Saturday, May 31, 2014

English is ‘the’ window to scientific knowledge

10:43PM May 28, 2014

By Lok Wing Kong

Kudos to the chairperson of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) Noor Azima Abdul Rahim who has continuously put in huge effort in promoting English in general and in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in particular for umpteen years.

I have in a small way also written on this subject with a view to wake up the powers-that-be to bring back the English medium schools in order to arrest the spiralling decline of this international lingua franca.

The British must be credited immensely for contributing the very unique and useful language - English - to the world.  It is the most powerful and useful language in many human endeavors particularly in STEM. Without it, the world may not be it is today.

In my opinion, every country shall embrace it as one of its own languages. This is the best way to be able to catch up and be at par with other advanced countries. It is “the” window to scientific knowledge. And knowledge is the key to success.

I reckon it is one’s philosophy in life in that good things, whether they are of the west or the east, one must embrace them. For example, all countries in the world have adopted Arabic numerals, French metric systems for weights and measurements, abacus and calculators and later computers etc, etc, which have been parts of our daily life. They are not ours. Therefore to embrace English to be our own is not wrong and shameful in any way.

Don’t let the nationalistic ego to drag us down. When our nationalistic ego is very high and we are far behind the Third World countries, all of them will look down on us. So which one would you prefer?

The British who were at loggerheads with the French for centuries and yet abandoned its imperial system in measurements and weights and embraced the French’s metric system instead.

The German government and many other European Union (EU) countries have encouraged their scientists and researchers to present their papers in English. It is suicidal to uphold national pride and ego and yet steadfastly ignore the very good things in the world.

English is a case in point. It is already an international language, meaning it belongs to every country. Hence it is not shameful to take it as one of our own languages.

It is a sad thing that our teaching academics from primary to tertiary level have been telling the students that we do not use English very often and therefore do not need to learn it with great effort. On top of that they view speaking English as a sign of being unpatriotic and it can reduce their Malay-ness and Muslim-ness.

Since the abolishment of the English schools some 50 years ago, the standard of English has been on the southward spiralling decline. Today, many graduates cannot construct a simple sentence in English without grammatical mistakes. I have read many of their resumes which are badly written and at times I could not figure out what they are trying to tell me.

The Education Blueprint 2013 to 2025 will be a total failure.

This country has been run by a bunch of no-brainers since independence. Thus far good things have been destroyed (e.g. English medium schools) and no good policies have been enacted, this education blueprint included.

This country has been mismanaged resulting in more than RM800 billion in sovereign federal debt, some 56 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

‘Self-praise is no praise at all’

In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ratings Malaysian students were at rock bottom. The deputy prime minister and education minister had been boasting that our education system is the best in the world, better than that of EU countries including UK and US. Does he know that “self-praise is no praise at all”.

Besides PAGE, many outstanding personalities like ex-PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad have sounded their opinion in this subject for some time. Somehow the powers-that-be just turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the many rationally good suggestions.

Many students therefore shun the science subjects, turning to art and religious subjects instead. Most if not all Muslim countries are poor in STEM and good at theocracy, Malaysia included. Many Muslims ignore the importance of scientific knowledge. This will make Malaysia a backward country.

In the national education school setup, even with English native speaking teachers, it is not possible to uplift the English standard both in speaking and writing. The environment is not conducive for learning the language. The local teachers will sabotage this due to the aforesaid reasons. And the students do not have the chance to be immersed a for reasonably long time to grasp the language.

The only way to quickly arrest the decline of the English language is to quickly bring back the English medium schools.  Now there is still a sizeable number of retired English language teachers plus many English-educated retirees from the private sectors. If they were given good incentives, many of them would like to teach.

Don’t let this rare asset slip away. It is now or never!
~ Malaysiakini

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