Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The sensation of being naked in public

I am quite certain that every Malaysian who owns an email address and a mobile phone has been receiving politics-laced messages from both sides of the political divide. 

Some messages are well-articulated. Others are emotive. Some are sensible. Others, outrageous. Many are well-meaning. Equally many are downright abusive and libelous.

I'm not sure how other Malaysians react to these messages. I usually glance at them before deleting or, just delete them with nary a further thought.

The point of this post is directed at the remarks I receive from ex-Malaysians who have uprooted themselves to live elsewhere.

These ex-Malaysians invariably have a haughty tone that exhibit 2 characteristics. First, thank the stars I am no longer living in Malaysia. The situation is chaotic. Second, what's wrong with YOU people in Malaysia and all your politicking and race-laced views.

I find these types of remarks tiresome, boring and annoying.

We, who live in Malaysia, are enjoying greater democratic space. We are having some fun.

The best metaphors for what Malaysians are experiencing are-

  • Standing naked outside your house in broad daylight.

  • Bungee jumping for the first time.

It's the democratic equivalent of a dopamine rush.

Some of us hits a downer faster than others. We slow down. Others appear to be on permanent speed.

The point is that this is OUR game to play; for Malaysians who choose to live in Malaysia.

I love Malaysia. I love Malaysian democracy.

I am amused by Ibrahim Ali and Wee Ka Siong. They add colour and texture to the Malaysian political batik fabric. I may not believe what they say, and I really don't. But, I enjoy their utterances. Sometimes I mock exasperation and indignation. But, at heart, they provide a perverse form of enjoyment and distraction.

If people don't understand the cacophony of Malaysian politics (which is at freshman level), then how could they appreciate the higher level banality offered by Aussie politicians (for example) arguing emotionally about carbon tax and the finer points of the Kyoto Protocol?

I'd much rather that people who are residing permanently or, worse, who have become citizens, in another country engage the issues in that land and, if they so desire, quietly read about the colours of political Malaysia and, refrain from making haughty and condescending remarks to Malaysians who choose to live and contribute to Malaysia.

Lest I be misunderstood, none of the above applies to Malaysians studying or working abroad who will be returning in future. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

A smile from the Heavens

Someone emailed this among other photos to me. It's such a great shot that I simply had to post it. I'm not sure whose copyright it is. But, when I find out, I'll be sure to attribute it. It really is a great "one-in-a-million" shot that every photographer must dream of.

Update: Thanks to flyer168 for referencing the URL where the photo originated from here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

PPSMI and the Malaysian education malaise

One of the part that worries me about the PPSMI saga is the claim by the Minister of Education that the matter of reversing the PPSMI policy has been given deep thought by all and sundry in the Cabinet.

What worries me is that the Malaysian education system is too fragmented to the point that it now mirrors Astro programming.

And, what do I mean by that?

It is disturbing to see that Malaysian children are being shafted into different directions in the name of seeking quality education, culture and/or just plain, affordability.

Parents who perceive that the quality of education in national schools (sekolah kebangsaan) have deteriorated precipitously have been sending their children to national-type Chinese schools or international schools.

Other parents who doubt the quality of national schools have been sending their children to private schools using the national syllabus.

Parents who believe that their children need to maintain their perceived "cultural identity" have been sending their children to Mandarin-medium or Tamil-medium schools. Let's not forget that there was also a time when Malay parents would send their children to Malay-medium schools with the same intent.

Parents who believe that their children should be at the apex of society with a fighting chance of being entrenched as the elite of Malaysian society and/or be competitive at a global level, have been sending their children to international schools based in Malaysia!!!!

That's what I mean by the Astro-programming parallel.

And, I believe this to be the major issue.

This is the pink elephant in the room that the Minister of Education and the Cabinet has chosen to ignore.

Granted that this issue is a delicate and complex one, someone still has to address the issue.

Or, maybe this is the precise point.

It is NOT a political issue because no one, on either side of the Parliamentary divide, be they Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, have bothered to deal with the matter.

Yet, everyone who has school-going children and anyone who has undergone any of the education routes I have outlined above should know or recall, the educational anomaly that exists in Malaysia.

Who amongst the political leaders of contemporary Malaysia has the courage to raise this issue? Who dares to bell this cat?

No one.

All we have are parochial and chauvinistic gallery-pandering politicians and educationists who champion their own little causes.

Will no one stand for the Malaysian nation?

Yes. Lest we forget, we are a nation. We live under the same sky. We drink the same water. We eat almost similar food. And, our urinary and fecal matter have been flowing into the same streams and rivers for over a century. 

