Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Instead of closing down vernacular schools..

Celebrate Language differences, learn from one another.

TO: MALAYSIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS AND EDUCATORS

Below are excerpts from an essay I wrote on respecting the child's right to his/her own language:

Imagine a scenario in Malaysian classrooms where primary school children learn the meaning of the word ‘peace’ and muhibbah in many different languages: Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Jawa, Siam, Bugis, Bawean, Bangladeshi, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Tamil, Urdu, Tagalog, Hebrew, Arabic, Senoi, Jakun, Iban, and Kadazan-dusun.

Imagine the children, in weekly language word-study circles, explaining to each other the meaning of the word in their own language.

Imagine the children learning Language Arts and Social Studies exploring the interdisciplinary theme of the language they use at home.

Imagine them translating proverbs from their native language into English, and next illustrating them and next doing class presentations.

Imagine at the end of the year, the children and their parents proudly dressed up in their cultural outfits, singing songs in their native language without being laughed at, sharing food - in a cultural celebration night.

Imagine secondary school students doing their final school project on the meaning of their cultural practices and the relationship to their ethical belief system and how each may teach them to profess universal values of peace and social justice among different races.

Imagine all of them doing a project that analyses the themes of famous cross-cultural movies and using this vehicle to learn the concepts of cultural preservation and continuity.

Imagine, at the community college and university level, when theyhave had enough exposure and appreciation to linguistic and cultural diversity, Malaysians forming cross-cultural dialogues clubs, engaging in multiple literacies and multiple voices fora, interfaith circles of learning, transcultural network of friends and other innovations in multi-cultural social imaginations - so that we may not need communalism anymore as a basis for our national political design.

Imagine, we then have graduate students forming something called ‘Malaysian Transcultural Social Democratic Futuristics’ political study groups to dismantle all existing parties that have served their time.

What an exploration in a newer human design we may embark upon to create a society based on a transcultural radical-multiculturalist utopianism. It would be a good experiment we may embark upon for the next 50 years so that we may redefine the meaning of ‘progress and development’, rethink the solution to corruption, and reconfigure the existing and incoming newer Malaysians.

But let us go back to the present Malaysian classroom.

Imagine how the classroom, although confined by the four walls, is a world in itself in which children learn to construct the meaning of the world they live in. Imagine, like the ex-Beatle John Lennon once said, “… a brotherhood of Man”.

Like Lennon, I do not think we are all dreamers. I do not think we’re the only ones. This is the day we ought to start joining this dialogue to start thinking of the enabling dimensions of our culture.

We have been waiting at the crossroad of this debate too long that we have not been able to do the ‘border-crossing’.

Our politicians have been giving us the wrong interpretation of what language, culture, and human liberation actually means. Even our most progressive educators have fallen prey to these shackling arguments that have chained us to the ‘stop’ sign of the crossing that will bring us to this world of imagination and possibilities. Our politicians are not linguists.

We must learn to explore and develop our interest in other languages to make our world a more creative and more enriched place, culturally and linguistically. Malaysia is the such fertile area of such exploration.

Cultural trap

Our current squabble over what official language to use in primary schools has philosophical solutions. We think it is a political problem with political solutions. We are wrong. We are looking at it the wrong way.

Albert Einstein once said the problem cannot be solved if it originates from the same plane from which it arises. We have to find the light at the end of the tunnel. We have to rethink what cultural dominance mean.

Can one value be allowed to define other values? Can one culture be allowed to dominate?

There is no dominance of one value over others; if one feels that there ought to be, then the definition must be an arrogant and outdated one.

Cultural absolutism itself is subjective; all cultures want to define their culture as the absolute - the absolute truth.

This has been the problem of humanity since time immemorial; sejak zaman purba kala.

To acknowledge one's culture as being superior to others' is like acknowledging that one's race is superior to others. There is no biological basis to racial superiority. Race/culture is a construct; it exists in the mind. Race can translate into social domination.

Cultural relativism is currently being rigorously explored the world over through disciplines such as Ethnic and Multi-cultural Studies. This is a promising field that might reduce bigotry based on race, religion or skin colour.

