Friday, March 06, 2009

Political Hypocrisy in the Opposition against PPSMI

My late father attended the Kongress Bahasa in Johor Baru in 1952 and he is in this historical picture at the steps of Istana Besar.

It was in this Congress that the call for Malay to be adopted as Bahasa Kebangsaan was given currency. Subsequently, the Constitution adopted Bahasa Melayu as official language - and not Bahasa Malaysia as we often expressed.

The real challenge begins.

The purist form of Nationalism comes together with Nationalistic pride for one's language culture and culture. The Malay struggle in its natural homeland is not be limited to political freedom and dominance but extended also to perpetuating the Malay language and culture.

Despite father's strong Nationalistic stance, he like many others such Syed Nasir and Sheikh Al Hady - were pragmatic enough to realise the benefit of English and sent their children to English schools.

This is where the irony lies. It is as though, their struggle as Pejuang Bahasa is for the peasant class to go to vernacular Malay schools, be deprived of mainstream economic opportunity, and expect the peasant children to carry-on the torch for the Bahasa Melayu struggle.

Initially, my English medium background, Maths and Science streaming, American tertiary education, post-graduate diploma from a European University, and many years living abroad made me indifferent to the language issue. I felt awkward of the Mathematical and Scientific terminology used in Malay.

However father’s effort had not been lost.

As I deepened my Nationalistic resolve, I grew to appreciate Bahasa Melayu and Malay literary work more and more. I begin to feel strongly for the role of Malay as National Language and as the regional lingua franca. And, I decry the liberal use of English in the courts despite the specific Constitutional provision to limit its use after 10 years of Independence.

There are many people with similar background like me but with similar aspirations. It is a testament that, irrespective of ones medium of instruction, it should not douse ones passion for the National language. Naturally, I would not agree to the absolute the teaching of Maths and Science in English (Malay acronym PPSMI).

However, the arguments and actions of these Pejuang Bahasa in their vehement opposition to PPSMI awakened me to their political hypocrisy. It soured my willingness to lend support in the fight against PPSMI. The Pejuang Bahasa have narrowed their struggle and astrayed from the bigger picture. Bahasa jiwa bangsa tetapi bahasa bukan segala-galanya hingga sampai menggadaikan kepentingan.

Political hypocrisy

The much publicised demonstration this Saturday by Gerakan Menentang PPSMI or GMP is perhaps a bolder political action by the Pejuang Bahasa than their usual khayalan protest through writings, poem readings, and oration in forums. However, the problem with GMP is that it compromises the bigger Nationalism agenda for the narrow interest to oppose PPSMI.

Usual suspect of faces in any demonstration. Are they serious about the Malay agenda stuggle to empower socially, politically, spiritually, intelletually and economically? Or merely playing on voters sentiment for their anarchistically inclined party?

By putting the Pejuang Bahasa faces as front, it does not hide the fact they are conveniently being used by PAS and Keadilan for political mileage. It is not mere conincidence that the planned demonstration is staged in early March prior to UMNO's General Assembly. Is it to get even with certain personalities?

Even if the Minister of Education from UMNO is viewed as forsaking the language and cultural agenda of Malay Nationalism, the question is why are they willing to work with political groups that do not believe in the Malay language agenda and the Malay cause at all?

If GMP is so concerned about pride and Malay status, why are they prepared to work with Anwar and Haji Hadi who had publicly denounced the need to protect Malay interest, the former promoting Ketuanan Rakyat (Revolution) and the latter Ketuanan Islam. Aren’t their concepts an anathema to the Malay existence as a whole and not only the Malay language?

May I remind that Anwar is a compulsive liar and as good as a traitor to the Malay language cause. He recently announced the Selangor Government will use legislation to take land for SJKC expansion. Would he dare takeover Chinese land to expand the National School? Strangely, at one time, it was Anwar that was against passing the 1996 Education Act amendment to safeguard the existence of Chinese schools.

Where the now claimed Pejuang Bahasa of PAS and PKR when DAP insulted the National Language?
PKR and PAS are political partners of DAP in Pakatan Rakyat. DAP insulted the National language status of the Malay language by insisting Chinese and Indian scripts on road signs and insulted the use of Jawi road signs. Doesn’t that make the status of the National language equal if not lesser to the other foreign languages? At least, English is an international language

Where were they?

