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Sakmongkol ak 47

Monday 20 July 2009

Ideas and Progress


Now that the government has decided that maths and science will be taught in Malay, I hope the Malays will not forsake mastering the English language. The decision, says the Education Minister and Deputy PM, is irreversible. Malay students must make tremendous efforts to learn the language. Ignore the politicians who say that the language is not important. Define for yourself what is important or isn't. Take your future in your hands.

Yes take our future in our hands. As Donella 'Dana' Meadows, the renowned environmentalist says- the future of our planet is a CHOICE, not a FATE. Similarly, our future is a choice and not a fate. (Dana Meadows was lead author of the famous book- Limits to Growth).

What do we need to shape the future? We need like what Nandan Nilekani says- a government as aspiring as its people, politicians as optimistic as its youth, bureaucrats as innovative as its entrepreneurs and state, local and national leaders as impatient , creative, and energetic as their kids.

I am reading a book written from a world class Indian entrepreneur, Nandan Nilekani. His book is titled Imagining India. I haven't finished reading the book, but I guess, he is talking about India as one imagines her to be and become. It's a question of imagination and application of the imagination. Its ideas that shape a nation.

On page 7, Mr Nandan wrote:-

..Through the early days of independent India, many saw English as a language of the imperialists and did everything possible to marginalise the tongue. This included attempts to make Hindi the sole national language and restricting or banning outright the teaching of English in state schools. But once outsourcing made English the entry ticket to a global economy and higher incomes, the language rapidly became a popular aspiration, a ladder to upward mobility for both the middle class and India's poor.

I am glad the Malaysian government has not reached the state of extreme paranoia. It hasn't banned the English Language and is in fact committing more funds to teach the language. I also hope the government is aware that mastery of any language for that matter involves application. The teaching of subjects on the language could have enhanced application and mastery. It also involves practice and interaction. Malay students studying in Middle Eastern countries have been discovered not to know how to speak Arabic because they live in houses among themselves and speak the Malay language. There's no practice and little application.

The more I think about it, I find myself in agreement with Nandan Nilekani's observation:-

..When it comes to policy, the urgent wins over the important, tactic triumphs over strategy and patronage over public good.

Policy makers want policies that are either good for money or votes or both.

We have to imagine and deliver a different future by refusing to accept politics and governance that is so much less than the talents possessed and needed by the people.

Let's look at governance for example. I am not as familiar of other towns as I am with my hometown Kuantan. There is a place known as Air Puteh in Kuantan. During my schooling years, Air Puteh was a backwater region- least developed and notorious for its gangsterism. Today, it is a thriving town within a town, developed largely by entrepreneurs. Never mind the ethnic identity of the entrepreneurs. The fact that it can develop and indeed pull itself ahead of other areas reliant and dependent on bureaucratic governance proves what can be achieved through entrepreneurship. Fast growth and tremendous development can be achieved in spite of government support or in spite of government obstruction and political dysfunction. I venture to say the same of places like Kota Damansara or Bandar Sri Damansara in Selangor. The development there took place without the instruction from a central authority.

Development took place as a result of entrepreneurship by people refusing to settle for less than the talents they possessed and need. Progress can only take place if we choose to throw out the shackles of low aspirations and failed economic ideas imposed from above.

We must begin by demanding higher standards from our politics and governance.


Suci Dalam Debu 20 July 2009 at 22:44  


We failed to find enough teachers to conduct Maths and Science in English, where then are we going to get them to teach English Literature?

The decision to teach Maths and Science in Malay is a political decision to survive GE13.

Just my 2 sen.

Greenbug 20 July 2009 at 23:38  

Friends I spoke to are vocing fear of stepping into police stations to be witnesses to anything be it robberies or car accidents. Now, many say just "make don't know" is a safer option. Thats the impact of the Teoh Beng Huat death.

Anonymous,  21 July 2009 at 00:44  

Hei..are you from SABS? That's my old school. Looking at your D.O.B. you are probably 1 yr my senior. Also
your father's name ...familiar name in Kuantan! There's a road named after him...I have been following yr blog...good stuff. Keep it up bro!

Anonymous,  21 July 2009 at 00:49  

How can we rely on someone who said that the worse case scenario is -1% and just few months later have to revise to -4%.Guys like this gets the big boot in most private companies...yet he is still heading the "crucially important" EPU?

How can this guy create a new economic model that will need to span long term span creativity and human resource restructuring..if he can't even manage 3 months???

Can we expect ideas and progress?No..just look at the GLCs to appreciate the "depth" of his thinking.


