NST Leader: Missing the wood for the trees?

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik. (NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

YESTERDAY marked a year in office for Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

Where we are going and where have we been are good questions to ask the minister.

Some of this was answered by Maszlee himself in his New Straits Times op-ed article, Thank you, everyone, an attempt of sorts at report carding his and his ministry’s performance. But there were bigger things missed.

This paper has reported “a creeping sense of misplaced priorities” before. This bears repeating.

Take the case of the downward spiral of English language competency among our students. None of the nine pillars in the op-ed article mentioned anything about doing something about such language incompetence among Malaysians.

Even our English language teachers seem to have competency issues.

Otherwise, why would the Education Ministry compel them to sit for the Malaysian University English Test (MUET)? But MUET, like the black shoes controversy, has, quite rightly, attracted unnecessary noise.

Firstly, MUET is a university entrance test, not a cure for ailing English proficiency. If it is true that English language teachers need their competency upgraded, a custom-made training course is a better choice.

Secondly, the National Union of Teaching Profession does not see the need for teachers to sit for MUET because they are English language teachers in the first place. Obviously, neither the ministry nor NUTP is speaking the same language.

Missing too is the problem of our national schools fast becoming a single-race school rather than a multiracial one.

The dream of single-stream national schools and the attendant aspiration of national unity seem destined for the netherland. If unity doesn’t begin at schools, there is no place else where this can cohere.

Vernacular schools are mushrooming, while homeschooling, unheard of before, seems to be an increasing alternative now. If nothing is done to arrest this problem, Malaysians will soon be arguing from different premises.

But the unnoticed elephant in the room must be English as the medium of instruction. But none dare touch it.

What more a minister who is just a year in office. Plus, it is a hot potato in this beloved land of ours. But a happy compromise must be found.

This Leader, however, takes cognisance, too, of the views by the directors-general of education and higher education in today’s Opinion section.

Meanwhile, a black shoes-like controversy is brewing a storm in the media of one sort or the other: Bumiputera quota for matriculation.

Speaking to students of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Maszlee was quoted by a news portal as saying: “If we want to change, if we say in Malaysia Baru there is no need for a quota system and so on, then we must also make sure job opportunities are not denied to Bumiputeras just because they don’t know Mandarin.”

Like the black shoes, that remark has not gone down well with some sections of society. To be fair to Maszlee, he was pushing for context in speech.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/05/490403/nst-leader-missing-wood-trees.

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