For those Malaysians residing in another planet, PPSMI stands for ” Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris” or in English, ” Teaching and learning science and mathematics in English”. This policy was introduced by the ex- long serving Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed in 2003 in all schools in Malaysia. Unfortunately he did this towards the end of his 22-year tenure as the PM. Virtually implemented unopposed but after he stepped down and transfered the reins of power to the politically disastrous Deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, nationalists’ ramblings surfaced followed by noisy demonstrations (did they get the permit??) asking for the policy to be reverted. Yes, to revert back to teaching those two subjects in Bahasa Melayu (BM).
The cabinet under the hopeless Badawi in 2009 had decided to bow to these so-called nationalists’ fanatical demand and would terminate or in “kurang ajar” (uncultured/crude ) language, kill off the policy in 2012, yes, in two months’ time PPSMI, as a policy, is sentenced to death.
Just like any death sentence, the appeal for clemency is duly made. Countless letters have been written and arguments made for the two subjects to be taught in English. The President for the Association of Manufacturers has put on record the need for our students to be conversant in maths and science and to gain greater knowledge and skills in the areas so as to stay globally competitive. How are you going to gain greater knowledge if a great number of latest scientific research are all written in English? Who could have translated the research fast enough as to be timely for our English-handicapped people?
It is not easy to translate technical papers. For a start to be able to translate one must not know only the two languages but also be conversant in the field. Now how many people are in that category? In the rapidly changing field of science, many new concepts are enunciated in English and just who could explain clearly in BM? Most likely the words don’t even exist in BM and that is why you see a lot of language “bastardisation” is going on in Malaysia such as species in English is “spesie” in BM, industry in English is spelt “industri” in BM. Oh! There are just too many of those words now. Playing around with words is easy but try explaining some scientific concept in BM, for a start it will take twice the number of words and yet you are still lost in translation!
So the final battle is raging with concerned parents taking up the gauntlet to push for PPSMI, at least for those schools which opt for it, to continue. Their battle cry is to save the children’s future by giving them a chance to learn those two technological subjects in English. So far their appeals and cajolings the power that be seem to have fallen on deaf ears. ( Strange, unlike the nationalists, these parents have not decided to march and demonstrate, gosh! what will their children think of them if they ever do this?)
The parents have gone to cyberspace to gain support for their battle to retain PPSMI. People-friendly newspaper and online portal like the STAR is doing its public bits by supporting this last minute campaign by giving its readers latest activities and development on PAGE (Parent Action Group for Education) which is the leading pro-PPSMI group, you can read it here
There are also heartfelt appeals from eminent personalities like Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye and the well respected ex-senior civil servant, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam for government to reconsider the policy termination and listen to the voice of the “relevant” people.
There is also an interesting blog article written in excellent BM in support of PPSMI( for those who can read and understand ) please go here. In many occasions writers who are able to express themselves better in BM would oppose the continuation of PPSMI. If you visit one of the popular blogs battling for PPSMI, you will notice those commentators writing in BM would oppose PPSMI vehemently and equally some of those supporting PPSMI are commenting in such elegant English! Visit this blog for your knowledge and perhaps entertainment… really the final battle is getting hot and the chorus for clemency for PPSMI is getting louder.
Yet, Muhyiddin the Minister of Education and his Deputy Fuad Zakarshi (who was holidaying in New York last Hari Raya and may actually have a child studying in US) are still adamant that the policy should be put to death. They are seen as the “hard ones” compared to PM Najib. I must admit I too dislike Muhyiddin. I have a feeling that he thinks he commands a big support in UMNO ( fancy he could have lost to Ali Rustam CM of Melaka had the latter not been found guilty of dealing with money politics in UMNO general election in 2010!).
I would like to understand his argument to terminate PPSMI and come up with MBM-MBI (Memertabatkan BM dan memperkasakan Bahasa Inggeris) or “Uplifting BM and strengthening English” but for the life of me, I cannot even begin to understand his logic save for pure political expediency rather than evidence-based principle.
Actually the term “memertabatkan” means putting something on the pedestal ( to be loved,revered,respected,embraced). English is not my mother tongue but having been educated in English I could see that those who aren’t have missed a lot in new knowledge acquisition. Many would rather “lepak” (doing nothing beneficial) and visit blogs about celebrities,gossips, the supernatural,politics and cookeries written in BM. They congregate these places by the thousands. And they write in funny BM lingo in their comments to those blogs…. “memertabatkan BM” indeed!
The final battle is on and an appeal for clemency for the life of PPSMI has been made and now let us see whether PM Najib has the guts, the singular focus and the strong leadership as his mentor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The success of his transformation programmes will be dependent on tech-savvy and English-conversant Malaysians rather than Arabic-conversant,arts-savvy and supernatural-loving populace.
The ball is now in Najib’s court.
Footnote: Concerned parents/caring people please visit PAGE Facebook to sign up for retention of PPSMI. They are aiming for a million signatures.