There are countless articles written in the newspapers and online portals on the need to address the poor English proficiency level in the country since the abolition of English as a medium of instruction in schools in 1982. The reasons given are logical,sensible and practical and yet Malaysian politicians are choosing to be deaf publicly but privately busy arranging for their children to study in English overseas.
This situation is unfair for the general public, for parents who wish to have their children educated in English so that their future is brighter vis-a-vis employment opportunities in the private sector and Multinational Corporations (MNCs)
There are calls by people who should know better on the advantage of being proficient in English especially in dealing with the mass of information on a technical nature available in English. This call here for the revival of the English Medium Schools by an ex-Senior government servant should be considered carefully. He should know because he always comes face to face with bad English whenever his doctors are presenting technical papers at the local and international level. I have also come across medical reports from medical specialists for insurance purposes poorly written in English with a lot of grammatical errors. You would never see this 15 years ago!
I had been there as well. At the international level in the past, the organiser would look for Malaysians to be the chairman or rapporteur of the conference, workshops or seminars. This was due to our peoples’ ability to converse well and enunciate in the language and so guide and promote interactions among participants of such international gatherings. I believe the situation has now changed. Malaysians now, more often than not have become only “passengers” at international level meets.
In the past I noticed the Indonesians,the Thais and the Japanese had beautiful slides but were unable to deliver them coherently as their English was generally poor. They also fared badly during Q&A sessions. It was not a fruitful interaction.
I went to a primary school and learnt in my mother tongue but from secondary school onwards, I studied in English which has changed my life fortune. I would not be what I am today if not for my knowledge in English. And I wish Malaysian children today would trot my way and be as or more successful. I have managed to achieve financial freedom well ahead and certainly can send my children to study overseas without any problem but what about my poor countrymen?
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to study in English and I really pray that the current government leadership which is perceived to be weak and not visionary to rethink their education strategy because they are not going to be there forever, to quote the French philosopher, Etienne de Grellet , “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Ex-long serving PM Mahathir was party to the abolition of English as a medium of instruction in schools in 1982 and he tried to redeem himself by introducing policy on PPSMI in 2005 during the sunset of his political power and only to be scrapped by the flip-flop successor sleepy Abdullah Badawi or more popularly known as Bodohwi, in 2008 and the succeeding PM Najib has simply cocooned himself from this issue refusing even to talk publicly about it. Being brought up with a silver spoon, he most probably cannot grasp the English medium issue, playing it safe: what kind of a leader is this? A fairweather leader is no leader. A true leader fights and not hides.
Worse comes to worse, why not we have a referendum (letting people decide) on the use of English as a medium of instruction in secondary schools? Before that we must inform the public sufficiently especially those in rural areas on the importance of English for a competitive Malaysia.
Having said that, politicians basically fear a referendum because it is too final just like an election, it’s a truly peoples’ choice by popular votes and not one “first past the post” as there are no number of seats! Will this open a Pandora’s box? Well we must have ground rules like not resorting to referendum on ultra-sensitive issues like faith and religion.
Let’s have this referendum nevertheless and distract and take the shine off the current Anwar’s ugly and combative so called Blackout 505 rallies as urban people will prick up their attention toward this novel way of making decision for something really close to their hearts.
The ball is in your court PM Najib.