I wish here to refer to a burning question in the schools which is connected with the standard of teaching, which is itself not unrelated to the subject of teachers’ salaries.
This is a problem which has been created by the switch of the media of instruction in all National-type (English) primary schools. All National-type (English) Primary Schools have now switched the media of instruction from English to Bahasa Malaysia for Standard One and
Standard Two classes.
For Standard Four and Five classes, all subjects, apart from science and mathematics, are being taught in Bahasa Malaysia. There will be further conversion of the teaching medium so that by the end of this decade, Bahasa Malaysia will be the sole teaching medium in all govt.-aided primary as well as secondary schools.
The question I want to ask is this: Has the Ministry of Education made adequate preparation before making this switch to ensure that the teaching and education standards in these schools do no fall, and that the students do not become victims of an unplanned or every poorly-planned switch in the media of instruction?
Is this Minister of Education aware that a large number of teachers affected by the switch in the in the teaching media are not qualified to teach their subjects in Bahasa Malaysia?
This is not the fault of the teachers, who were educated in the English schools and trained to teach in the English medium.
Although there are in-service Bahasa Malaysia courses, I gather that these courses do not really equip these teachers to have sufficient teaching knowledge of the language, which is not merely to read out the lesson in the prescribed text book to the class, but to explain, converse and discuss the subject in depth with the students.
This calls for a fluency in the language which not many teachers in this category possess. In fact, there are teachers who do not know what they are teaching, because despite their plea to their principal that they could not teach in Bahasa Malayia, they are nonetheless assigned to teach in Bahasa Malaysia because of the shortage of teachers in the school.
A situation is arising were teachers go to their classes without really imparting knowledge. A number of them confine their teaching activities to giving notes in Bahasa Malaysia, because they are not fluent in the language.
The result is students go home with very vague and hazy idea as to what they are taught in schools. An entire generation of students are growing up in the National-type (English) primary schools who are not getting the best education and teaching that they are entitled to because the unplanned switch in the media of instruction has converted qualified teachers into unqualified teacher.
The teachers, the teachers’ unions, the principals, the education authorities, members of the public and parents are aware of this shocking state of affairs. But nobody dare to speak up for fear of being branded as disloyal, anti-national and traitorous.
I submit that this is a very serious problem which we must handle sanely, rationally, and completely removed from emotionalism and hysteria.
Let us try to find a solution to this problem, without trying to look for scapegoats, or to embark on a tirade of character assassination.
It is our duty to see to it that the new Malaysian generation of children get the best education we can give them.
I propose that a committee of inquiry be set up with government representatives, Opposition leaders and teachers’ representatives, to:
1. ascertain how unprepared the National-type (English) primary schools and teachers are for this switch in medium of instruction from English to Bahasa Malaysia;
2. the effects it had and will have on the educational and teaching standards in these schools;
3. propose measures to remedy these adverse effects on education and teaching standards, to ensure that the school children do not suffer as a result of the implementation of the switch in media of instruction without adequate preparation and planning.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I must stress that such a committee can only produce results if there is sincerity and goodwill all round in wanting to give the best education for our children, and there is no highly-charged atmosphere of allegations of disloyalty, anti-national behaviour or treachery from and at any quarter.
Let there be no witch-hunting. Let us work together to find solution to this problem of how to ensure that our children get the best education we can give them,
Let us continually raise the standard of our children’s education, and not bea party to the lowering of educational standards.
No teacher or Malaysian would come forward to give his views on how this serious problem can be overcome if there is a highly-charged atmosphere of witch-hunting. We will then be failing in our duty to our children.