Salvaging the shambolic Malaysian education system through dual medium of instruction of Malay, English

Sarawak school

A lot of negative criticisms have been levelled against our education system. The main grouse is that it has deteriorated, compared to the 60s and 70s.

The general impression is that it has devolved from a sound pedagogical rubric to a loose conglomerate of disparate educational imperatives.

This is the result of interference in the educational system to serve political, nationalist, and religious agenda.

There have been persistent calls to restructure the educational system to reflect the ethos of intellectual engagement that emphasises the development of critical, analytical, and creative faculties that combine verbal, and non-verbal expression, comprehension, and communication.

The ethos of education is to develop an inquiring mind to perceive natural and man-made phenomena and comprehend the visual and textual data that describe them, as well as to be able to perceive them beyond the apparent, and to realise the architectonic structure of physical forms and mental imagery.

Students must be equipped with the proper cognitive tools and physical skills to achieve this.

The traditional pedagogical tools that develop the students’ critical and creative faculties are reading, writing, arithmetic, and the fine arts (visual and performing arts), as well as physical education to develop a healthy body. The basic philosophy of education dictates: ‘Man sana in copra Sano’ (A good mind in a healthy body).

Reading expands one’s knowledge horizon; writing enables one to shape and mentally visualise one’s thoughts, whether factual or imaginative, by way of textual and verbal data.

Arithmetic or mathematics engages and challenges us in numerical computing competency. Mathematics develops the matrix of numerical reasoning that expresses factual and hypothetical phenomena, compressing concepts and thoughts into formulas.

While mathematics espouses a regimented and definitive objective mode to explain existential phenomena, the arts allows a subjective freedom of expression of phenomena without the constraints of formalistic rigidity.

Visual arts allows the students to use their imaginative faculties to fashion existential and non-existential phenomena to perceive the world from a prismatic vision of distorted images that are free from the constraints of physical forms.

The performing arts enables us to explore the mechanics that employ bodily energy to construct ephemeral images of movements in a spatial temporal continuum in a rhythmic or non-rhythmic pattern. It develops skills, coordination, mental acumen, and muscle memory.

The same goes for music, which develops skills of playing musical instruments, hand-eye coordination, and memory.

Reading, writing, arithmetic, and the arts address a range of problem-solving issues of verbal textual and non-verbal imagery constructs. Problem-solving of textual construct involves the analysis of the structural construction of the issues, followed by the deconstruction, and then, reconstruction to enable one to perceive and understand the architectonic makeup of the issues.

The non-verbal construct refers to the visual images of tangible two-and three-dimensional artistic composition, the transient images of dance and theatre, and the auditory reception of music. It allows for the subjective interpretation of verisimilitude (reality) into artistic works and presents opportunities to explore beyond the physicality of the forms.

Computer and digital literacy must be part of the curriculum to allow students to access information from numerous sources. This would aid in the teaching and learning process, in which the teacher would be relieved of the burden of sourcing for information for the students, but instead, can focus on analysing and the application of the information (data).

There must be an ecosystem that nurtures and fosters the educative process. Formal schooling is only part of this. The other elements are the home environment, educational infrastructure (school and public libraries), private educational support, and peer group networking.

The impact of the educative process varies geographically and culturally because of the uneven nature and the dispersal of the educational facilities. This creates an imbalance in the educational ecosystem.

Urban areas have a good educational ecosystem, with a range of facilities, such as public and school/college libraries, tuition centres, as well as a range of popular and academic bookstores, besides normal schooling.

Rural areas, on the other hand, have only the basic, centred on the teachers and school textbooks. There is very little or no pedagogical reinforcement outside school hours.

The motivation and the competitive spirit that exist in urban areas are typically absent in the rural areas.

The rural students are thus at a disadvantage.

It is imperative that the educative process addresses this imbalance and shortcomings.

As such, the curriculum and teaching methodology must be designed to address this imbalance.

The agents of knowledge transfer, namely the teachers, should be suitably qualified to handle these differing geographical and cultural situations, besides being trained in their respective areas of expertise.

To ensure high standards quality teaching, the teachers must not be burdened and distracted by mundane clerical and administrative work, but be allowed to focus on teaching.

But most importantly, teachers must be given the respect due to them and not be treated like menials by the authorities. They should be recognised as the ones who dedicate their lives to preparing their charges to meet the future challenges of an ever-changing world.

The world is changing fast with the advancement of knowledge and the development of technology. Not only students, but also the older generations, must be equipped to access this new knowledge to be relevant to contemporary social, educational, and economic imperatives.

To do that, one needs to be proficient in the English language, as advancement in knowledge and technology are easily available in that language.

Previous efforts at translating books into Malay proved to be an exercise in futility as the Translation Bureau and the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka could not keep pace with the hundreds of thousands of new titles published every year.

The logical step is to increase the proficiency of English among school and university students to enable them to access data and information from references in the university and public libraries, where over 90 per cent of the books and journals are in English.

It is imperative that the authorities have the political will to implement a dual medium of instruction of Malay and English in the Malaysian education system that will enable students to access and keep abreast of the information explosion, thereby increasing their intellectual capacity to be on a par with the best in the world.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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