Apparently a 'No' by a political leader does not mean very much. For months, various parties have been asking that the government re-look the decision to abolish PPSMI. The DPM cum Minister of Education said no; adamantly and with the air of finality most of the time.
Then on the day when we were supposed to get more news about the MBMMBI (Strengthening of Bahasa Malaysia and English), a turnaround. PPSMI will continue after all, albeit for those who started their education while it was still running; meaning those from Year 2 onwards will get to finish their education with Math and Science in English. I guess the many parents of Year 1 students will be hopping with unhappiness now.
So, my kid gets to continue to be taught with the PPSMI. I should be elated but I am not. My concern remains the quality of instruction in English and also the marking of her public examination scripts later. There is a 'generation gap' of poor English command of the teachers. Try as the MOE did to upgrade their English, it is still not getting far. We have been seeing some statistics in the last few days why PPSMI should be abolished. And one was a low percentage of teachers are incompetent in the language. And that is why my elation is muted... and also why I think we should bring back English medium schools.
The government and nationalist claim that the medium of instruction needs to be in BM for national unity. But that argument has many faults. Our schooling system. Chinese and many Malays who want 'better' quality education flock to send their children to Chinese vernacular (national type) schools. The national schools are predominantly made up of Malay students; in the Peninsular. Integration? Nation building? How to have nation building when schools are made up of almost single race?
The need for BM is rather minimal out of the civil service; and it's generally difficult for non-Bumis to get into it, attested by the low percentage of non-Bumis in it now. One can get by with all sorts of dialects and pidgin BM (bahasa pasar) in one's small world - since that seems to be the objective of our having so many types of school along racial lines. Each race feels compelled to preserve their culture and heritage. If everything is done in the best interest of everyone, I think this siege mentality would somehow be reduced. Look at America or even Peru and so many other countries where assimilation is total. It's hard not to come to a conclusion that the we have been divided and ruled so that a certain group can continue to remain in power. Power is now considered a privilege and not duty to serve.
So, coming back to PPSMI. It's been an interesting few days. Through the discussions on FB, I've learned that the growing middle income families are now more aware and concerned for their children's education... and this cuts across racial lines. I read of the Johoreans who send their children over to Singapore to be educated and how their parents take courses to upgrade themselves so that they can coach themselves. I've read of how those in other cities are toying with homeschooling and international schools. Different races, backgrounds, and there feels like this consensus that our education system is not getting any better, and that those who go through our education system are not well-equipped for the working world.
The voices of those without the means to express themselves via digital technology are not really heard and they continue to be made used by politicians. This PPSMI latest announcement is by no means a solution because it still leaves our education in 2 worlds. There needs to be a revamp, that's for sure. But whether we have a government who has our best interest at heart remains to be seen...