Speaking in schools

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

I elected to stay away from the demonstration for the abolishment of teaching mathematics and science in English. I am not against this particular government policy and neither do I support.

I have elected to do this posting in my personal blog rather than in my political blog lest I be accused of politicizing the language issue. I do not have any intentions of doing so.

Why am I harping on an issue that is dead and gone? The government has decided to scrap off the teaching of mathematics and science in English, so, why am I making my stand at this stage? To me, the issue is not dead. It will not die until 2012. Atleast, that is what Mr. Minister of Education had said. Again, while the government may have intentions to scrap that one issue, another bombshell was recently dropped on us - this time, making English compulsory in schools.

Should English be made compulsory in schools? The whole idea is actually very simple. I always ask myself one question – is it a sin or a crime to master a foreign language? I am tri-lingual and I have no problems with that. I speak Hindi when I am in India. English when in English speaking countries and Malay, when I am in countries where the national language is Malay. I am now industriously learning Japanese and Arabic.

The issue however, is, - are we ready to make English compulsory? Or will Mr. Minsiter of Education again stand up and say - we may have made a mistake. From where I stand, I feel that the government ought not rush as we do not have qualified persons to teach English in the English language. Period ...

I was watching the International Tilawah Al Quran on TV last night and to my surprise the commentator was speaking horrendous English. Was the commentator the best we could offer? I suppose the slot was telecasted all over the world or at least to the countries that participated in the assembly. I am sure listeners were having a jolly good time laughing at our product. In simple terms, majority of the younger Malaysian generation does not have good command of the English language.

It is not that we do not have good English commentators. Mahadzir Lokman is a good example. I am sure there are many more out there. These are the old school of thought. They are from the school were every subject, except for Malay, was thought in English. We, the old school, have the ability in speaking good English but the younger generation?

There is no denying that we want our younger generation proficient, in not only the Malay language, but in other languages too. However, if the teaching generation's English is going to be like that of the commentator, I really feel we should forget about the idea, atleast for now. We really do not have the resources and the infrastructure to pursue this issue.

Just look around you. Do you find the teaching generation available today able to teach English? I doubt it. Their command of English is at the lowest. Every sentence uttered by this generation is grammatically wrong. They are from schools where the medium of instructions were never in English. How would one expect a non English speaking person to teach English? However, it is happening in schools today. English is thought in the Malay language. I am surprised with the ingenuity of the teachers who are able to teach English in Malay. Beats me.

While I appreciate the fact that English is important, the future of our younger generation is also important. Do not spoil the future of the younger generation by teaching them things the teachers themselves do not know.

Maybe in 20 years time, when the now young generation has gone through the acid test and have taken control of the English language, English can be made compulsory. Now? We are not ready, believe me.

For the sake of mentioning. I was in the Court of Appeal the other day. The Honourable Gopal Sri Ram made an Order in the following terms - "I Order that the deposit be cheated ....". This young lawyer was blinking. Deposit be cheated? I suppose that was the question playing in his mind. What on earth does this Order mean?


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