. Nizar is right, UMNO is pondan.

'What can the average Malaysian do?'
Very simple my friends, make sure your kids are multi-lingual. Matters not as to what the language may be so long as it is used by a big chunk of people somewhere on the globe. If you do not wish for your kids to venture far then make sure your kids learn English, Arabic and Chinese. I know being multi-lingual is difficult but it is better than having to grovel at UMNO's feet for crumbs. My brother who only has a Diploma in Business consistently outperforms many university graduates because he is good in BM, English and Chinese. Now you know why local employers are not keen on local Malay university graduates.

At the end of the day what does the elite in UMNO care. Most of their kids are either in international schools or overseas studying in English language schools. F']' the peasants is UMNO's motto. Well I say make your kids flexible and f';' UMNO. As for the rural Malay kids, they have my sympathies.

norhisham said...

Doc,
You and Mrs. M basically assist me on gaining my confidence in the language back in the MRSM days.
That was way before the PPSMI.
And this is my story:
My add math teacher performed calculations in English, much more easier to use squared (1 syllable) rather than kuasa dua.
My Physics teacher was scratching her tudung to find the 'linguistic' explanation on the meaning of haba pendam tentu pemejalwapan (i'm still wondering whether this is actually a Bahasa melayu words) and give us the english terms for it (i believed it is "Latent Heat for Evaporation") so that we can find references in the library (or PSP).
We also came across words like Pengamiran (my memory take me back to a guy name Amir) or Integration, Penaakulan (until now I do not know what is this word and not using it in my daily BM conversations not making me less malay!)
And this 'omboh' is never been used in any conversation by Subra the lorry driver with Soon Kiat the mechanic or Ayu the workshop account girl. They don't even know what is 'omboh'! But please do try ask them about 'piston'!

Are we going to regret this in few years?

Anonymous said...

Sigh.... Unless we (who are pro-Science & Math i English) all picket and take to the streets.... the government is just going to continue to ignore us. Are we parents all angry and upset enough to do something about this???
In a way, we also have ourselves to blame – with our 'leave other people to fight the fight-la. I'll just sit back and see how things turn out" -type of attitude and mentality.
The problem with us 'professionals' is that we not vocal enough. We are too afraid to fight the system in a mass, orchestrated way.

So as usual, we just quietly take whatever crap-nonsense we are handed by the Powers that be. Even if we know that it will doom our future generations. And sadly, that will be that.

Tamerlane said...

To teach those subjects in Malay is to limit the malays of their own opportunities and procurement of advance knowledge. We all know that the English language holds the most vocab in the world and is spoken more than any other language in the developrd world. Learning them is English will not diminish one’s Malay-ness. I’m not sure what those sasterawan syok sendiri malay idiots are up to but its definitely not for the advancement of the Malays. Wow I didn’t know pekan rabu is now selling Thriller downloads, I had to order from starlight last time as they were just selling sepat kering and kain pelikat. As MJ would have said it “Don’t stop till ya get enough!”

Anonymous said...

O Man…can we not see THE LOGIC FOR PERSIAPAN2 YANG PERLU DISEDIAKAN UNTUK MENCAPAI MATLAMAT 2012?

Not too long ago, when TOSAMIE/PPSMI was first introduced, who got the Billion RM Contract to supply Laptops & CD-ROMs & other hardwares to Science & Maths teachers who were hardly trained/unprepared to teach the subjects in English?

That – not including new text books for Skim Bantuan Buku Teks.

Neh, no matter – as always just bull doze & give em incentives.

Which reminds me of Rumsfeld who said: “You go to war with the Army you have, Not with the Armoured Tanks you need” *Fan fan the hand at the backside a bit, & say go go*

& What came out of that flimsy state of mind & equipment?

Batches of 500,000 kids/year every year x 6 years in Primary & 5 years in Secondary are churned out to be what you see & whose standat Inggeris u are so proud of today.

That -- despite UKM (proven over more than 25 years) having successfully churned out thousands & thousands of M.a.l.a.y M.e.d.i.u.m Engineers & Doctors, many now are reaching retirement.

Heck, I suppose I’m puzzled why today ½ of the 1,OOOs crowd queuing daily in HUKM Cheras are Chinese sons who are smiling despite not trusting locally trained Malay doctors & nurses whose mums would have preferred Chinese Specialists from Tong Shin right? TQ Liao..


So today, when Wak Hasil Balik Asal.. ***RM5 Billion*** more will now need to be spent to put in place facilities/ “kelengkapan2 tentunya kena disediakan untuk capai matlamat”


– & THIS INCLUDES ***MAKMAL BAHASA***. YEAH GET IT? 3 years will do tq.


Are we all not SHEEP?

1. Who was the Minister of Education who Kick Off This Mess by introducing Communication English 122 (the start of the Storyboard) back in the late 1970s when all the while Atok2 ‘Speaking Melayus’ could already cope with Senior Cambridge English/British GCE O Syllabus 121? [-- then Chief Clerks’ Wives don’t have to work & the whisky drinking Secretary/Director Generals got bungalows in Kenny/Damansara Hills]

2. & who was the Clever In Charge of introducing SSB Gaji Melintang Pukang with the many Sekatan Kecekapan that successfully ensured high attrition rates. & Yet despite 20 years, until fairly recently, many got stuck in Time Scale (ie no promotion) enjoying only annual increments that used to be RM60/year thank you PSD.


Plezzz.. plezzz don’t just focus on the crème a la crème who can fend for themselves anywhere. Have a heart for those who are below the median & raise their capacities – its they who will mend the fences/defenses who won’t even need to use any complicated English sciences/work out the Colonial Maths problems without the aid of cempua to mend the plumbing/drive buses etc..

They only need proficient teachers like the ones we had in the good old days. No need Makmal Bahasa laaa


There can only be x thousands Nos of CEOs & GMs in MNC/GLCs/CinaLinkCos. Even less, kalau ramai at the top tak mau pencen pencen. Right?
There will even be fewer R & D rocket scientists.

Of coz, the nation can make do with more Malay educated Professionals. They will cope. BUT Why are we so hard up & make it so easy to subsidize the production of world class studs who will only think of themselves migrating when the need is even more so pressing in Kg Tok in Ulu Pahang?

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