The biggest contradiction of these Pejuang Bahasa is their willingness to work with Dong Zong, the chauvinist Chinese Educationist group supporting GMP.

Media Strategist for Dong Zong, Sham Thin Kee present at the GMP meeting

Dong Zong, MCA, DAP and Gerakan opposed violently to Mukhriz’s recent idea for a single educational stream, which would cut differences between races from the early schooling age. Instead of giving support to Mukhriz’s idea that will elevate the use of Bahasa Melayu amongst non Malays, the Pejuang Bahasa took a cynical view by being childishly personal out of their opposition to his father introduction of PPSMI.

Language Romantic

We have heard at length the argument of the opponents of PPSMI from the perspective of national pride and can-do optimism. The problem is they are hopeless romantic and unrealistic. It’s time to get out from this language romanticism to look at it realistically and sincerely within the broader perspective of progress.

Will romanticism and sentimentalism with poetry and prose empower the Malay language?

As I have demonstrated, having education in English medium does not negate the fact that we could remain passionate for the struggle for Bahasa Melayu. This proves that regardless of what language one chooses to adopt as his medium, one can remain to his national language.

GAPENA and former Dewan Bahasa Pustaka (DBP) stalwarts involved in GMP have been pointing finger at others without realising that they should accept much blame for the need to resort to study the two subjects in English.

There are just insufficient translated works. If they had not been busy playing politics and instead focus on translating those Math and Science books into Malay, the necessity to revert to English for the two subjects would have been diluted.

Sadly, they are living in a dream world.

Dato Dr Hasan Ahmad gave the impression there are abundantly sufficient academic materials available in Bahasa Melayu for Maths and Science. He must be kidding himself with the repeated claim that UKM products are living proof Bahasa Melayu is a language of Maths and Science. The textbook and refences are abundantly in English!

Have they done enough to empower the Malays with the knowledge from Malay classic work? Need we ask for the translated work in Malays for contemporary and classic literature in Maths, Science, Economics and even Social Sciences?

I am still refraining myself from an all-out criticism for their failure to popularise classic Malay work to the population at large.

Why are Malays today ignorant of classic works like Abdullah Munsyi's Hikayat Abdullah Munsyi and Hikayat Pelayaran Abdullah Munsyi, Tun Sri Lanang's Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Hang Tuah, Raja Haji's Tuhfat an Nifas and even contemporary Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan?

May we ask where have the billions funnelled to over decades for language development gone to?

Broadening Perspective

It's been recorded that since National schools were fully converted into Malay medium, Malay students sent abroad to study Math and Science disciplines failed to be outstanding at least in their first year, which was spent to understand the terms and jargons in English.

If Malays are to progress in a global environment, they have to be master in Math and Science related disciplines and not Arts and Social Sciences, the disciplines of those in the GMP.

They complained rural children's academic performance suffer from PPSMI. But how long are the Malays going to try to make everything easy for their children? Surely a bit of struggle makes them tougher and more competitive.

When PPSMI was introduced, the National Schools were at its lowest ebb with non-Malays preferring vernacular schools. By introducing PPSMI, the National School was selling a new currency to be more appealing to the less chauvinistic non-Malays.

At the same time, the move for PPSMI was able to negate the efforts by the Chinese educationists like Dong Zong and Jiao Zong to insist on the supremacy of Mandarins. Thus, that is the ulterior motive for Dong Zong's support of GMP.

Can the Pejuang Bahasa tell me how to get access to the knowledge in these books in Malay, without political cliche as excuses?

One much used argument of Pejuang Bahasa is that countries like Japan, Korea, and France had done well in fields of Math and Science in their own language.

But that is not a fair and realitic comparison. They are in an advanced status in the two fields and had allowed them to progress while sticking to their national language. Even then, this seems to have saturated as these nations are scrambling to push their people to adopt English in the two fields.

Comparatively Malaysians are more in demand than Indonesians or Thaïs in the international market, merely because they speak English. That had confined them in the service industry and menial tasks. With command in the Science and Math, they will be highly in demand for the more advanced technological field.

