Learning English and Chinese hold keys to the future
Published on: Sunday, July 07, 2019
By: Datuk John Lo

Before he left office after 22 years as PM, Tun M wanted the teaching of maths and science in English. Out of office, he continued to promote his initiative but those in power refused to listen to him. Having been the Minister of Education prior to becoming PM, he must have appreciated the advantages of using English to teach these two subjects in the rapidly globalized world.

After being installed once again as PM after GE14, he also took up the education ministry portfolio. Unfortunately, a lot of political pressure erupted on his education minister appointment in addition as PM. Tun M has, on many occasion in 2018 and as late as May 2019, called for use of English in maths and science. Malaysians will have grave reasons to regret for opposing his education ministerial appointment. Tun M would have given top priority on this very important subject.

Malaysian procrastination is quite common. Nothing can beat this one in term of time and long term economic damage.

We are still talking and being frustrated over it for more than 15 years. Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz is still fuming over the delay in its implementation. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geaJV8HmPWw] More than a year has passed since his appointment, the present Minister of Education has not implemented Tun M’s policy. There is still no definitive policy. Unwilling to accept this endless directionless situation, Sarawak has taken the bull by the horn. 

This state will commence implementing use of English in teaching of maths and science from 1 January 2020. I salute Sarawak’s leaders for pushing on with this policy which will benefit the people of this state tremendously.

Due to language bigotry, our standard of English which was one of the best in Asia has plummeted down to mediocre. Feeble attempts to arrest this decline will not help. 

Today, Malaysian English can best be descripted as in a state of flux, consisting of mostly very bad English among common people and graduates and acceptable English in the elitist circle. Tun M has lamented that some senior officials are unable to communicate in international forum.

 Malaysia’s prestige has suffered bodily blows because of their inability to put our points of view across.

There are some very powerful people in and out of government who are opposing the use of English for maths and science. Powerful because they can procrastinate despite Tun M has wished it. Whatever their reasons may be, these people are definitely locking many Malaysians out in the acquisition of modern knowledge. They want these Malaysians to remain backward and have no capacity to compete in the world. 

Their intention is sinister, keep them poor and dependent, then push the blame on Malaysians who have succeeded. Very sinister indeed.

Modern knowledge in all fields of endeavours are being generated at a frantic speed unparalleled in the history of mankind. With 5G being introduced in many cities and coming to Malaysia in a matter of months, Malaysians cannot be blamed for wondering where is the education minister. The net effect of this procrastination will leave Malaysians behind at the edge of a very precipitous cliff, poised for a free fall into the quagmire of the modern economic dark age.

Knowledge in high tech, maths and science, like present geopolitical scenario, is being transformed into multipolar dimensions. On one side is the use of English in the western world, then there are Russians and Chinese. The latter two are generating and developing knowledge in high tech rapidly. China, in particular, has caught up and taken leadership in many areas such as space exploration, 5G, engineering in highway construction on land and in the sea, tunnelling mountains, some branches of medicine and herbal medicine, quantum physics, clean energy, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, robotics, agriculture and reforestation, etc. 

All these have been achieved by Chinese in Chinese, not in English. Such success has been the monopoly of the English-speaking world. No longer. The Chinese have succeeded in original research leaving the English speaking world behind. 

The rapid elevation of China to world’s No.2 economy has opened the eyes of many nations. Many of their citizens have begun learning Chinese as another essential economic language. Chinese has already become more than a business language. It is now also the language of technology. USA as requested from China on how to land a satellite on the dark side of the moon. For the first time in history, American companies like Verizon are paying royalty to Huawei for 5G patents. 

The future advantages in term of trade is in technology. 

Malaysia cannot depend on oil/gas and oil palm. 

Also, not on the present manufacturing technology on which Malaysia is totally dependent on imports. Malaysia has little home-grown tech. We must embark on I and I [innovation and invention]. No I and I are possible without advance knowledge of maths and science. Even the most hardened language bigots can see Malaysia cannot continue on the present path “learn no English, learn no Chinese” and that our country will need advance knowledge to survive after the depletion of natural resources.

The language bigots have been heaping blames and accusing some Malaysians who have succeeded to acquire wealth at the expense of other Malaysians. 

The truth of the matter is most of those who have succeeded have ignored these language bigots, embraced and acquired knowledge/skills. Whereas the less successful have been blinded by language bigots from gaining necessary proficiency in English/knowledge/skill and increasingly so in near future, the learning of Chinese. These Malaysians who are under the spell of language bigots will remain poor and “government bantuan” dependent.

There is absolutely no scientific proven fact that any race has monopoly of luck and success. Luck and race have nothing to do with it. Some of the contributory elements for success are knowledge, skill, integrity, hard-working, persistence and ability to interact with people.

If Malaysia truly wants to pursue high income status, the top priority is to rid the strangle hold of language bigots. Then it can encourage all Malaysians to learn any language, be it English, Russian, Japanese or Chinese that are of economic value to us in this globalized world. Learning languages will not make any of us less Malaysian. Being well off will make us proud of who we are.

Tun M is correct in trying to take politics and emotion out of education. He is being practical.

1 and 1/2 generation of Malaysians have fallen behind. The country has paid a heavy economic price in the last 30 years. Continuous stubbornness and procrastination will see 2nd and 3rd generations falling behind further. These generations will have two languages to catch up, English and Chinese. If the language bigots in Malaysia do not allow young Malaysians to advance in maths and science in these two languages, our nation can never see rapid progress. Already most Malaysians are being saddled with poor English. How to catch up with Chinese knowledge in maths, science and high tech. 

For Malaysia’s economic future, the federal government can set in motion a policy to induce Y generation to learn English and Chinese with gusto and urgency! This policy does not need huge financial outlays but will yield great results for Malaysia!

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