Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Our Education System - For Whom?

Prologue

Pandangan saya tentang ketidak-adilan dalam sistem pendidekan negara yang menggunakan Bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa penghantar telah saya rakamkan pada 13 January 1998. Ketika itu, kini dan selamanya (kecuali dibuktikan sebaliknya), saya berpendapat bahawa dasar pendidikan negara dalam apa pun versi sekali pun yang dikeluarkan oleh kerajaan, semata-mata bertujuan untuk mengekalkan dominasi golongan elit Melayu dalam ekonomi negara.

Saya memuat-turunkan semula pandangan saya ini ke dalam blog VIEWPOINTS untuk mengajak pembaca menilai sama ada pandangan saya 9 tahun terdahulu adalah betul dan sama ada 10 tahun kemudian ianya telah berubah untuk menyokong rakyat marhaen. Maaf, ketika itu saya banyak menulis dalam bahasa penjajah.

My Country Right Or Wrong

I have been in Angola for more than 2 months now. I cannot claimed to have travel the width and length of Angola except for the capital Luanda and towns like Quibala, Waco Kungo, Gabela, Sumbe and Huambo. But from what I have seen in this towns, I am blessed to have been born a Malaysian. In Malaysia you can practically buy anything next door. Here in Angola you have to travel 7 hours to look for a bottle of cilli sauce which finally is not available.
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy once told the American public “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. In a situation close to ideal, that would be a very patriotic motto to live by. Relationship between the state and the people are just like the relationship between a man and a woman. Reciprocity must exist. There should be an open give and take attitude between the two lovers for love to last. It must be a win-win situation, no double dealings for personal advantage and satisfaction. As the Chinese sage once said “Do not do unto others what you do not want them to do to you”. If the state expects undivided loyalty from its citizens then it's only justified that it's citizen expects a fair and just administration from the state. Just as most well adjusted children comes from a happy home so does a peaceful and contented citizenry comes from a just and fair government.

Much as I would like to be thankful for what the Malaysian leaders have done for the people in Malaysia, the fact that conditions are better off in your country should not blinds you to it's shortcomings. Before coming to Angola I found a thousand and one things not right with Malaysia. After being here I realised that in spite of it's short comings Malaysia is still the place to live for me. Yes there are those who feels that America is the best country in the world like my wife’s nephew Ramlan and my Jordanian team mate Capt. Firas. I am a simpleton at heart. I love what I am and proud of my roots. Give me some modern conveniences and I’ll be contented living amongst the people and culture that I know.

I do not want to be ungrateful for what my country has done for me but right is right and wrong is always wrong no matter where you are. In spite of the easy life, things could be better in Malaysia. Social injustice still exists and the laws are at times being abused just to safeguard the prevailing status quo. I could quote various instance of what I perceived to be injustices that existed in my country of birth but educational injustice is very close to my heart. From that injustice springs forth social imbalances that weighs down against the peasantry from making good in his own homeland.

Maintaining The Status Quo : Education
In the old feudal days when the Malay kings ruled the land as they please, education was only for royalty and the upper class of society. The ordinary rakyat are just cattle fodder to do the bidding of the Rajas and Sultans. Education broaden the mind. It makes a person questions the thing happening around him and spurs him to make the necessary changes if need be. An intellectual (not to be confused with the present breed of paper qualified or certificated person produced by the national education system) is an agent of change and can be a threat to the prevailing status quo. In the old days, denying education to the masses is an effective way of cutting off any threat to the ruling powers. Education today may be freely available to the rakyat but “special education” (private schools where English is normally used and facilities are condusive to studying) is still the privilege of the elite class.

The coming of the British to colonialised the former Malaya could be viewed as a godsend. Colonialisation may mean we are no longer masters of our country and destiny but since when has the ordinary citizens under the old Malay kings and Rajas been the decider of their own fate. Do not forget Sultan Mahmud of Melaka who coveted Tun Fatimah when she’s betrothed to some one else. Her entire family was sentenced to death on trump up charges just for the Sultan of Malacca to have her. Stories like the tale of Dang Anom and the exploits of Hang Tuah are reflections of the times that the rakyat lives under the rule of the Malay Sultans and Rajas. Those were times when the king is law, when 1 person alone decides on the fate of the land.

The English while siphoning off the riches of the land, do open up schools for the masses. They may have an ulterior motive in offering education for the ordinary people as they need puppets to administer the land but they did initiate a movement that sows the seed of intellectualism in this country. Sad to say education under the rule of our own people has been manipulated to serve the needs of the privileged class of present day Malaysia.

