Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Mother Tongue Education Debate

A few of you may know that I've travelled a bit.

When I travel, I make it a point to experience the culture and everyday routine of the people in the country I visit.

I'm really not into visiting popular places of interest.

Those kind of tours require one to offer a frozen smile for the camera at each stop so that when one returns, one has mountains of photos to bore one's long-suffering friends and relatives with.

That's just not me.

So when I was visiting my colleague Tim in Australia, his wife Chris was obliging enough to arrange for me to come around and visit one of their playgroups for toddlers (which Chris organises).

That was where I met Evie and John.

Evie is an Indonesian Chinese woman who migrated to New South Wales about nine years ago. Her youngest son John, is two years old and Australian-born.

She speaks halting but almost conversational English. But what struck me most about her was that she told me that she'd insisted on bringing up her children to be bilingual.

Fair enough, I thought. Most Chinese ensure their children have a decent command of Mandarin or another local dialect.

But it wasn't Chinese that I heard Evie speaking to John. It was Bahasa Indonesia!

Coming from Malaysia, I was shocked.

Because top on the Malaysian-Chinese priority list of education is Maths and Science. And if Dong Jiao Zong has its way, it should be taught in Chinese, apparently.

These people have gone to the extent of threatening to launch a massive protest. I wonder if that would merit the water-cannon and tear gas. Perhaps someone ought to warn them.

Now I'm not claiming that the current national type education system is the answer to the solution. Frankly, this is a system that ensures that its students don't learn how to think, debate or be critical.

Sure, the Chinese vernacular schools probably build a solid foundation of knowledge in Maths and Science, while no amount of cramping students together is going to create national unity.

In fact, KTemoc gives an insightful opinion on why vernacular schools have flourished.

Unfortunately, I have noticed that in vernacular schools, the emphasis on Chinese culture and perpetual glorification of China is detrimental to the products of its education system who mistakenly walk around thinking that the world revolves around China or Chinese.

It does not.

I have met Chinese who pride themselves in not being able to speak Malay fluently. "It's not important lah," they say.

Which is why it's such a far cry from Evie who has chosen to relocate to a foreign country but still takes pride in the country she grew up in.

Not the country her ancestors came from.


Anonymous said...

you are quite right.There is no moral high ground for these certain people who go around shouting about unity or end the nep but on the dark side, totally refusing to understand the other point of them its about race .If you look deep enough within the core of the han culture,you can only find one thing ,the idea of Supremacy ,which is no different than the twisted Aryan ideology .ketuanan melayu comes from the same family but it could be describe as a distant relative.

In all honesty, the Malays have no such ideology within their culture if you analyse their history properly, it’s only after the Japanese occupation, that this phrase gain its ugly strength.

In my humble opinion, of course.

vinnan said...

Your view is too simplistic. Just because someone chose to abandon his/her mother tongue in educating their children does not mean others SHOULD do so.

Crankster said...

And how would you put it in your own words? How do you see this issue, Vinnan?