A liberal view on education
|Datuk Jema Khan is a former Sabah Umno Youth leader. He is now a businessman pushing the Agenda Liberal Melayu in Facebook .|
FEB 26 — Just before my retirement from politics a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to put my views on education to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. My view was that we Malays focused too much on our language and religion and as a result our children would also focus on the same. To some extent English, mathematics and science would take a back seat. Children having a limited attention span, will focus on what we tell them.
The problem is that even if a Malay is excellent in the Malay language and religion, that by itself has no commercial value in the private sector. At the time, Tun Dr Mahathir also alluded to the fact that the Government only has a limited number of places for Malays with these qualifications. I believe that Tun changed the education policy for mathematics and science to be taught in English to give the Malays a better chance in the private sector.
Today we are reverting back to the past. The problem, I believe, is that the stakeholders’ interests are not properly spelt out. Who is the most important stakeholder? To me, it is the parents and their children who are the most important.
The teachers, civil servants, linguists and others, rank lower in importance on this issue. Certainly, we cannot be guided by and limited to, what they can teach our kids. We must cater to the needs and wants of the most important stakeholder, that being the parents and their children.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 26.3 states “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”. In this respect, the Government has to relent by allowing locals to join the international schools in Malaysia, and allow greater numbers of private higher education institutions to operate in Malaysia as well as maintaining the Chinese and Tamil schools. The problem is the reversion of the teaching of mathematics and science in the national language in the national school system.
There are many parents including many urban Malays who want their children to be taught science and mathematics in English. In a few cases they have made their views known through the schools’ Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
As it stands today, I don’t believe that language, be it English or Malay should be the question. The liberal in me wants to give a choice to parents to choose what they please.
I would say that since we have already trained teachers to teach mathematics and science in English, as well as already presumably have a group of teachers to teach the same subjects in Malay, we should allow the parents to decide which language they want their children to be taught at each individual school. We could have a mathematics or science class being taught in both languages in the same school at the same time to two different sets of children.
The logistics should be handled by the Ministry of Education as they are supposed to serve us. The parents need only make the choice in the best interest of their children.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.