Parents know best; the days when the government knows best are over

How can education not be politicized when it’s politicians helming the ministry? How dare you lie into our faces when you say there will be equal opportunities for all when your own children don’t go to national schools?

May Chee


The first part of the topic above is my belief; the second is espoused by our honourable Prime Minister himself. I mean what I say and I hope he does, too.

The Malaysian New Education Blueprint unveiled recently has promised to depoliticize the education system, vowing equal opportunities for all. Hmmm…I like how it sounds.

Now, I’ve nothing against those who support the MBMMBI. I do understand that our national language is important to us Malaysians, being the medium of communication that unites. In fact, being an advocate of PPMSI does not bring one in direct conflict with MBMMBI. I believe PPMSI can aid the noble aim of MBMMBI.

Though English is the dominant global language, it should not dominate every sphere of our lives. That’s why both PPMSI and MBMMBI can complement each other. We know for a fact that those who want to write for a world audience, e.g. to gain international recognition; need to have their efforts published in English. Though these works have a better chance of being published in their mother tongue in their homeland, but for a global audience, these efforts have to be translated into English.

I can see how for the Arts, e.g. Literature, language is not just a means to communicate content. It, itself, is an essential source of enjoyment and once translated, certain if not most aspects like the sounds, rhythms, images, allusions and evocations of the original can only be approximated and thus, the beauty of these efforts sorely diluted. So, yes, certain aspects of education must be retained in our
national language. After all, great authors only write in one language!

However, I do see the need for PPMSI. The fields of the sciences can be rendered more efficient when their knowledge are transmitted in a common language. Those against PPMSI have lamely and “falsely” argued that interest in the sciences have waned because of PPMSI. One can only have one’s interest heightened when one can lay one’s hands on materials pertaining to it. And that, we know, most findings in the sciences are published in English. How can one advance one’s interest and competence in a particular field of science if one has to depend only on works published in Bahasa Malaysia? If one cannot even begin to comprehend the medium in which these works are published in?

We know how “potent” knowledge can be when taken out of context, don’t we? Or, is it “impotent” where the sciences are concerned? How can our homegrown bright sparks make a mark in their chosen disciplines if they cannot publish their works in English? By and large, those who stick to their mother tongue except English, of course, have lower ambitions and do less significant work. In this context, I humbly think, we are doing our homegrown Einsteins a great disservice by not giving PPMSI a chance in Malaysia.

Let’s revisit our Education Act of 1996. It says that “the purpose of education is to enable the Malaysian society to have a command of knowledge, skills and values necessary in a world that is highly competitive and globalised, arising from the impact of rapid development in science, technology and information.” Can we be global players or just “Jaguh Kampungs”? PPMSI will enable our very own Malaysian Einsteins to take on the world for PPMSI will render them competitive and globally employable and recognized.

The Education Act of 1996 also reiterates this: “AND WHEREAS it is considered desirable that regard shall be had, so far as is compatible with that policy, with the provision of efficient instruction and with the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.”

If PPMSI has failed certain sectors of the population, I can only say its implementation left much to be desired. That’s definitely not efficient instruction. We have to train our teachers a lot, lot better. Since 2003, some Rm 5 billion has been allocated and spent in the implementation of PPMSI. Abandoning it now, surely would mean RM 5 billion of public expenditure down the drain! And what about our rights as parents to educate our children according to our wishes?

PAGE has done their homework. A majority of parents, both in the rural and urban areas, would like to have PPMSI continued. Now PAGE is not asking for PPMSI to be implemented nationally. Datin Noor Asimah, chairman of PAGE, recognizes the fact that not one size fits all. So, for PPMSI to be implemented in certain schools, according to the wishes of the majority of the parents there, is plain democratic, realistic and what’s more, rather do-able. For the minister to say that having 2 different streams for the teaching of Mathematics and Science is confusing, is akin to saying. “Malas-lah!” Hey, Mr Minister, our children are everything to us. What about yours, to you? (Where are they studying, by the way?)

The New Education Blueprint does not set out to politicize education, so it says. Good, I’m counting on that. I’m hoping that the 11 shifts do not shift our focus away from education per se and the 3 waves, do not wave our concerns away. As parents, we want what’s best for our children’s future and that includes a relevant and effective education that will equip them to compete in today’s challenging world. So, we are telling you now, the powers-that-be, it’s our right to choose how our children should be educated. Since English is the working language of the day, globally, we would like our children to be educated in the English language, especially when it comes to Mathematics and Science.

The New Education Blueprint vows that equal opportunities will be given to all. Fair, wonderful, even. Since many ministers’ children are educated in international schools with English as the medium of instruction, Mr Minister, please reintroduce schools, using English as the medium of instruction. We are not asking for all schools. Let the parents decide. Please do not allow principals to rig decisions concerning the choice of the parents. I know, for sure, in a particular premier school, the parents said “aye” to PPMSI, but the principal went to the education department and said, “nay”!

You know what’s my beef with education in Malaysia, today? It discriminates! How the policy makers know so well that an education in the English medium, gives an advantage to their children who are not in national schools, yet they deny the masses from one. Young parents wanting to give their children the best they can, work day and night, to enable their children to go to international schools.
What does this say about their quality of life? Worst still, it’s always the poor who will lose out. This, I deplore!

How can education not be politicized when it’s politicians helming the ministry? How dare you lie into our faces when you say there will be equal opportunities for all when your own children don’t go to national schools? Have you forgotten we parents have the right to determine the kind of education we want for our kids? Or what we want or need don’t matter to you? Do our votes matter?

In case you forgot, Mr Education Minister, the days when the government knows best are over. Now, we parents know best. We always, have.

Thank you and God bless.