Friday, September 19, 2008

To teach or not to teach

Our Education Ministry is once again deciding whether to continue teaching Science and Mathematics in English. And once again, our children are the ones who’ll have to pay the price for their decisions.

My humble opinion is that they should continue teaching these subjects (and if possible the other subjects as well) in English. The reason is a no-brainer. English is the lingua franca so it makes sense to equip our children with the communication skills they will require to make it in the business world when the time comes.

I’ve always worked in an MNC (since my first job) and my job requires me to converse in English with our counterparts elsewhere in the world. I’ve seen job applications completely written in Bahasa Melayu and applicants who can barely understand a word of English, let alone write in English. Again, this is a no-brainer. Would the MNC hire someone who is unable to communicate in English? The answer is a resounding no for the reasons listed above.

I had an interesting conversation with an old Malay lady I met at my daughter’s school. She speaks excellent English and as she proudly told me, she has lived in many countries around the world. She is able to proudly hold her head up high wherever she is in the world because she is able to speak English, as well as, if not better, than the native speakers. The best thing is, she was a product of our National schools, when English was the main medium of instruction.

We’ve been given the excuse too many times that the reason Science and Maths should be taught in the national language is because many children from non-English speaking backgrounds are unable to grasp the subjects taught. Let me ask this … if a foreign worker from Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan etc is able to master the Chinese language in a matter of months, surely our children can do better? If the powers-that-be think that for some reason, our children are unable to absorb new languages, I would certainly take that as an insult. The fact is, learning is central to our progress as human beings. It’s whether or not we choose to learn. And I think it is no secret that many are choosing not to learn.

Is it any wonder that many of our graduates are unable to find a job? With globalization, the world is getting smaller and people are getting more competitive. However, it does seem to me that the powers-that-be and our graduates are still sitting comfortably in their shells, oblivious to the fact that if they do not make an attempt to buck-up, they will be left behind. When they do finally come to their senses, it will be too late. And when that happens, who will they blame for this?
If we want to compete with the rest of the world and hold our heads up high, proper education is the way to go. It is not about having the biggest roti canai or the longest stretch of satay in the Guinness Book of Records. We are only competitive when we are able to communicate with the rest of the world in a language they understand.

3 comments:

gRaCe said...

heyy.. this article is very good. u shud send it in to The Star or NST la. =D

Sharon said...

Hey, thanks for the compliments.

Kevin said...

it's always a dilemma, no thanks to improper planning. Check out my comments on this earlier.

http://cubs-roar.blogspot.com/2008/08/dilema-english-for-science-and-math.html

Thanks :)