Science and Maths in English or Bahasa Malaysia? PART 3
Posted by jingoisticbuthornydesperado on November 18, 2008
There have been heated discussions of late in Bongkersz’s blog and Noktah Hitam’s blog on the role of BM in our education system. Losing BM as a national identity because Science and Maths are taught in English is just a histrionic bugaboo, in my humble opinion.
Education is important, even if it means introducing English in economically beneficial subjects. One can always have the homework to read, collate data and analyse text from English books but making a Malay presentation of the work done. Of course, it doesn’t have to be fixed roles for both languages, the roles can be reversed. This way we kill two birds in one stone.
Education leads to economic prosperity. Without economic prosperity, what is going to be our bread and butter or Bahasa Malaysia alone? I wish I can eat my own words without trying to earn a living, pun intended. Teaching science and maths in English isn’t going to make BM go extinct. There is always poetry, local judiciary process, public bureaucratic procedures, Siti Nurhaliza and our local poster boy, MAWIIIIIIIIIIII! Okay, okay, it is a chutzpah for me to scream out for Mawi so stop taunting me over him!
Who would cater for the Malaysian market if there are no BM users? Unfortunately, Malaysians are not Chinese in China (pardon me for being emphatic about the latter to prevent causing unwanted confusion with chauvinistic Malaysian Chinese). With their (Chinese in China) stupendously gargantuan demand power, foreigners who want to make business dealings with China have to kowtow to Chinese language. Malaysia unfortunately is neither the supply superpower or demand superpower. Malaysian economic prosperity is based on export rather than domestic demand-pushed economic growth. In a dog eat dog world, we have to learn English to maintain (if not decay into oblivion) one of our economic advantage which IS/WAS the language barrier or rather, the lack of language barrier with foreigners. We may not beat China in demand power but at least we do not just surrender to China with our white flag, forsake English and so making Malaysia even more economically unattractive than it already is.
My selfish instinct wants to stick by to libertarian principles: that everyone is free to do what they want to do. If others are stupid enough to cocoon themselves, it will be their fault, no? Unfortunately, one only gets more freedom to choose wisely from having more knowledge and the access to knowledge is restricted by wealth. In this specific case, I would stick by to Marxist and Confucius principles. According to the former, individuals aren’t exactly ‘free’ to do what they want. They are to a certain extent, controlled by the level of ignorance laid upon them. For the greater good of the society (a combination of Confucius and Marxist schools of thought), I would probably incorporate English into Science and Maths classes though not necessary to replace BM completely. Free people from the ignorance-induced limitations: that is true freedom. I believe THE JOB that should be done is rather to create a ‘no holds barred’ environment for everyone. Only upon doing as such and if there are still some who would still like to cocoon themselves, it will then ultimately be their responsibility.
As for improving the standards of BM
1) Leadership by example: If our PM or any of our other politicians are great orators or writers, they can revive the interest in BM. Astound public with beauty of the language to arouse the public interest in the language like Shakespeare, Barack Obama, Winston Churchill. We learn from their leaders and idols, and we will quote beautiful phrases from the greats while learning.
2) Cooperate with Indonesia in area of science and technology. Teaching English in science and maths classes doesn’t mean that we can’t publish papers in BM. Not just any papers, but scientific journals for example, palm oil technology where Malaysia has got a decent head start. This will encourage a greater number of cross referencing in BM between both countries increasing its usage. People will be willing to put in some extra effort just to get hold of the knowledge from a good science journal. It doesn’t matter if they employ a translator to do the job because if they do, they also create a demand for BM/English linguists for translation jobs, increasing the usage of BM.