(Take Note: Much of the points are quoted almost verbatim from Jebat Must Die here.)

Progress Strengthen the Language

The problem is the Pejuang Bahasa will not hear of arguments like these.

Historically and in practise, knowledge is attained in the language the knowledge is derived and developed.

Let's ask ourselves. Have any Malay Mathematicians and Scientist developed any groundbreaking finding and the literature written in Malay, thus making it necessary for foreigners learn up Bahasa Melayu for access to his findings?

What has the two faces of Malay scientist - a Mathematics and a Physics Professors - contributed to their fields and indirectly empowered the language?

We need to achieve socio-cultural progress in our nation-building pursuit. But what good will it if we have a flourishing Bahasa Melayu but yet its populations are technically backward and not accessible to advancement in Science and technology?

Do ponder this side of the equation. Unless we progress, we can’t strengthen and build Malay language and civilisation. That is Mukhriz’s pragmatic argument for PPSMI.

We have can't get emotional and overtly political on the PPSMI issue. There are other dimensions to the issue and not just national pride.

If we are to subscribed to the Ketuanan Rakyat thinking and it is the Rakyat to decide, will the Pejuang Bahasa accept the Rakyat's decision to have English streaming again?

Will Dato's Hassan Ahmad send his grandchildren to English school too, like my father, Syed Nasir and Sheikh Al Hady? I think he will.

Updated: 12:40 pm


Raison D'etre said...

How I would love to be proficient in both bahasa Melayu and English, rather than being so and so in one, and downright rotten in the other, which I believe is the case should we persist with such "Perjuangan".

As to the so-called rural versus uran conundrum, well, suffice to say the bridge is not that far, isn't it?

At least more of English usage would give ALL our students a fair fighting chance - vernacular and national school alike.

Anonymous said...

those people in GMP memperjuangkan bahasa melayu?

abih tu yg depa berkomplot dgn dap dan dong jiao zong yg nak mengembalikan bahasa mandarin tu buat apa?

GMP mempertahankan bahasa mandarin jugak ke???

apa pandai sangat gmp ni????



Anonymous said...

The opposition against PPSMI referred to the report by TIMSS 2007 as a basis to relate the poor showing of Malaysian students in Maths and Science to PPSMI. I read the whole 512 pages of the TIMSS 2007 report and found nothing substantive or significant or conclusive to specifically pronounced that PPSMI is the cause.

Anonymous said...

My concern about PPSMI is that what is the government plan to further advance Malay language in the field of science and technology. Although there are many concerns such as the study Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2007) that Malaysian students actually fared worst in Science and Technology! and the fact that they found out students who learn the two subjects in their home language scored better. Well that's another discussion.

What I am going to point is that language evolves and it will become better if the community that spoke the language use it properly and keep on improving it. If one were to read text written in Batu Bersurat and compared it to modern Malay they would be surprise how different it was when at that time it was still heavily influenced by Sanskrit. When Islam came, Malay language received a boost and incorporate many of the Islamic philosophy in it thus Malay language incorporates word such as "fikir".

Proponent of PPSMI keep on questioning why DBP Malayanise English words like "kategori", "motivasi" and so on. From my part, I have no problem with that as it is the evolution of Malay language.

You said that pejuang being hypocrite because they don't publicly denounced when PAS, DAP and PKR questioned Malay right. I don't see it as a hypocrisy. For me what language can unite people. The government should deemphasize on protecting the Malay rights. It should instead focus on uniting people through a common language that is already in the Constitution which is Malay.

And I fail to see how insisting on vernacular sign on road is insulting Malay when the Malay language is still the most prominent.

As for the so-called Chinese Dong Zong, I would like to remind everyone that when the government announced PPSMI, this group did invite Malay groups to protest but at that time most Malay groups ignore their plead (see Ahmad Lufti's 7 Mac, runtuhkan kebodohan ini!

Anonymous said...

Yes, one more thing I can help translate those books if somebody fund my work. As it is the government is too concern on something else, not translation.

I have done lots translating for free for Wikipedia and it taking me a lot of time. That is my contribution. How about you?

CheWal said...

There is a list of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) related to PPSMI policy.

I hope the FAQ is comprehensive enough to answer all the arguments regarding PPSMI.

please refer to


Anonymous said...

