I REFER to the importance of emphasising English (“Society can benefit from policy change” — NST, Aug 22 ) in our national education system. The education of our children has been defined by three developments, which have affected the quality of the learning process over the past four decades.
FIRST, there was the effort to concentrate on emphasising the national language because the importance given to English was inconsistent with the National Educational Policy and a hindrance to the development of Bahasa Malaysia as the national and official language.
Language nationalists oppose any effort to increase the use of English and make it a second medium of instruction, calling such efforts unconstitutional and seditious;
SECOND, school textbooks were rewritten to make students more interested in our geography, history and culture. But some authors overdid it by rewriting the facts so much that parents became worried about the accuracy of the lessons being taught and whether there were commercial interests that influenced the authors. I saw a school book on world history that had more chapters about Malaysia than the rest of the world. There was scant coverage of the two world wars that shaped the 20th century and changed the course of history for many nations. To ignore such truth is to ignore reality; and,
THIRD, there is growing tolerance among school heads to the efforts of some overzealous teachers to bring their religious beliefs into the classroom. While the government has always given the highest priority to education in the allocation of resources, more and more parents are turning away from national schools and sending their children to private and vernacular schools. There is clear evidence of segregation by race and income in education and this trend is growing.
The best way to reverse the trend is to bring English back into the curriculum while keeping Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction. It is also essential to depoliticise education so that the national school system is the first choice for all races.