Do we need a referendum?

By Mahaletchemy

I SHARE the concerns expressed in “Students caught out” (July 10) as my son will also face this predicament when he reaches Form 3. After learning maths and science in English from Year 1, he has to adjust to learning it in Bahasa Malaysia for three years in Secondary 3, and then revert to English when he goes to college at 18.

Having studied in Singapore, where English is the medium of instruction, I am proud to use my Bahasa Malaysia as our national language. Our second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak, had the vision of uniting all races through the national school, and “satu bahasa dan satu bangsa” concept. Bahasa Malaysia has come a long way. You can communicate with anyone in any part of Malaysia in the language and feel comfortable and accepted as a Malaysian.

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak must surely share what his father had initiated, in his vision of 1Malaysia. Congratulations Mr Prime Minister.

But we have too many schools, ie the national school, the Chinese, Tamil, and even Punjabi schools; the religious schools; the vision and cluster schools; the elite schools; and an increasing number of international schools. How do we build 1Malaysia?

However, while Bahasa Malaysia has developed immensely in the subjects related to the Arts (language, literature, history, etc), it has found it difficult to keep pace with the rapid developments in science and technology and ICT.

Can translations by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka keep pace with this global pace of development?

I remember helping my son on his science assignment on hard and soft stem plants, and the numerous websites we discovered (99% of which were in English) and how quickly he learnt from the Internet. We worked on another assignment on Rumah-rumah di Malaysia, where he looked for information from the Bahasa Malaysia websites for a scrapbook. There was so little to source from and much of the material was identical to text books.

I do not deny that the rural children will be comfortable in their mother tongue in Year 1, but are we really helping them or are we depriving them of the benefits of globalisation? Numerous rural parents and students have voiced their interest in learning science and maths in English? We only want the best for our children. Do we need a referendum to confirm this?

I rely on the national school system. I cannot afford international schools or education overseas. I too believe in the Vision of 1Malaysia. Let us strive for it through a futuristic national school, that incorporates the mother-tongue of all races and develops the individual intellectually, physically, spiritually and emotionally.