Anonymous,  21 July 2009 at 06:11  

Your hope that 'Malays do not foresake mastering the English Language'is noble but sadly, in our hearts we know what will happen. Those who can afford it (including urban Malays and Ministers) will continue to send their children to private and international schools to master the language of knowledge. The rurals (mainly Malays)will continue to fall behind as global opportunites are denied to them. The poverty gap never narrows - the 30% is never met. Who benefits?

Pak Zawi 21 July 2009 at 07:27  

Dato' Sak,
We have to plot our own destiny and not rely on politicians to chart our destiny as well as our future generations.
The dearth for English teachers can be solved the same way as the people of Narathiwat Thailand are doing. Maria of Kafe Dakoh that I featured in my blog is an American graduate who is teaching English and Computer at a religious school there. Beside her there is also a Filipino teacher. We should emulate Narathiwat and do the same till we have produced sufficient COMPETENT English teachers of our own.
I wont be surprised if Narathiwat will produce better English speaking students than Malaysia in the future.

Fi-sha 21 July 2009 at 10:50  

Good Morning Datuk Sak

The reversal of PPSMI isn't about our children's dismal performance in Maths and Science but the teachers'. Don't you think this is rather similar as to why Malay supremacists couldn't accept the abolishment of NEP - the 'crutches' for the 'lame, insecured' Malays.

I concur with Pak Zawi's take that we have to produce competent english teachers and i say, please, for our children's sake, we have to produce competent teachers. Teaching is a revered profession, hence, it should be not taken lightly as another way out for those who can't get a job out there in the free market.

Here's an article published in The Little Red Dot's Straits Times that could jolt those who walk in the Corridor of Power - the real problem isn't the language but the teachers: -

I remember my pathetic C5 for my SPM's Bahasa Malaysia - my BM teacher, bless his soul, told me the examiner couldn't understand my writings.

I still remember going through papers by supposed-to-be creme de la creme of our local institutions only to find they can't even write proper english with facts strewn all over the place.

Well, what i am trying to say here sir - our children could be good in english but they have been trained that what's important is the facts and points you put in - our education system is such a big failure.

With or without PPSMI, we should strive to master english language - be it through its great literature or its great inventions in science and technology.

Pak Idrus 21 July 2009 at 11:58  

Bring back the English School and call it the Sekolah Kebangsaan Jenis Inggeris and then let the parent choose. What is so difficult to understand that English is a language of knowledge.. As for teacher just advertise internationally and million would come to our shore to work.

BM is a new language and there are hardly any books or reference material for advance study. There are millions of books in both English and Mandarin. So to me it would be better to reintroduce the English School and make Mandarin as the third language in the school. Actually under the present policy the Malay has more to loose the non Malay.

Take care.

BCTan266 21 July 2009 at 11:59  

In 1977 when I was a teacher in the heart of Pahang, in a FELDA land scheme, I trained my students to put up a choir performance for the annual concert, one of the few high points of social life in that area. When the time came for my students to go on stage, the compere (a dwarf of a man with a deep and rich voice and a moustache ala Jason King to make up for the lack in stature, I guess) announced to my horror. "Inilah contoh budaya kuning yang tidak wajar kita agung-agungkan di negara kita yang tercinta ini. (This is the kind of culture that we not to put on the pedestal in this beloved nation of ours.)

Being and the only non-Malay in that area, I swallowed my anger and disgust. I took it as a blatant attempt to ridicule me for being a lackey to the West, much like how Mao's China equated anyone promoting Western influence to treason, I guess. I was 22, after all.

My students did not notice the ridicule and went on to put up a good show.

And years later, in the early 1980s, while attending an in-service training course at the Language Institute, I mooted the idea for a lobby group to push the agenda of making a pass in English compulsory for SPM students. That was in the early days of Communication English when marks were awarded for writing anything that resembles English!

Of course, I was shot down by the lecturer herself who said: "One cannot force people who do not speak the language to gain a pass in the subject." And the other teachers too hooted at the idea. Silly dreamer, they called me.

Why am I bringing this up now? It's been (almost) 30 years.

Exactly that. 30 years ago we were dancing to this same tune and harping on the same issue of uplifting the standard/command of the English language! Have we made much progress? I think we have regressed deeper into the morass.

Why? Because politicians think they are smarter than teachers and makers of policy for education. The latter group has generally become greatly neutered individuals. I think it's due to Pavlovian conditioning. All the high-faluting theories that they read when writing theses for PhD etc. have just shrunk away. Like violets in the sun, against the onslaught of all-knowing politicians, their courage of belief vapourised. They have lost the ability to think independently and with conviction.