Sepuluh Dongengan Bahasa dan Bangsa Melayu

bibliobibuli said...

"We have can't get emotional and overtly political on the PPSMI issue. There are other dimensions to the issue and not just national pride."

your post is very well argued and i hope that the issue is properly and calmly debated instead of being made a political issue.

what puzzles me is why the protest now when the programme is several years along and a great deal of money spent on making the change? not to mention that there are thousands of teachers who have been proactive and successful in upgrading their language skills to take on the challenge.

were groups waiting for it to fail? (which apparently it hasn't)

Unknown said...

Kelak nanti apabila bangsa kita sudah maju dan menguasai pelbagai bidang dan cabang ilmu, insyaAllah dengan sendirinya bahasa kita juga akan terdaulat. Pada waktu itu bangsa-bangsa luar pun akan belajar bahasa kita untuk menuntut ilmu dalam bahagian-bahagian yang kita kuasai.

Suatu masa dahulu bangsa Arab mendahului dalam bidang sains dan teknologi, dengan tokoh-tokoh ilmuwan Islam agung yang mana umat Islam hari ini hanya mampu mengenang tanpa mewarisi. Pada waktu itu Eropah masih dalam zaman gelap. Penuntut-penuntut Eropah zaman itu mempelajari bahasa Arab supaya senang mereka mempelajari ilmu-ilmu sains dan matematik dalam bahasa Arab. Tiadalah pula orang-orang Eropah kecoh mendebatkan apa akan jadi dengan bahasa Inggeris atau Perancis atau Jerman mahupun Sepanyol, hanya kerana terpaksa belajar sains dan matematik dalam bahasa Arab. Lihat hari ini, pupuskah bahasa mereka? Tidak! Bahkan menjadi lingua franca utama dunia. Ini kerana bangsa Eropah telah muncul sebagai peneraju dalam pelbagai cabang ilmu pengetahuan. Terbalik pula jadinya dengan bahasa Arab yang makin terhad penggunaannya kepada negara-negara Arab dan umat Islam sahaja. Ini berlaku semenjak bangsa Arab dilanda anasir-anasir kejumudan dan puritanisme yang menghakis kegemilangan budaya ilmu mereka.

Jepun juga sama sejarahnya. Bangsa Jepun menuntut dalam bahasa Inggeris ketika zaman pemodenan Meiji dalam pertengahan abad ke-19. Lihat saja betapa bangsa Jepun bergantung penuh terhadap bahasa Inggeris selama lebih 100 tahun sehingga mereka sendiri muncul sebagai peneraju ilmu yang menyaingi Barat sekaligus mampu memartabatkan bahasa ibunda mereka sebagai lingua franca. Itu pun, Jepun tetap tidak pernah sesekali mengabaikan kepentingan bahasa Inggeris untuk mereka terus bersaing di peringkat antarabangsa. Bayangkanlah jika pada abad ke-19 dahulu orang Jepun menentang pembelajaran dalam bahasa Inggeris seumpama orang Malaysia hari ini membuta tuli menentang PPSMI...? Mana mungkin dunia akan mengenal Jepun seperti yang dikenali sekarang?

gapodio said...

Bagi aku senang saja nak lawan isu ni. Buat kamus untuk sains dan matematik. Jadikan kamus tu buku teks percuma. Kerajaan tanggung.Semua pelajar dapat sorang satu. Kalau mak-bapak budak tu tak reti bahasa inggeris ke, buta ke, bisu ke, pekak ke, budak tu masih boleh belajar di rumah.Takkan ada alasan lagi dah.


hahahaha dok tanya kat mana hang boleh dapat buku2 kimia fizik dan prof hawking tu dlm bm...memang takde kalau hang pi cari dikedai buku.

tapi apa kena mengena buku tersebut dgn ppsmi? kalau english hang bagus takde hal nak baca buku tersebut? takkan hang nak kata 11 tahun belajar english dari std 1 sampai form 5 pun tak boleh nak baca dlm english?

hang pikir balik 11 tahun belajar english buat apa? tido ka? decent english is good enough for you to read a book in english. a good command in english doesn't give you advantage to master the chemistry or something technical in knowledge.

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