There is an interesting letter in malaysiakini on the use of English so today I would like to share my own experience on the use of English.
As readers will know I am a bit of a dinosaur of the old school system and completed my Sixth Form in 1966. At the time, English was the medium of instruction and Bahasa Melayu was a compulsory subject that you had to pass in order to get the SPM.
I failed that paper - maybe my essay was too political; I wrote about the follies of the Indonesian leader at the time. But that is another story.
I went to the UK on a company scholarship - that was a major milestone as my family was so poor I did not bother to apply for the local Us as I did not get any other scholarship like Colombo Plan or from the government.
When I was in the UK, my coursemates were all Brits and there were eight of us in the class. I used to point out their mistakes in English; especially spelling and grammatical errors. At first they were quite upset and had the superior attitude of "Who are you to tell us what is correct?"
But I persisted and challenged them to check the dictionary etc. After a few rounds of correcting they stopped arguing and would instead ask me if there was some doubt.
During my school days I had wonderful teachers especially the Christian Brothers like Bros. Paul, Casimir and Vincent. As a Eurasian, English is my mother tongue and years of studying in the English medium enabled me to correct my classmates in the UK.
So it is sad to read that the Education Ministry has now allowed students the option to answer the Maths and Science papers in their preferred language; either in English or BM.
It shows that the decision to re-introduce English was not properly considered and the 5-year plan is now in shambles.
What is the latest plan of the Education Ministry? How are the children in Primary One coping? How capable are the teachers?
Changing the medium of instruction is not like making instant coffee. Just like the time when BM was switched in the 70s, the use of English also needs a proper groundwork or we end up with tens of thousands of suffering students, harrassed teachers and accusing parents.
There is much serious work to be done and no amount of keris-waving will get this job done properly without a good plan.