Malay-centric Education System– The Bane of Malaysia

January 14, 2016

Our Politicians don’t really care about Us-Michael Jackson

Malay-centric Education System– The Bane of Malaysia

by  Yiswaree Palansamy

Tun Abdul Razak Hussein would have been gravely disappointed today if he knew how Malay-centric the country’s education system currently is, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (pic above) said today in her speech at a commemorative seminar for the country’s Second Prime Minister.

Rafidah, a former  MITI Minister known for her outspokenness, accused the present administration of misplacing the notion of nationalism by promoting an overly-Malay system, recalling that during Razak’s time, English was commonly used as a communication tool.

“I always say, Tun Razak will actually turn in his grave if he knew this is what is happening to this country at this point in time.He never thought that education should be so narrowly interpreted as to be only Malay and to hell with the rest of the languages of the world. No, he never spoke that way,” Rafidah said in her speech, receiving loud applause from the hall.

Rafidah noted that in the past, Malaysians, including the Malays, rarely spoke in the Malay language and conversed mainly in English.This, she said, did not mean they disregarded the importance of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language.

“We spoke in English and we rarely spoke in Malay, not that we didn’t put Malay on the pedestal but that was the best way to communicate. We should not misplace nationalism,” she said, adding that the administration should focus instead on having strong national consensus instead.

“The objective is to make Malaysia resilient in facing global competition. We should start thinking as Malaysians first…for heaven’s sake let’s stop this petty, petty factionalism,” the former Wanita UMNO chief said.

She also said that it was time for the administration to admit that “some parts of the system are broken”.“Let’s not deny it,” she said.

The medium of instruction in national schools has been Malay since the 1970s but in 2003, the Policy of Teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) was introduced, only to be discontinued seven years later

Critics of the reversal contend that it was made to only appease Malay nationalists and conservative groups who viewed a weak grasp of Bahasa Melayu and a mastery of English to be indicative of disloyalty to the country.

10 thoughts on “Malay-centric Education System– The Bane of Malaysia

  1. I am foreign business investor in Malaysia employing Malaysians . My Malay is very limited. Every time i get a call from lady from ASTRO she would rattle away in Malay. I would tell her to communicate with me in English as I am not fluent in malay to transact businesses. As soon as I fininshed my sentence in Emglish she will hang up without a squeak out of sheer inability to communicate in an international language. I feel sorry for her limitation but it is her loss and not mine,

  2. English is the step-mother tongue of many nationalities based in the belief that Language is only a tool and we should resist the temptation to turn it into an ideology.

  3. IF Razak did not forsee THIS, then he was not particularly smart. IT WAS completely predictable. In fact, Tan Siew Sin constantly reminded Tunku Abdul Rahman of the fallacies of Razak policies which have turned out to be true.

    THIS is burnishment of the true character of Razak. Razak did not think a Malay centric system education or others would be mediocre and failing but he knew it was going to be Malay-centric.

  4. tiada bukti negara yg bukan bahasa ibundanya inggeris menggunakan medium bahasa tsb menjadi maju. untuk maju kena guna bahasa yg mudah supaya ilmu senang difahami. untuk maju asasnya kena rajin, disiplin, tekun, JATI DIRI yg kuat serta nilai2 yg positif.
    Bangsa Melaya lemah sebab kita sudah dimanjakan oleh UMNO yang korup.Jati Diri?–Din Merican

  5. The problem is not a “Malay-centric” education system. The problem is what constitutes a “Malay-centric” education system.

  6. Who made the switch from English medium to Malay in the 70’s?
    Mahathir when he was Minister of Education and his successor later in 1980s when Anwar Ibrahim was given the Education portfolio. –Din Merican

  7. A Malay-centric education system meant a dilution of the curriculum to enable quotas to be met: percentage of passes, number of feel good A’s to adorn the MSM at each announcement of public exam results, uni entrance, scholarships..just one aspect of a system whose failure is underlined when we find it very hard to want recruit anyone because candidates lack language skills let alone critical thinking and expression. The PISA assessments keep assuring us we have done badly by our young ones. No need compare with Singapore on anything academic when Vietnam already bypasses us here.

