Malaysia

Malays will lose identity if Maths and Science are taught in English, say Islamic students

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
November 14, 2013

To revert to teaching Science and Mathematics in English will cause the Malays to lose their identity and it is contrary to the spirit of the Federal Constitution which spells out Bahasa Malaysia as the official language, an Islamic students group said.

In an obvious retort to a call by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for Putrajaya to revert to teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), National Association of Islamic Students president Muhamad Aliemran Norasid questioned if the country's leaders have attained the same level of maturity as the nation, which achieved Independence more than 50 years ago.

He said for any organisation to succeed, it must know its history, adding: “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree."

Muhamad Aliemran said the reason they were questioning the wisdom of the leadership was because the Malay community was shocked when the PPSMI was introduced in 2003, which it viewed as bringing more harm than good.

"The reason we were against the policy was because it is contrary to the Constitution which states that Bahasa Malaysia is the official language," he said in a statement today.

"And the fact is that more than 300 million people in the world can converse in the language," he added.

The association's views  contradict that of Dr Mahathir’s, who only two days ago argued that the spirit of nationalism would not diminish even if the subjects were taught in English as "knowledge is the key to the success of a race".

"I am a Malay and I love the Malay language. But I also want the Malays to be educated," Dr Mahathir had said, adding that if Malaysians did not master the English language, it would narrow down their job opportunities even if the individual was a good student.

Muhamad Aliemran, however, pointed out that during the time of the Malacca Malay sultanate, Malay was the lingua franca in Southeast Asia, and many scholars were experts in the language.

"Now English is more widely used than Malay, this is against the Constitution," he noted.

Muhamad Aliemran cast doubts on whether PPSMI, meant to improve the standard of English, had achieved its desired results.

"As it is, there is so much difficulty in learning English, what more to learn Science and Maths in English.

"This has resulted in a decline in students wanting to pursue Science courses, which reached a critical stage, according to former Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

"Does anyone realise this or are we blind?" he asked.

Muhamad Aliemran also said many other advanced countries, such as Japan, France and Thailand, promoted their own native language, whereas in Malaysia, attempts to promote English caused the decline of both the Malay and English language skills.

"This has affected the standing of Bahasa Malaysia as a language of knowledge, whereas in the 1974 Unesco report, it was stated that the development of a country's education system was dependent on its native language," he added.

Muhamad Aliemran also said that when PPSMI was hastily introduced in 2003, there was no proper planning,  and teaching materials and teachers were not well-prepared, causing some of them to leave the profession for not being able to handle the task.

He added that some teachers also continued to teach in Malay when the reading materials were in English, causing confusion among students.

The other major setback was that the Malay community was losing their identity, with the language being mixed up and sounding like "bahasa pasar".

"Attempts to be like the 'mat salleh' are shocking and if this continues, the Malays would lose their identity completely," he cautioned.

Muhamad Aliemran also said that mastery of the English language did not promise a high standard of education.

As such, he suggested that Malaysia emulate the education system in The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, where the people could communicate in English without sacrificing their own languages.

"Concrete, systematic and pragmatic steps need to be taken so that this problem is nipped in the bud," he added. - November 14, 2013.