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Generations suffer from education meddling
Published on: Sunday, March 31, 2024
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A person may fail Malay and History but might be talented artists, skilful technicians, bright scientists or innovative engineers. But they are not going to be able to further harness their God-given talents if we deny them the right to further their studies. 
I READ with much concern the problems highlighted about our education system recently in the Daily Express’ Forum section. The writers all correctly pinpointed what was wrong with our education system. 

Truth be told, we inherited an education system created by the United Malays National Organization (Umno) to strengthen its grip on the country. Five years after Umno’s fall from power in 2018, we are still stuck with the decisions made during Umno’s dominance over the country. 

One example that can be seen was when a proposal to make History as a compulsory pass subject at an Umno congress was accepted and implemented by the Education Ministry in 2013. Now all students need to pass History to be able to get the Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM).

Frankly speaking, there should not be any compulsory-pass subjects in the SPM. Anyone who has studied Education Psychology will tell us that every individual is different. We cannot expect everyone to be good at memorising dates and events, or discuss political decisions made centuries earlier. 

Some people may be bad at history but they can be very good in science, mathematics or arts. Our education system therefore is not very kind to this diversity of talents. 

Just because a person is fluent in the Malay language, does not mean the individual knows the complexities of Malay grammar, or has the aesthetic empathy of Malay literature. The fact that an individual can sit for an examination that is conducted in the Malay language and pass is testament enough of the person’s Malay fluency.

By making Malay and History compulsory pass subjects, we are denying scores of students the right to the SPM certificate and the opportunity to further their studies. Those who come from affluent families can easily send their kids to a foreign university where a pass in Malay is not required. 

But what about the thousands of poor students who live in under-developed areas. We are condemning them to a life of permanent poverty by denying them the chance to further their studies, just because they failed Malay or History.

A person may fail Malay and History but might be talented artists, skilful technicians, bright scientists or innovative engineers. But they are not going to be able to further harness their God-given talents if we deny them the right to further their studies. 

The idea that making Malay language and History must-pass subjects in the SPM because it will make citizens more fluent in Malay and more patriotic to their country is flawed. 

A person who does well in the SPM’s Malay language may not be a fluent speaker. He or she might just be a good learner. But once the person is done with the examinations all could be easily forgotten. I myself have met such individuals. 

And making History compulsory is not going to make our citizens more patriotic. Countries like North Korea, the former Soviet Union and East Germany all had propagandist education systems. Yet every year hundreds of people flee North Korea. And when the Soviet Union and East Germany fell, so too did statues of Lenin and the Berlin Wall, all by the hands of the people. 

Any intelligent person reading our school’s history books can easily tell which segment of society is being glorified and which communities are being deliberately left out. 

This will only have the opposite effect of what the writers of our History syllabus had planned to achieve. The human mind is such that, the more you try restrict it, the more it wants to break free.

Thus the government should seriously consider some flexibility for Malay and History. By doing so, we are providing an opportunity to hordes of students who may not be good at these subjects, but are very good in other subjects and continue their studies at the tertiary level.

In fact any student who has scored a minimum of three Cs in the SPM should  receive the certificate. Let us not deny our future generations the right to an education just to please politicians. 

Political parties come and go and change their stance after every few elections. I therefore appeal to you to take this suggestion to the cabinet, for the good of our country and its future generations.

Farouq Omaro

FOR the record, first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in various speeches insisted that both Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) and English should be given equal prominence if Malaysia was to succeed.

In his speech when installed as Chancellor of Universiti Malaya on June 16, 1962, he said English should remain the medium of instruction right up to university.

Again when moving the second reading of the National Language Bill in parliament on March 2, 1967, he said for the sake of national identity and loyalty BM should be the official language with compulsory pass at the senior Cambridge level (SPM).

At the same time, he stressed that it is necessary to continue to use English after Malay has been made the official language, including flexibility to the courts so that justice is served and there is security for all.

The Tunku said if English was scrapped for use in commerce and administration, there would be hardship for everyone.

He said Malaysians would have to gain knowledge and English was necessary and cannot be discarded for our own national interest. But at the same time, greater importance must also be given to use of BM, which at that time was known as Bahasa Kebangsaan.

However, as things turned out, his vision was not followed to the letter after he stepped down. Two PMs, namely Tun Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Najib realised decades later that the Tunku was right and introduced the PPSMI and DPL policies, respectively, in which at least science and maths would continue to be in English. 

The PPSMI, a six-year plan, was stopped in the fifth year by PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin after RM3 billion was spent. The DPL started on a right footing but faltered after Najib’s fall from grace. English is also no longer a compulsory pass subject at SPM level. 

Many saw this as a policy blunder as it means that young Malaysians unable to find good paying jobs at home, would also lose out in landing decent jobs abroad since these countries like UAE rather prefer nationals from countries that are good in English. – Ed


 



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