  8. Thank you Mahathir, for an entire lost generation.

    As a follow-up action to his Malay Dilemma, Mahathir has to ensure that Malays are able to compete in their own homeland. Logically, in order not to pander to nationalists and language chauvinists, English should be the lingua franca for a multi-ethnic country (as is the practice in Singapore) in order not to favour or disadvantage any race. However, if English is used as the teaching medium, the Malays will not be able to compete, even though this language is equally alien to the Indians and the Chinese. Hence the switch to Malay as the language of instruction. And the rest follows down the slippery slope of history……

  9. The story from south of the border:

    “When we formed the government n 1959 we decided on Malay as the national language, to prepare the way for merger with Malaya. We realized English had to be the language of the workplace and the common language. As an international trading community, we would not make a living if we used Malay, Chinese or Tamil. With English no race would have an advantage. . . . Not wanting to start a controversy over language, I introduced the teaching of three mother tongues, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil, into English schools. This was well received by all parents. To balance this, I introduced the teaching of English in Chinese, Malay, and Tamil schools. . . A hard core of the Chinese-educated did not welcome what they saw as a move to make English the common working language, and they expressed their unhappiness in the Chinese newspapers. ¶ Barely eight weeks after separation the Chinese Chamber of Commerce publicly asked the government to guarantee the status of the Chinese language as one of the official languages in Singapore. The Chamber’s treasurer, Kheng Ching Hock, a Chinese language champion from pre-Malaysia days, stressed that Chinese was used by more than 80 percent of the population in Singapore. I scotched this move before it could grow into a campaign, for once the Chinese Chamber got going, every Chinese school management committee and the two Chinese teachers’ unions would surely work up the ground. On 1 October, I restated that all four major languages in Singapore were official and equal. I reminded activists like Kheng in the Chinese Chamber that they had been conspicuous by their silence on language and other vital issues when Singapore was controlled by the Malaysian police and the Malay Regiment. Five days later, under the full glare of television lights, I met the committees of all four chambers of commerce. I left the Chinese representatives in no doubt that I would not allow anyone to exploit the Chinese language as a political issue. This put an end to their attempts to elevate the status of the Chinese language. . . . The opposition to English as the one common language was unremitting. The irony was that I was as keen and anxious as anyone to retain the best features of Chinese education. When I acted as legal adviser for the Chinese Middle school student leaders in the 1950s, I was impressed by their vitality, dynamism, discipline, and social and political commitment. By contrast, I was dismayed at the apathy, self-centredness, and lack of self-confidence of the English-educated students. The crux of the problem was that in our multiracial and multilingual society, English was the only acceptable neutral language, besides being the language that would make us relevant to the world. But it deed seem to deculturalize our students and make them apathetic. . . . But Nantah faced problems. There were few jobs for its graduates. As students switched to English schools, they increasingly went to the University of Singapore, which taught in English. . . . I decided to make English the language of instruction at Nantah . . . . The situation was so bad that in 1978 our MPs who were Nantah graduates asked me to intervene before the university disintegrated. . . . Since Nantah could not convert its teaching from Mandarin into English, I persuaded the Nantah council and senate members to move the whole university university—staff and students—into the campus of the University of Singapore. Both teachers and students would be forced to use English, subsumed within the larger numbers of English-speaking staff and students at its Bukit Timah campus. . . . I had a survey conducted among the graduates, whether they would prefer to receive a University of Singapore degree, a Nantah degree, or a joint degree. The overwhelming majority wanted a University of Singapore degree. I decided to merge the two universities as the National University of Singapore (NUS) and award them NUS degrees. The Nantah campus became the Nanyang Technological Institute attached to the NUS. In 1991, it became the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). . . . After the two universities were merged, I made all Chinese schools switch to English as their main medium of instruction, with Chinese as their second language. This caused soul-searching among the Chinese-educated, including PAP MPs. . . ¶ As these changes were taking place, I feared we were losing something valuable in the Chinese school system. I wanted to preserve what was good in the Chinese schools: the discipline, self-confidence, and moral and social values they instilled in their students, based on Chinese traditions, values, and culture. We had to transmit these same values to students in the new bilingual schools or we would deculturalize them. When we use English as the medium of instruction, Confucian values of the family could not be reinforced in schools because both teachers and students were multiracial and the textbooks were not in Chinese. . . . The changed values and attitudes of younger teachers compounded this problem. The older generation of teachers had known hardship and had seen how difficult it was to bring stability and harmony to Singapore’s multiracial society. . . . I decided to preserve the best nine of the Chinese schools under a special assistance plan, or SAP. These SAP schools would admit students in the top 10 percent passing the primary school leaving examination. They would teach Chinese as the first language but have English as the medium of instruction as in other schools. . . Today most SAP schools, including the once communist-controlled Chinese High School, are premier institutions with modern facilities to match their proud history and traditions.” [Pg 146 – 154 From Third World To First by Lee Kuan Yew: Harper Collins 2011]

    “. . . But Nantah faced problems. There were few jobs for its graduates” — déjà vu over here?

    n.b: emphases in bold are mine

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