Stop it, cikgu (and officers of education). Dang! Show some balls (ladies too, sometimes they have more balls than the men that sit in high places).

And politicians, stop thinking of your vote banks. Bleeding idiots! Think of the nation.

Let's move forward for God's sake. If students from China can acquire an admirable level of skill and polish in the language within a year or two, why are we so incapable? Are we retards or something?

More than ideas, I think we need conviction and courage to push the nation forward. Of course sincerity is what is severely lacking. That is one ingredient that will do more than anything else. If the heart is right, nothing can go wrong.

Pak Idrus 21 July 2009 at 12:40  

Anonymous[00:44] You may want to know that I was the first batch of student to SABS. We move from Abdullah School in mid year and took our Cambridge School Cert at SABS in 1957. Have a nice day.

Pak Zawi 21 July 2009 at 12:57  

@ Pak Idrus,
You are right. Give us a choice and the parents will decide to which school we are going to send our children (in my case grandchildren) to.

Ariff Sabri 21 July 2009 at 13:16  

anon at 00:44 and Pak Idrus.

i went to school at SAS( sultan abdullah school)in 1963 and then went on to sekolah lanjutan Jalan Gambut( which is no more) before going on to SABS in 1972. took my HSC in 1975.when Pak Idrus took his senior Cam- i was only one year old.

as many SASians know, the original timber main building at SAS still stands today. when i went there, the single storey building along the Wong Ah Jang road was already there.

Anonymous,  21 July 2009 at 15:35  

Looking at the situation now .. I may have so gather fund to send my 2 years old daughter to international school.I cannot afford her to give perpetual trust fund with my 4 digit salary that I need to work my sweat and blood daily but I know sound and education is the best inheritance I am able to afford. Ah ... RM4000 is the cheapest for one semester in Sayfool Ampang.

What do to.

Jamal JB

kuldeep 21 July 2009 at 17:13  

Original ideas needs extended incubation..needs lots of cash to get critical mass...and investors who are up to the mark with current/future trends.

Twitter/Facebook is hot but still needs lots of development work i.e $$$ but hv not generated any revenue.

Our Malaysian approach is build the hardware which are mainly property plays cos thats easy to understand so u hv the BioXCell,Cybercities,
BioNexus,Educity.You also have Terengganu E Books factory.

Even PPSMI failed cos the software devt never matched the hardware outlay.Wat TDM envisaged was interactive multimedia courseware but wat was created are textbooks in powerpoint formats.

Anyway...Cherating was once a sleepy beach and the landowners was mainly Malays...initially there's lots of malay mom n pops doing cheap inns/homestays.The place is progressing well now...wonder if the Malay landowners are still actively involved?

Thus,until the guys holding the purse strings gets to be more savvy we will continue along the same well beaten path.

walla 21 July 2009 at 17:53  

A: "Science and maths are knowledge subjects. This means they require us to read more of them in order to know more about them.

And they grow at exponential rates because everyone stands on the shoulders of all others to see ahead. Every small discovery made is made knowing and understanding what others have done or found out.

Sometimes the path-breaker does get an inspiration which throws up a new and novel way of seeing something. Einstein did it by imagining himself traveling inside a beam of light looking out. His imagination was fueled by his curiosity which started when he was given a compass when small and he couldn't explain why it always pointed north. Similarly his famous predecessor, Newton, was always curious. And persistent. He would think about the problem until it surrendered the answer to him.

The practical world of science and maths is not the idealistic world of culture and politics. And it's constantly progressing.

For example, someone asks about nanobiotechnology. You wouldn't have even heard of such a term ten years ago. So try this:

And if you like maths, then you can find its applications in things like these: "

B: "I see the depth of our dilemma about the language issue."

A: "It's not just depth, B. It's also about worldviews. In the second link i mentioned, the author is a world-renowned electrical engineer. Maths enabled him to pioneer nonlinear circuits so much so they are named after him. He originated from the Philippines and yet found his forte across the ocean amongst an eclectic international community in Berkeley.

You can see the same parallel in what Nilekani was trying to convey in his book Imagining India, for which we must thank our host for sharply drawing our attention.

What this cochairman of Infosys was saying is that if we let people who don't know what is going on in the real world get the upper-hand to decide for all of us, then all will miss the boat sailing by.

In India's case, it was the booming outsourcing market which forced all to come to their senses that they needed english for both IT and call centers. In fact, India's gameplan these days is to be the brainpool centre of the world.

We all know their prowess in maths. For instance, take the number 1729. It's rather dull. But read this: and suddenly it's a whole new world because the knowhow comes with the curiosity-pickling, historical anecdotes and most of them in any subject you would care to name in the world's entire knowledge-sphere have been well recorded in the english language.

