10/06/2008

Teaching Science & Mathematics in English or Malay?

As the heading pointed out, this is a particularly hot issue in Malaysia & an important one at that. Many people complain that the switch from Malay to English has a negative impact & many are rooting for the conversion back to Malay. I personally think that they should not switch back to Malay & I'm going to tell you why.

Being a student in a public university, studying such a technical course (chemical engineering), it's pretty obvious at this level that the remnants of the Malay-medium system is hampering my fellow colleagues' ability to master the subjects that we are taught. I was brought up in a middle-class family in the suburbs of KL & English was my 1st language (I won't go into the details as to why I'm not fluent in my mother tongue), so learning the subjects in English was not hardship, in fact, it was a pleasure to devour the books I have. 



But I notice that many of my friends who are not fluent in English have difficulty understanding the content of the books. The sad part is, many lecturers themselves aren't proficient in the language; imagine the horror of reading through slides where the definitions/explanations are distorted by poor grammar which was NOT what I expected. Then again, many of these lecturers were taught in Malay during their university yrs, so there's another proof of the Malay-medium setback. 

What are the reasons/justifications to switch back to Malay?
  • Preserving the sanctity of the mother tongue: give me a break. You preserve it by speaking it & learning the literature of it, not translating text into words some "language experts" invented for the sake of defending the mother tongue. I understand & appreciate the pride to preserve our culture but this isn't the way to do it. Forget about restoring the glory of Bahasa Malaysia as the lingua franca of the region. We're in the 21st century, not Zaman Kesultanan Melayu Melaka.
  • Helping the mainly Malay-speaking rural youth to survive: teach them English! The current English syllabus honestly is downright silly. There needs to be more emphasis in applying the language in everyday life. I'm a student so I know what I see: the only time students speak English is during English class; the minute it's over they start babbling in Malay/Mandarin/Tamil/whatever. The syllabus has to be changed so as to promote the usage of the language outside & beyond the classroom. 
  • Heaven knows what other reasons are there, but we know the communication is an important tool in whatever we do. We can't miraculously take down English from being the current international medium, but we CAN change the current system & make future Malaysians more proficient & able to express their ideas clearly.

Step up to the mic--I mean the task to do what's best for Malaysians

It may be difficult to see the logic of it but I see all this rhumba as a natural leveling-out of a new system; give it time & troubleshoot to improve it. As a student, I feel that all this talk about switching back should be plugged & use common sense to see where our system is going. To those who say different, I respect your opinion but you better not regret if you/your kids find themselves being pushed aside because y'all think that the Malay-medium is "more better". I'd hate to think that we'd lose out of the global race just because we can't utter decent English.

2 comments:

bebelulu said...

True..As it is,we're already losing out on alot globally..its about time..Bitchin bout how we should ditch it coz the results are not appealing enuff is just ridiculous..
I mean,for something good to happen,were they expecting a walk in the park?
Come on,good things takes time & effort..we should be patient coz in the long run it'll all be worth it..
Malaysia will benefit from this transition,how hard it may be..

Rwi Hau said...

i've always hated to say this. as much as i'd like to agree on teaching science and math in english, if the public perceives this as a way of screwing over their mother tongues, then let them be. let them do whatever they like to.