Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Please, let schools be about education.

Celebrate Language differences, learn from one another.


Below are excerpts from an essay I wrote on respecting the child's right to his/her own language:

Imagine a scenario in Malaysian classrooms where primary school children learn the meaning of the word ‘peace’ and muhibbah in many different languages: Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Jawa, Siam, Bugis, Bawean, Bangladeshi, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Tamil, Urdu, Tagalog, Hebrew, Arabic, Senoi, Jakun, Iban, and Kadazan-dusun.

Imagine the children, in weekly language word-study circles, explaining to each other the meaning of the word in their own language.

Imagine the children learning Language Arts and Social Studies exploring the interdisciplinary theme of the language they use at home.

Imagine them translating proverbs from their native language into English, and next illustrating them and next doing class presentations.

Imagine at the end of the year, the children and their parents proudly dressed up in their cultural outfits, singing songs in their native language without being laughed at, sharing food - in a cultural celebration night.

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What's wrong with having choice of education? We should be celebrating the fact that our country has so many choices. We have SRJK Chinese-medium, SRJK Tamil-medium, SK Malay-medium, private schools (Malay & English medium), International schools, and Home schools. What we are severely lacking now are schools for the gifted, and schools for the handicapped.

Instead of harping on denying other people choice, I say we must create even MORE choices! This will benefit our children as they can then choose a type of school that suits them. Besides, competition drives quality. If the National schools were properly managed, people would have no compulsion to send them to alternatives.

I remember that was the case in my school days. Back then, Chinese and Tamil schools were regarded as second-grade as they were handicapped by their poor BM & English skills. However, since then they have fought back with a vengeance, proving their worth by consistently producing high-calibre students. Today, Chinese-medium schools are highly regarded, to the point that even other races want to get in. Tamil schools are finally catching up as more Indian parents realise the value of Tamil schools.

What of National Schools? While it is commendable that the govt is committed to provide free education to all citizens, the fact of the matter is the Education Ministry has become a political arena to get noticed. And unfortunately, the last 20 years have seen Malaysian education getting tied up in more and more knots as aspiring politicians try experiment after experiment. Schools have also become a convenient indoctrination tool for politicians.

So instead of creating a nation of innovators, we have created generations of stunted thinkers. Most lack the ability to think critically, because children's curiosity about the world around them has been drummed out of them because they have been brainwashed to not question authority and just accept things as they are.

Please, let schools be about education.

Please, leave politics out of it.

Eyes Wide Open

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