I remember reading somewhere that the Malay College Kuala Kangsar was originally set-up to cater for the education of the children of the Malay ruling class during the colonialisation period. Until today although they may be a few peasant class children who succeeds in getting into MCKK, the modern system of political and power connections ensures that the MCKK remains the domain of the ruling class.

Education - Malay Vs English Stream
I was not educated in Malaysia but I remember a time when parents in Malaysia can choose to educate their children either in the English or Malay stream schools. My wife was educated in an English school. Sad to say along the way in the guise of Malay nationalism the English stream of education was abolished. The medium of instructions in the national education system is only in the Malay language. I have nothing against the use of Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction in the education system if every single child goes through the same education system. But that is not the case.

I remember in the late seventies/early eighties when UMNO was not split and Marina Yusoff was a prominent UMNO women leader. During an UMNO convention she laments the fact that she has to pay more for her children’s primary education in a public school in England. Her's is not the only case where children of the privileged class are sent overseas for their education. I dare say that almost 90% of the elite’s of Malay society then sent their children overseas for their education. And of course being sent overseas meant that your children are being taught in the English Language. This situation has not abated but increase as the country prosper. Now you can sent your children to be educated locally in private institutions of learning from primary to university levels which although supposedly following the national education curriculum is to all purpose and intent geared towards the Australian, American, Canadian or United Kingdom tertiary qualifications. And need it be said that this private institutions uses English as the lingua franca.

Why are children of the have nots denied the freedom to choose the medium of instructions they want to be educated in while the policy makers themselves sent their children for an English based education. For those who believes that the present education system is fair and that there is no difference between government and private education, lets look at one simple fact. Normal government schools has about 40 students to a class, controlled schools between 25 to 30 students to a class and private school average 15 students to a class. This does not take into consideration other educational facilities like the easy availability of computers, well stocked library, playing fields, recreational facilities, experienced and dedicated teachers, etc.

An imbalance has existed here because those who can afford it (who else but children from the privilege class) gets educated in an environment condusive to studying. I will agree that any student regardless of the social class that he/she comes from, can succeed if they put their heart, mind and soul into their studies but the odds are always stacked against them. Fairness in any human dealings means squaring off on an even field not with one opponent weighted down by encumbrances.

Regardless of their own educational backgrounds most working class and “peasants” parents realised that English is the business language of the world. It opened doors in other parts of the English speaking world either for educational or business purposes. Like it or not education overseas tends to broaden your mind, it teaches self reliance and instills self confidence in a student. Factors that matters when you are starting out in the business world. In an educational system that allows sons and daughters of farmers and fishermen to be taught in a language that gives them that extra edge, the prevailing invisible but nonetheless existing class system in Malay society would break down. The rakyat can aspire to be captains of industry and leaders in their chosen fields. The ruling class will no more be the privilege of the elite’s but of the ordinary people from the streets who have made good.

The only way to ensure that the status quo is maintained and feudalism in it's modern trappings be preserved is to deny the masses an English based education while giving access to the ruling and elite’s class of Malay society such education by virtue of their moneyed positions. It is ironic that the same people who under the pretext of Malay nationalism devised the present Bahasa Melayu based education system has chosen to send their children to private institutions either locally or overseas to be taught in the language of their former colonial masters. What are the motives for doing so but to ensure that the ruling class perpetuates their dynasty and to reap the benefits the country has to offer.

Money, the key that opens the doors to the corridor of power, is made in the private sectors not in the government service. Just like the days of colonialism, let the educated peasants do the running around to get things done while the brown “tuans” give the orders and pocket the cash. What independence do we have but an exchange from foreign colonial masters to local feudal overlords.

Epilogue
Lah ni ilmu hisab (pleeease!! jangan otak kuning) dan sains diajar dalam bahasa Melayu mulai darjah satu. Bagi anak orang kampong yang pagi petang siang malam makan nasi sambal belacan tiba-tiba kena belajar apa kejadahnya one, two, three untuk buat kira-kira, tak ke seksa bebudak tu. Lainlah anak elite Melayu yang bangun pagi cakap good morning kat papa & mama (bukan emak & abah), dengan kawan cakap omputeh (ada slang mat salleh lagi), maths dan sains dalam bahasa inggeris, peanuts (kacang lah) aje.
Satu lagi, sekarang ni international schools dah dibenarkan beroperasi di Malaysia. Adil kan??