Yes. We should abolish the term vernacular schools and make them equals to kebangsaan schools. Why do we call them ‘kebangsaan’ schools anyway? Schools that nationalize people? Do we need to actually ‘teach’ nationalization? We wouldn’t have had to if politics simply got out of the way of education. So, yes – we should abolish the term ‘salah satu jenis kebangsaan’ and make verncular schools kebangsaan schools. What’s wrong with simply celebrating the richness and diversity in languages that makes Malaysia so unique? What’s wrong with switching from one type of school to another? There would be nothing wrong if vernacular schools were simply just schools.
That Mahathir’s son…what’s his face – said that all vernacular schools should be abolished to promote unity. He has a point there eventhough he dared not say what really needs to be told. The problem is not in the teaching of non-Malay languages, the problem is the race-politics and racist indoctrinations promoted through these schools! He couldn’t come on out to just say that unless he went undercover (like I did) and saw it with his own dua-biji….mata.
I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not some ignorant race-chauvinist because I have deep reverence for his father and respect for his sister. However, if he is the black sheep of the flock, then it would be truly regrettable despite the fact he came from such a pedigree stock.
Speaking of my reverence for Mahathir, there has been only one public policy he has stamped his mark on that I have not supported. (There may have been other views by him but I only pay attention to the headlines that get the most airtime, like KLCC, standing up to the IMF, the Look-East policy, championing South countries,…). Everything Mahathir suggests and says in public, I jump out of my chair in support. He could not have delivered it better. People who call him pemimpin kuku besi or hate his guts simply have none of their own. I suppose that’ explains the unmerited gravitational towards Abdullah Badawi which ended up giving him such a landslide victory. Now that Malaysians get a true taste of what it’s like to have no-LP, I am sure they have a new appreciation of Mahathir.
Way back when, I knew Mahathir made the wrong move in pushing for Maths and Science in English. But to his credit, he didn’t have much time left. Whether he left it as it is or drove the gear into this massive experiment, nothing much is lost. He knew his successors would have neither the will, vision nor LP to consider radical change. At least in this way, we were jolted out of our very infamous Malaysian attitude of dragging our feet about getting anything worth doing done.
There are those who fret about how it’s been a great waste of time and money and our children being treated as guinea pigs. But what makes us so sure that the same amount of time and money would not have been spent on even more wasteful activities? Like, sending five space tourists instead of one?
At least, having done this form of ACTION RESEARCH we have amassed a mountain of data and insight into the deep problems of our nation’s human productivity and capacity and not wait til it is way too late. We Malaysians have a way of ignoring falling rocks and tilting buildings with an over-optimistic view that a massive erosion and landslide will not occur just because all the signs says it will. (Yes, just because). If we can ignore signs of devastating floods and landslides, do you trust us to actually ring the alarm on a quiet deterioration of Malaysian minds?
So now we know that most of our schoolteachers are not qualified! Hahahahaha! I am so delighted to know that I was right about some of my teachers – that they did not become qualified teachers by virtue of their initiative in learning nor pioneering insights to teaching. It also has nothing to do with inherent intelligence and productivity since everyone knows that teaching is the last resort for those who did not qualify for choice courses.
Memories are fallible, but perhaps some of my classmates could validate this later on. I remember one time in Form 4, I told my History teacher that in order to teach a chapter on the Industrial Revolution or the Renaissance or Islamic history, she needed to acquire the experience and covered reading the width and breadth of those his-stories. She did not know who Michaelangelo was and could not extend further about his works and pronounced his name, “Mee-kah-eh-lang-e-lo”.
Anyway, time to grow up and be an adult about this. I spoke at length to some primary school teachers and I actually sympathise with them. In front of a class, they have to present themselves as authorities. It’s probably very damaging for their self-esteem to have a student point out their ineffectiveness and ignorance, and disheartening to know that they cannot do their job to their best ability and holding their students back at the same time. That is what any teacher who is not proficient in English would be made to feel.
As Head of Department once, I had a choice between hiring a teacher who is fluent (but neither proficient nor had a convincing recipe for effective teaching) or a Chinese-educated teacher who has demonstrated a great ability to bond with students, is highly committed and dedicated to learning and is passionate about guiding her students to achieve. I chose the latter, because you can buy a piece of certificate, but you can never buy passion and the drive to learn. Of course, if I really had a choice, I’d go for a proficient speaker with insights into language learning and acquisition, training, width and breadth in knowledge, applications and theory, great presenter with humor yet able to control a class without being an impeding authority, etc.
From the day I started teaching, I’ve always had this fantasy that we could do teacher-training the way we do direct-selling training. I really love the way the MLM-ers achieve their goals. The good companies have a wonderful mentoring system with practical coaching and motivating approaches and tools to drive people to become self-starters. I’ve always told myself, if I had not had a taste for words and writing and teaching, there is nothing I would love better to be than a network marketing coach who started out as the door-to-door saleslady working on commissions.
The only way I can see the government really helping teachers train and be self-starters is to include other-medium language schools in their fold – not as stepmothers, but lawful mothers of our future nation. I am sick and tired of the race politics being played out in school. I know though, that if we allow students to transfer from one-medium to another and have the flexibility of starting at a lower grade for certain subjects which they want to take in the other language and be allowed to take effective FL classes, racial politics could never happen in school. Imagine what would happen if children came back and could give feedback of what’s happening in their school that is negatively different from what they’ve experienced elsewhere? Imagine if there was a programme where teachers can transfer to different medium schools to share with other teachers their strengths and expertise in teaching a particular subject in L1 or as a second-language? Not only would it eradicate the opportunities for creating strongholds in racist ideologies, it would promote the proliferation of knowledge and languages.
Sigh…someone should really make me Hishamuddin’s policy writer. His policies would be so successful and popular it would propel him to Premiership even if his cousin was in his way.
Read more articles like this :
More Hours For English Lessons in Primary School
Singapore and Malaysia Education for the 21st Century : More alike than different.
In Support of Bahasa Malaysia Not English
Why Malay and Chinese Nationalists Protest over the teaching of Math and Science in English