Wednesday, 19 August 2009

PPSMI, from the oven.

The abrupt decision.

Even if they did validate the conclusion they came up with, that throughout their unethical experiment on Malaysian students, the mastery of English language as well as science and mathematics did not improve, there are still 'voids to be filled'.

It is almost like an underestimation of the importance and significance of the educational system, how they suddenly decided to revert back to Bahasa, for Science and Mathematics. Before we get to the comparison between English and Bahasa as languages, let us first look at the nature of this decision.

'Pedagogy is central in any debate about posing threats to educational freedom', (Michael Berube, 2006).

The first thing I thought of after reading that excerpt is that the need to revert to using Bahasa for Science and Mathematics is an immediate product of the incompetence of government study groups that came up with the 'English for Science and Mathematics' plan, a priori, if not a mere political stunt or an act of appealing to the anti-PPSMI folks. In any of the three cases, they would base their conclusion on reasons with regard to the competitiveness of Bahasa while failing to address the negative effects of this abrupt decision on educational freedom, generally, and how through this, the key components of the educational system (the teachers and the students) would be seriously affected.

More on the nature of the decision: strategy and tactics.

Most of the problems faced by huge organizations, governments included, are not caused by insufficiency of good ideas or ill-nature of plans. It is in fact because they have different individuals doing different things at a time, and unfortunately in this case, humans really love to have their own thoughts be heard and implemented.

So we have the plan-makers, the minorities in this chain. PPSMI is a brainchild of this group and yes, like many other strategies of theirs, there's nothing impossible about this one. The problem starts when they pass the baton to the next group, the majorities, those in charge of implementing it through tactics. And like a contagious disease, it spreads like crazy down the line.

It is natural to be repellent to new ideas especially if it requires extra efforts. But to proceed, we need to force our way through and that's just how the world works.

So it's the tactics we should blame, not the strategies. Don't cancel the plan by reverting to Bahasa. Improve the tactics and implementations, because PPSMI is an enterprise. And like many other enterprises, there's a sense of good liberalism and pluralism here and that is what we, Malaysians, need in order to secure freedom of education for generations to come. And I don't need to explain about the importance of freedom of education here, as we all could see the degree of acceptance and resistance Malaysians showed in the past several days after Dato' Seri Muhyiddin's announcement.

Why the argument of the Opposition is invalid.

We don't instill sense about the importance of Bahasa into younger generations by having them learn Science and Mathematics primarily in Bahasa only to put them in a difficult position of having to coup up with Science and Mathematics in English at higher level, later on.

If I were to say that the true appreciation of Bahasa as a National Language lies in the correct usage of it at times when we need to use it and the denunciation of pidgin languages as a preferable medium to unite Malaysians or even having thought of that idea, people would call me a language purist as if the title 'language purist' is a slur itself.

Making the students learn science and mathematics in English is not a weapon to fight this multiple fronts battle of glorifying Bahasa, how A. Samad Said potentially thought of it when he decided to join the picket in Kuala Lumpur, when the students can experience for themselves how ridiculously numerous, the changes Dewan Bahasa make to Tatabahasa from time to time, how the leaders proudly practice 'Bahasa Rojak' (sometimes, due to weak mastery of Bahasa or even English), how they proudly respond with English when asked in Bahasa during press conferences, when the youngsters can experience Chinese, Indians or Malays preferring to use English or their native languages over Bahasa.

Let us unite in assuming these obligations as responsible adults and not burden our children.

Politicizing education and the good old bandwagon.

In some articles explaining Malaysians' social behaviors which I wrote in my blog, I always included the term 'bandwagon mentality'. It's a necessary variation of 'bandwagon fallacy' or 'argumentum ad populum', that explains why people are inclined towards sharing the idea of the majority. Unlike 'bandwagon fallacy' which is relatively easy to detect, 'bandwagon mentality' is a silent but effective killer of a sound society.

The increased severity of this symptom is prevalent in Malaysian culture because most of our politicians tend to politicize social issues for their own gain or popularity. A good example is the pressure exerted by Opposition leaders onto the government in regard to PPSMI.

Some other examples are government policies that tend to narrow the choices available to the people, nearly causing descent into acceptance, although recent progress shows an astounding improvement.

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