Monday, June 22, 2009

The End Of PPSMI? Part IV... Ramblings On Race And Leaders

This series is getting rather rich and burgeoning as one is able to see the various interplaying forces that make the formation of a national education policy a socio-political nightmare. I have great sympathy for the views of Professor Khoo Kay Kim such as here, himself variously renounced for being both idealist and traitor to his race for his integrationist ideas.

This is not the only forum where I share my views of PPSMI, which has broadened to an expression of a need for a single school system. At the same time, my blog has not been a one topic forum either. Nevertheless, it is astounding how socio-politics affects the debate and 'conclusion' of issues in Malaysia, as opposed to economics or faith, and rather pathetic how socio is defined by racial interest whilst politics defined by who's taking which side on an issue.

Professor Khoo is not the first to lament over how across our entire history, our various communities have resisted integration. It is easy for political parties to point fingers at each other. Indeed, one of Pakatan Pembangkang's successes in the run-up of PRU-12 was to brand BN as being too UMNO dominated, whilst at the same time accusing it of encouraging 'race-based' politics. Ironic then when Pakatan governments also drive policies along ethnic lines...

The truth is, political parties do what they do to curry favour from the electorate. If there is a race-based slant to our country's politics then, it could hardly be the fault of our political leaders alone. It is our communities, and its leaders, who must answer the accusations over why this nation is not as integrated as it should be. It is the penghulus, Chinese educationists, Indian temple guardians, these are the people who also have to answer for our continued polarisation.

So when we talk about the racial aspects of a policy, is it really the politicians pushing their agenda, or are they proxies for the leaders of our communities?

Malay elders tend to be visible, even as they take a back seat with little driving beyond 'teguran', with Tun Dr M likely being an exception on the amount of influence wielded. But for the other communities, the Chinese especially, can we get some clear accountability on who's leading? At least with the Indians we are now seeing greater visibility of their 'social' leaders through Hindraf (with all its failings) as well as other more open and liberal Indian led NGOs.

What we really need is honesty, the kind of honesty that Hindraf may have started trying to express , even if we are to accept race as the driving socio element in much of our policy-making.

So, when is a Chinese elder going to admit that the reason why their educationists are against PPSMI is because teaching Maths in Mandarin helps in the teaching of the 'mother-tongue', unlike say... English! And when is an Indian elder going going to pull a small group of other elders aside and admit,"Sorry la, we Indians, especially Hindus, are naturally passionate. One of our 2 main religious texts is an epic love story mah! What can you expect?"

We should then also not be in denial by declaring it wrong to decide based on race! Is it wrong? Remember, the Malaysian model is meant to be an integration model, not an assimilation model. Hence, differences are not just meant to be respected, but celebrated. Hence the issue of race taking primacy on socio-related choices no longer becomes a question of bias, but of fairness; i.e. in accepting we do champion our races' interests, what line shouldn't be crossed?

On race though, it may seem to many that PPSMI is one issue that is actually uniting. Many point to parents from all races uniting in support of PPSMI, but similarly opposition to PPSMI also comes from groups of all races, though typically polarised between the pro-BM and pro-vernacular crowds, myself being one of many exceptions. However, this hides a fact that we have a quasi-'race' in Malaysia supporting PPSMI, Malaysians that have English as their mother tongue!

As they say in Malay,"Bahasa JIWA Bangsa".

Finally, much of the confusion over race is also fueled by personality driven politics that still prevail in Malaysia. Sure, we'd like to say that we support abolishing tolls, but is this really because we have thought about it, or because that is what DAP and Lim Kit Siang has been saying, without sound economic basis by the way, for 3 decades? It is populist, espoused by a populist leader, but it is not mature to support a stand due to who backs it.

Returning to PPSMI, there are many who support it as it is Tun Dr M's idea. Besides that, other leaders have now invested themselves in its success, such as the former Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein. His supporters naturally see an attack on PPSMI as an attack on DS Hisham's record. It would not be wrong also to say a successful revamp of PPSMI would bring pride to TS Muhyiddin's supporters... unless DS Anwar's camp spins it his way of course!

Hence the madness of socio-politics in Malaysia, that is the personality cult behind what is real-politik in our country, threatens the resolution of an issue that is of great importance to our children and successive generations. But PPSMI is not alone in this... Malaysians should focussing on ISSUES, not personalities. The problem is, focussing on issues take EFFORT. Are we mature enough to take the effort? If not, we will continue to be at the mercy of our leaders...

There are too many issues in Malaysia that are being decided by the illogical bi-polar socio-political effects of racial interests and politicals of personalities. My hope is that with PPSMI, the Single School System debate and the need for a total review and reform of our education system will SNAP US OUT OF IT! We need to focus on ISSUES. Then only can we the people truly say we deserve the future we all wish for our children.

NB: One would think we would be more mature having been independent for 50 years. No? Maybe we should be more matured as the literacy and other metrics of education have been ever-improving over the years. No? Egads man, the Malay, Chinese, Indian communities in Malaysia can trace back the origins of over some 2 Millenia, even more! Still we are immature?! Indeed... we are human... not an excuse though!!!


Anonymous said...


On PPSMI I am inclined at an intellectual level to support the inititiative because of the reasons underscored by TDM. However, unfortunately the data does not support this policy. It clearly shows that the rural students are getting worse off on a yearly basis. Thus a rethink is required.

What is your thoughts (in tangents?)

Unknown said...

Wenger. Kindly read through the entire PPSMI series - just click on the PPSMI tag at the end of on any of the postings in the series, including this one. A person seemingly as intelligent as you should be able to figure out my stand.

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

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