English won’t make people any smarter

By TAN POH KHENG/Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily

Mahathir’s retirement life has not been lulled by Abdullah’s departure. The old man still makes some remarks here and there, often to the cheers or jeers of the public.

A recent statement by ex-premier that the Malays and Malaysians in general would become dumb if the policy of teaching science and maths in English is to be revoked might perhaps arouse panic among senior government officials.

Mahathir could have come up with such strongly worded statement because he loves the people so much, or is overly worried that the Malays would become indolent.

Or perhaps he has an overwhelming political sense, knowing that the education ministry would very soon uproot the policy of teaching science and maths in English, which he strongly advocated and singlehandedly implemented during the waning days of his office.

Or perhaps he was just taking the pre-emptive strike, teaching this group of simpletons a lesson while mocking the politicians for seeing only the “ballots” and not the “nation’s future.”

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that Mahathir would utter things like that. In fact, this has gone perfectly well with the haughty and self-complacent style and mentality of this erstwhile political strongman.

This is typical Mahathirism. The Mahathir that we are so accustomed to.

He pushed ahead his pet policy of teaching science and maths in English shortly before he bowed out in 2002, even in the midst of widespread opposition from educationists, academics, civic organisations as well as parents.

Voices of opposition came not from the Chinese community alone. The Malay and Indian communities were also generally opposed to the policy.

For the first time in the nation’s history we saw three major ethnic groups stand on the same side over an educational issue.

Even then the government chose to play the deaf.

Seven years have since lapsed, but our children have not grown any smarter, and their science and maths standards not remarkably improved either. Most children are lost in the middle of nowhere, almost rendered the guinea pigs that drown in the mudpool of the policy.

Will Malaysians become more stupid if we do away with the teaching of science and maths in English? This logic is impregnated with the element of inferiority complex.

Are the Chinese, Germans, Japanese, Koreans, French… all stupid?

These countries have spent hundreds, even thousands of years to nurture some of the most brilliant technological professionals and great scholars in human history. And they have done this in their own mother tongues!

Tsien Hsue-shen, Luo Huageng, Wilhelm Rontgen (the German physicist who discovered X-ray), French microbiologist Louis Pasteur and Japanese physicist Shoichi Sakata were all educated in their own mother tongues, and ascended to the pinnacle of science.

The overall quality of people in China, Germany, Japan, Korea and France is by no means inferior to that of English speaking countries. As a matter of fact, the wisdom and quality of their people could be more superior than those of Britain or America.

Those thinking that Malaysians would become more stupid the moment we take out the policy of teaching science and maths in English are indeed severely lacking in self-confidence and unnecessarily overpowered by inferiority complex!


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