Malay-language activists say 'no' to English schools, insist Singapore poll flawed

Nabihah Hamid

Dr Shaharir Mohamad Zain says the government should be consistent in its education policies. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 22, 2017.

MALAY language groups claim that a Singaporean study showing that a majority of Johoreans support the setting up of English schools was flawed, adding they will strongly oppose any effort to replace Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of education in schools.

Dr Shaharir Mohamad Zain, the adviser of the Movement to Abolish the Teaching of Science and Maths in English (GMP), questioned the integrity of a research by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute of Singapore, which found that as many as 82% of respondents in Johor supported the re-establishment of English-medium schools.

“The study didn’t indicate a breakdown of rural and urban residents. If you conduct it in Johor Baru, for example, it does not represent the desire of the people of Johor,” Shaharir told The Malaysian Insight.

“And why is Singapore conducting this research? And why only 55% of Malay respondents? It should be at least 60% Malays,” he said.

“Whether or not the study was accurate, I oppose the setting up of English-language schools, even though I support efforts to strengthen the command of the English language.”

The study by ISEAS was conducted in May and June this year, and covered 2,011 respondents aged 18 and above who live in Johor. The respondents were interviewed via telephone.

Out of the total number of respondents, 1,104 (55%) were Malays, 758 (38%) Chinese and 149 (7%) Indians.

“I respect the parties who conducted this study. But I am unconvinced by their findings,” said vice-president of Malay rights group Perkasa Ruhanie Ahmad.

“Firstly, what is the purpose of their study.

“Secondly, why is this study conducted via telephone?

“Thirdly, how far was the coverage of respondents who were contacted by the researchers,” he said.

Dr Wan Ramli Wan Daud, a lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and GMP member, said Bahasa Malaysia must supersede other languages in the national school system, adding that English proficiency was no gauge of how successful a country is.

“If you look at Zimbabwe and Nigeria, their countries are not developed,” he said.

Dr Wan Ramli said claims that Singapore’s English-medium education system was superior to Malaysia’s were also inaccurate.

“It’s only Singapore. But if we look at Singapore, if their education system is so good, how many scientists have they produced?

“Yes, it’s true they have many workers who are proficient in English, but what about their identity? They have a cultural problem,” he said.

English-medium schools in Malaysia were dismantled in stages from 1968, and by 1982, ceased to exist under the national school system. Since then, the English language has been taught as a compulsory subject at all schools.

In his final years as prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad introduced the teaching of Science and Maths in English. However, following strong objections, the policy was overturned in 2012.

Dr Shaharir said instead of considering the revival of English medium schools, the government should focus on being consistent and firm in establishing a good education system.

“I believe that good learning must be based on the mother tongue. This is proven around the world. For me, it is the government who is wishy-washy.

“The government is still unsure and does not have a stand or strong concept to advance the Malaysian identity,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

He gave examples of countries such as China, Japan and Germany, which have made the national language the main medium in education.

On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the government should consider calls for English medium schools to be re-established, and urged parents and educationists who agreed to make their views heard.

“If there are Chinese, Tamil, religious schools, international schools, private schools, then why is it wrong to have English schools?

“We cannot escape the reality that English is the international language that will give a competitive edge to our children.

“Malaysia was once regarded as a country with a high proficiency in English, and now, most of our graduates are not fluent in English,” said the Kota MP. – November 22, 2017.

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  • I was one of the last batch of students taking MCE and HSC certificates. I can see that my siblings and friends who took SPM STP have less advantages die to the inability to converse in English. They cannot work for MNCs, not keen to travel abroad where English is used to communicate with the locals, their views on things and people they do not know well are limited and sometimes narrow. Such is a sad state for people who do not speak English.

    Posted 6 years ago by Tanahair Ku · Reply

  • Of course, the survey will be tarred by these so called nationalists. They are afraid because despite all their efforts and years of imposing on the education system, they are staring at failure. Worse yet, we as a nation is left far behind our neighbors in economic development

    Posted 6 years ago by HC Lung · Reply

  • Each of the arguments by D Shaharir can easily be rebutted. I need not go into them here. Suffice to say that Malaysia is not comparable to Nigeria and Zimbabwe, because we have large multiracial and multireligious populations. Deciding that (a) the minorities shall follow the language of the majority and (b) that this, in turn, will definitely make for mor social cohesion and unity, flies in the face of reason. Especially when the majority still has special privileges 60 years after independence while poor minorities have none. Especially when taxpayers funds are still used to maintain a standing army restricted to the majority. The unpalatable fact is that learning the language is forced upon the minorities without their equal treatment; meanwhile the wealthy, the connected quietly send their kids to private schooling in English schools, here and overseas. If you don't like it, too bad!

    Posted 6 years ago by James Dean · Reply

  • Why are they not as fast and hard to protest Arabisation from Ulamas and religo persons?

    Posted 6 years ago by Bigjoe Lam · Reply