And, here we are.

Why do many of us argue in favour of preserving PPSMI?

Well, it isn't because we believe that our national school's quality has improved. It hasn't. And, yes, the quality of education needs serious improvement.

But, we don't believe that having Maths and Science being taught in Bahasa Malaysia will improve the quality of education.

We don't believe it simply because language is NOT the issue in the matter of quality of education.

We merely believe that having our children being taught the technical subjects of Maths and Science in the English language will make it easier for our children to tap into the great reservoir of knowledge that currently exists in the known Universe which is very, very substantially written in the English language.

Our children, who have been taught since 2003 under the PPSMI are articulate and conversant in BOTH Bahasa Malaysia and English. Their teachers can vouch for this.

And, no, Mr Education Minister, we parents are NOT satisfied that our current school-going children will remain with PPSMI until the end of their school life.

We want PPSMI to be maintained for the future cohorts of students.

And, we want you, your Cabinet colleagues and the entire Ministry of Education to focus on improving the quality of teachers. 

Stop tampering with language and syllabus.

Just focus on improving the quality of education.

Is this clear enough? (Sorry, just quoting Mr Essau, my Form One teacher who carried a big rotan in his day).

Friday, November 4, 2011

PAGE: Malays lose most from scrapping of PPSMI

Sourced from here-
PETALING JAYA: Rural students are the biggest losers from the government’s decision to stop the teaching of science and mathematics in English, according to the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE).
PAGE chairperson Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said rural students, especially Malays, would end up speaking only Malay because they would have no context in which to apply English.
She questioned the wisdom of the decision, saying Malaysia was going against the tide when “countries all over the world are pushing for English”. She said she was now convinced that Barisan Nasional was not the right party to govern the nation.
She was commenting on Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s latest statement on the scrapping of PPSMI (the Malay abbreviation for the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English). Muhyiddin, who is the Education Education, said today that the decision was final.
“Through PPSMI, the kids would have had an opportunity to practice the language,” Noor Azimah said.
Muhyiddin said the government would go ahead next year with its MBMMBI (Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening the English Language) policy, which would cover a “soft landing” programme for students currently studying science and mathematics in English.
He derided PAGE and other supporters of PPSMI for “being out of touch”, saying the decision to abolish the programme had been made in 2009.
Noor Azimah retorted that PAGE had been fighting to keep PPSMI in the system for “the last three years”.
I think he is out of touch,” she said.
She also said, without elaborating, that PAGE would “support” students hit by the policy change, especially those currently in Primary 3 and Secondary 3.
“They have the right to finish science and mathematics in English under the soft landing.”
Test scores

Noor Azimah claimed that next year’s MBMMBI syllabus was not new, but a direct translation of the current PPSMI texts.

In an earlier statement, PAGE said national test scores improved following the introduction of the PPSMI in 2003.
Citing the Millenium Development Goals 2010 report, it said both rural and urban students had benefited from PPSMI.
“They (rural students) all showed improvements in English, no reduction in Bahasa Malaysia, and improvements in Science and Mathematics in the last few years,” it said.
Through an online petition initiated by PAGE, more than 100,000 parents have protested against the scrapping of PPSMI.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero

Chris Matthews host of MSNBC's show has published a new book on John F. Kennedy. The video clip below is interesting not just for the little nuggets that Matthews throws in on JFK but, also the continuing relevance of JFK in the American political psyche about what it takes to be a political leader.

As always, Malaysians should take all this in in the context of Malaysian politics and leadership.


Here is a nugget about how JFK is likely to have got his impulse to use the now famous phrase, "Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

JFK's 'ask not' line traced back to prep school

Nov 1 (Reuters) - John F. Kennedy's most famous turn of phrase was inspired by the headmaster of his New England prep school, according to a new book on America's only president to have won the Pulitzer Prize.
In his 14-minute 1961 inaugural speech, which addressed the United States' role in the Cold War, Kennedy told Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."
Kennedy, it turns out, had heard something like it before.
Two documents unearthed by MSNBC television host Chris Matthews in his book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," show that the future president's headmaster at the elite Choate boarding school in Connecticut in the early 1930s had used a similar exhortation.
"The youth who loves his alma matter will always ask not 'What can she do for me?' but 'What can I do for her?" the headmaster said, quoting a Harvard University dean.
The book says that Kennedy, who was nearly expelled from Choate for his rebellious hijinks, boosted his 1960 presidential bid with small but well-timed moves.