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Friday, March 13, 2009

I Я Language Supremacy

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Image taken from, hosting by PhotobucketIn talking about certain issues currently facing the nation, the term stakeholder is often mentioned. The term refers to a person, or group of persons, with a vested interest in a particular issue or problem.

In vampire movies, on the other hand, stakeholder could also refer to the guy (or gal, but usually not) trying to drive a stake through the heart of the undead blood-sucking vampire. This happens in the more campy Dracula-type films. Or even in uber-cool vampire flicks, like From Dusk Till Dawn, for instance.

On very rare occasions, like on a Friday the 13th like today, on a silly blog like myAsylum, both definitions of the word sometimes collide. Especially when zombies are thrown into the mix. Which brings us to the definition of  stakeholder that this post will use: "blood-sucking zombies trying to drive a stake through the heart of Malaysian education".

Image hosting by PhotobucketHow many Malaysians does it take to hand over a memorandum?
(picture taken from Perisik Rakyat®)

Unlike the zombies we're used to (and probably prefer), however, the ones Walski has in mind are very much NOT undead (which actually makes them MORE dangerous). It's just that they're prone to not seeing the bigger picture, and are very susceptible to that popular Malaysian infliction - gullibility.
(what the kids have to say, brownie points, and more, in the full post)

Personally, Walski thinks that the instruction of Math and Science should remain in English. So far, from what he can tell, nobody seems to have bothered to ask the school kids (the real stakeholders) what they think about it. Or, at the very least, the rhetoric about why the medium of instruction should revert back to Bahasa Malaysia/vernacular languages, rarely takes the students opinions into account.

Which is why is looks like yet another issue that has been hijacked and made into a political agenda by language supremacists, almost unilaterally. Politicians from across the divide have also pitched in to make this into more of a political issue, rather than an education-related one.

So, what do the kids think? Here's the opinion of one Adam Azhar, a 9-year old, about learning Math and Science in English (hat-tip: Rocky's Bru, emphasis by myAsylum).

I heard my mum and daddy were talking about people that do not like the idea of learning math and science in English. But i think it's pretty cool. It makes me always want to do more revisions. If i don't understand anything or terms that the teacher used at school, i go back and search it in the dictionary or ask my parent. Sometimes i even use the internet.
(source: This Is My World)

And sometimes he blogs - quite well, Walski thinks. Azhar's got pretty cool parents, too. Why? Because they're bringing up the kid with good values - like having a high regard for hard work, that it's okay to make mistakes (but learn from them), and that there's no short-cut to success.

Contrast this to the "membebankan guru dan murid" (burdening the teachers and students) arguments. Like everything in life must be easy-peasy. Granted, the implementation of the program hasn't been well executed, but Walski thinks the program itself is probably one of the few (if not only) intelligent things that the Ministry of Education has done to the curriculum in the last decade.

In covering the PPSMI debate, Malaysiakini did an interview with some school kids, and asked them what they thought. The responses were mixed, as is expected. But what's interesting is who said what. The demographic mix, in other words.

Some interesting observations that Walski picked up from watching the 9-some minute video:

  • the emphasis on racial difference seems to be inculcated in school. Those who are weak in English are those who don't mix with others not from their own ethnicity
  • the only ones who seem to prefer a reversion back to BM come from a very specific demographic group (hint: not just ethnicity, but gender as well)
  • switching from one language medium to another, earlier on, wasn't easy. But most managed. Switching back isn't a brilliant idea, either (and this comes from a Form 3 student!)
  • most students interviewed showed a strong desire for self-improvement. Those who didn't belonged to a very specific demographic. The "we love our tempurung" group. Walski wonders why.

The Ministry, of course, has been dragging its heels in making a decision whether to maintain the Math and Science medium of instruction in English, or not. One likely reason is the upcoming UMNO party elections - politics, again. It's a shame that our politicians care more for their political careers, rather than doing the right thing. And not only the UMNO ones, either. Politicians from PKR and PAS are equally guilty of turning the whole PPSMI thing into a political debate.

Well, now you know what Walski thinks, and you have a feel for what some of the students themselves think. What's your opinion?

If you've noticed, the new poll that Walski's put up (the one he mentioned yesterday) is related to this very topic. So, what do you think about PPSMI, the protests against it, and what not. Take the poll, and maybe leave a comment (or three) as well. If you own a Blogger blog, you can put up the survey on your blog, too, simply by clicking on the icon below it.

It's no big secret that the Ministry of Education portfolio is a must do for any PM aspirant in this country. It is, among other things, a political stepping stone. And every minister who's ever held that portfolio has made sure that he's (never been a she) left his own legacy behind. Some of them good legacies, but many of them damaging, as well. This, in part, is why our so-called education system is in a total mess today. It's always been about political mileage, to varying degrees, and not education for its own sake.

Walski thinks that when it comes to PPSMI, it's the implementation, not the program itself, that needs some focus and revisit. The thought that energy is being expended to look at the feasibility of reverting back to BM clearly shows that it's more about scoring political brownie points, rather than focusing on the real problems. Yes, a review is needed, but the right kind of review.

Look, mastering a language - any language - is an asset. And for one to master a language, one needs to use that language, not just learn it as a subject. PPMSI forces students to apply the English language, something that merely learning the language as a subject has somewhat failed in providing students with an acceptable level of proficiency.

It's high time for the Ministry of Education to show some backbone and balls, and not pander to the I Я Language Supremacy zombies. Brownie points today, another wasted generation 10 years down the road.

For once, do the right damned thing... and right is not always popular.

Walski's bad English post title clarification footnote: The title of today's post was inspired in part by the cartoon series, I Am Weasel, which used to be shown quite a lot on the Cartoon Network on Astro (yes, Walski watches the Cartoon Network).

Image hosting by Photobucket The more interesting character in that series is I.R. Baboon, whose silly characteristics include lousy grammar, and, how he writes the letter 'Я' (like how you see it). To Walski, Baboon is, by far, the more interesting regular character in the cartoon series - pants-less, red-buttocked, nose-digging buffon of a baboon. And in a twisted kind of way, it's Baboon, not Weasel, that's the true hero.

Walski just loving it!