What you won't fail to also notice is that most of the starters of the full a'la carte menu is in the web. But i can tell you those are only the starters. The really valuable stuff are behind firewalls.

My concern is that without the right means, the situation can only get worse, not better. They say they will load more emphasis on study of english as a language. What about studying science and maths for their knowledge per se? While the students in other emerging nations are racing ahead to master those subjects by studying them in english, we are here only confining our young minds to learn all that they can learn within the covers of their slim rudimentary texts in bahasa when the whole world of knowledge is out there untouched and untouchable. It's so neanderthal. Like trying to light the fire with flints while everyone else is using electromagnetic pulse. We're doomed!"

walla 21 July 2009 at 17:53  

B:" What we need is to change mindsets. Nilekani mentioned that there were six things that had changed in the mindset of India.

He said that one was a change in the way they looked at the size of their population. It was young and growing in a world that was ageing so instead of seeing it as a load, it became human capital instead.

Second, he said that entrepreneurs were no longer viewed with suspicion but as icons of economic growth. He added that their entrepreneurs were not afraid of liberalization any more and they were very confident and globally competitive and had started not just to invest abroad but also to buy up overseas companies.

Third, he added that English was no longer viewed as an imperial language that had to be jettisoned but as a language of aspiration that has to be really cultivated. All the political angst about English had disappeared largely because of the growth in the economy, the growth of outsourcing, the growth of jobs. More and more people, whether they were in villages or small towns, started to realize that if they wanted to participate in the global economy and bring more income to their lives, they had to learn English. And the political system accepted that because more and more states which had stopped teaching English were now going back to teaching English from class one.

Fourth, the notion of democracy underwent a major transformation from the time of India’s independence. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was really a top-down idea. It was an idea of the leaders who had a certain vision of the kind of country they had to create, and it was given or gifted to all the people who may not have necessarily understood the value and import of what was happening. Today, it has gone on to become a bottom-up democracy where everybody understands their democratic rights. People took charge and started doing things without waiting for the state to do the job.

Fifth, technology helped India leap-frog several decades from a very antiquated system to a very modern system. What people didn't realize was it had played as much a role in India’s internal development as it did in terms of the $50 billion in IT exports. The entire national elections of 2004 across were done digitally using electronic voting machines—there was no paper. Today, that country has some of the most modern stock markets in the world. And the mobile phone has become accessible to everybody.

Sixth, that country adopted a progressive view of globalization. Fundamentally the confidence that India gained has made their worldview on globalization far more positive. Their companies became globally competitive and were willing to go out. More and more people became far more comfortable with globalization and they started to realize the benefits of an open economy, of having their workers and their people all over the world, and of Indian companies exporting capital abroad. "

A: "Imagine, a rural teacher who can read english surfing the net to find the same things you've just said. That's not just knowledge at the speed of search, it's also zero knowhow divide on top of equal mindset opening followed by leveled starting point."

B: "I should add that if you think India is starting to rise, you should see what China has been doing even longer and faster."

A: "And the Vietnamese youths. Even some of the Indonesian youths and youngsters in the Middle East. Oh yes, we know."

B: " It seems then that we created our own dilemma. If we had stayed on course in our education system we wouldn't be in this situation where we know what is right but no longer have the means to do it."

walla 21 July 2009 at 17:53  

A: "You mean the teachers? Yes, that's true. We no longer have teachers, instructors and lecturers to deliver using the english language the world's knowledge. The tragic thing is that most of the first ticklers of curiosity of the young minds are out there, one click away. We lay the next generation of broadband and talk about raising internet penetration to the rural areas. So that our young when surfing can open up web pages faster and then stare blankly at them!

The tragedy is that the internet is supposed to bridge the urban-rural divide. Bring the world to the remote areas since the young in the remote areas can't get to the world. Open their minds that the world is bigger than the field outside their window. That what they watch on tv or listen on the radio can have logical explanations which they can later use in other settings in their lives. To improve themselves and contribute more to nation-building. Now, how?

Meanwhile our cockeyed politicians want us to elevate our economy through more value-adding. How, again?"

B: "Hard questions, A. Without the right means, how can we achieve the right ends? I shudder to think if one day a student is to ask his lecturer to translate this... and then explain it! Meanwhile we grope to be apex in a world that is already "

A: "Haha, B, i wonder if people reading our conversation for the first time won't be puzzled by the cryptic language we are using. It's certainly not english!"

B: "We are so awash in knowledge that we wade through it every 24x7. Maybe in the future someone will invent a knowledge pill. Pop one in the morning and instant knowledge enters the brain. Just make sure it's the right color. Blue for science, green for maths, pink for...."

A: "Not likely to happen here. Because now there's a confidence crisis up there. They have been using the trial and error method for too long. To bolster confidence, they hand the scalpel to the greenhorn without properly training the chap up first. Needless to say, the patient becomes a frankenstein. Now they want to insert some remedial measures. But the patient is already comatose with too many stitches. And some organs missing as well. How, for the third time, i ask?"

B: "What they should do is teach the young how to use the web in a ruthlessly efficient way to acquire knowledge on their own. It must be a systematic structured and savvy program with measures, indicators, motivating features, competition. Free tickets to the next MU match or U2 concert or even some software, for instance. They should embed the program as a backbone supplement to the national education system. Instead of trying to cohere everyone to one system, create a virtual system that everyone anywhere can draw upon, like a common well for universal water."

A: "But if those in power don't want people to know more and become more self-empowered themselves?"

B: "Then people will do it themselves without them, anyway. Policy-makers try to fit all into one mold. But that mold is irrelevant to the world. People have their own common sense as to what's important. Nothing is going to stop them. Those who can afford will do it somehow. Those who cannot will send in their complaints to those decision-makers. Somehow i think the policy-makers know they will have their own dilemma to think about soon enough. Their last solution was to pass musical chairs around. People have seen through that and won't be sitting still anymore."

A: "Yes, B, knowledge equals power."

Anonymous,  21 July 2009 at 18:48 true but then you and TDM are trained scientist/doctors.

whereas all our current leaders,KSUs and the like are "arts/liberal studies" graduates...they were streamed after LCE cos they didn't get the right grades to go into science.

They see science/maths as one big black box where 1 plus 1 is 2 any fool can learn.If all fails get a few Mat Sallehs...

They won't get it..They still think English is Shakespeare and cocktails at intermission during the YTL sponsored operas.

kuldeep 21 July 2009 at 18:55  

simple experiment...
google for "sains" and then "science"

compare the results n see why we need PPSMI

Anonymous,  21 July 2009 at 19:58  

‘The tragedy is that the internet is supposed to bridge the urban-rural divide. Bring the world to the remote areas since the young in the remote areas can't get to the world.’

I read with startling sadness at this point!

Our govt has been trying to do that when the ‘great’ TDM brought us the concept of MMC – not the company but the Multi-Media Corridor!

Look - what has happened? From a key initial head-start, we ended up nowhere! Meanwhile the lesser-ups, who awaken from their slumbers, r racing ahead to catch up with the lost time. Forget about the red dot, the Vet & the Thai & the Indon (yes, our source of cheap housemaids) r fast catching up! Didn’t anyone notice that Indonesia is the only ASEAN country INVITED to attend the G7 summit?

Najib, cry yr heart out! Address at UN assembly is nothing, but a shiok-diri gesture!

So, what about our highspeed broadband initiative? Can it be still a commercial consideration, in the light of PKFZ?

We r willingly allow some well-connecteds to pocket billions & yet we r doing bean-counting’s wrt the education of our future hopes!

Tragedy? It’s going to be the downfall of a country, irrespective of which race u r!

Yet, just on the news, the great architect of MMC is at the race game again!

‘A: "But if those in power don't want people to know more and become more self-empowered themselves?"’

Indeed that’s the 64 million dollars question! If these commoners suddenly win accesses to all the infos that they desired, it will quicken the down-fall of the current elites. The good thing is the country can still have a chance to remain relevance in this competitive world.

So, see why the HSBB internet access morphs into a commercial decision, where billions of the tax-payers money is used to pop-up a commercial entity – TM, without benefit the most needed rural folks?

The answer, perhaps, lies with knowledge equals power! With knowledge the rural supports is not going to be there, simply because the people can now think for themselves.

Bull-shit will remains as bull-shit, even with loads of dressings, whether religions &/or racial!

Internet is the means. English language is the tool. Could this be what the current govt fears most?

Am I reading too much?????? Where the hell r u, gwlnet?


Anonymous,  22 July 2009 at 00:55  

Dato Sak & Pak Idrus..Salam
Dato ..SK Lanjutan..yes I remember, my neighbouring sch. I was in St Thomas. You mentioned Air Puteh town sure brought back memories.Pak Idrus..agree with your points 100%.
The whole point is rural kids regardsless of race will lose out with current education policy. Politicians pls don't experiment with our anak-anak Malaysia's future.
Best rgds and take care . FS Wong

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