Relativism simply means there is no absolute. It is time we embrace this notion that things are relative. We may even open up minds to exploring transcultural philosophies and have less fights over which race is more intelligent that the other.

Let me propose the following notion of language and culture.

Language is culture is philosophy is reality is the totality of one’s existence shaped by the economic conditions that are shaped by dominant others. As makers of our own history and masters of our own destiny, with the aid of divine intervention, we ought to learn how to explore the inter-relationship between power and language.

As existential beings we are going through, as stated by Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan, stages of “evolving selfs”. We ought to ask: in what way is language used to indoctrinate and oppress us and in what way must we continue to be aware of this and remain conscious and free?

As thinking, feeling, and dignified beings in this sea of humanity, how do we recognise whose language is trying to colonise and oppress ours? How is structural, or unseen violence, defining the way we communicate?

As ‘novice linguistic archaeologists’, how do we excavate language in its cultural field so that we may then discover the ‘ethics of authenticity’ and ultimately stand in awe facing the core of its philosophy? These are tough questions.

... Stop making statements that will hurt the children of Malaysia.



5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr Azly,

Reading your article brings tears in my eyes...

Anonymous said...

I've two children studied in national primary schools. What did they learned? They learned about racial discrimination against non malays by the school administration and some of the teaching staff. They learned about the discrimination in the name of NEP. They learned about the priviledges meant for their malay friends. They learned to be isolated because they are not muslims. They learned about the low quality teachers and low standard of teaching in the national school. They learned about many lazy and irresponsible teachers. So they were polarised at the national school. So what this son of a former PM said about disunity caused by the vernacular schools is the biddest joke in town. He is like a katak dibawah tempurung and a blinded politician only saying thing to buy vote for himself. He has no social knowledge and tunnel vision. Another of my son went to the vernacular primary school and later to the national secondary school. He, together with some malay and indian friends started a lion dance club with members from all races. So what do this son of a fromer PM knows about forging racial unity? I think my youngest son is doing a better job than this loud mouth politician from UMNO!

Anonymous said...

Dear all,
It pains me everytime a topic on unity will end up in cats and dogs fights among our people. When are we gonna be matured, sit down and talk for the sake of the nation-not any one race.Is there HOPE for Malaysia (sigh) ?

Anonymous said...

My kids are studying in one of the National School in Kulim and there are 2 special classes in each standard meant for 100% Malay students regardless of their Final exam result.Any valid reason behind this? You ask me I don't know what is really going on.During school assembly they say prayers and my kids come back home and pray in such a manner.I'm just telling you 1% of the stories and there are more stories that discriminate non malay students.At least, now with Tamil and Chinese schools non malay students are smart and clever.I really regret for sending my girls to the national school.The school administration with 100% Malay is running the school as Malay school instead of National School.

Alias Mohd Yusof said...

Kalau mengikut perkiraan biasa, paling lewat Malaysia akan mengadakan pilihanraya umumnya yang ke 13 ialah pada tahun 2013.

Pastinya pilihanraya umum ke 13 ini bakal mencatat sejarah sebagai pilihanraya yang akan menentukan halatuju baru rakyat Malaysia. Tidak keterlaluan kalau dikatakan piliharaya ke 13 pada tahun 2013 itu sebagai bermulanya era Malaysia Baru di mana banyak dasar-dasar lama akan diganti dengan dasar-dasar yang baru.

Dua entiti politik Negara yang sekarang dikenali sebagai Barisan Nasional dan Pakatan Rakyat pasti akan berebut slogan ‘Malaysia Baru’ dan ‘Perubahan’ atau ‘Change’ bagi menghadapi kempen pilihanraya ke 13 ini.

Slogan ‘Change’ telah membawa tuah kepada Obama semasa beliau menghadapi kempen presidennya. Sudah tentu slogan ini juga akan menjadi tarikan kepada parti-parti politik di Negara kita untuk menggunakannya, sama seperti slogan ‘reformasi’ yang begitu popular di satu masa dulu.

Banyak dasar-dasar Negara dan fahaman politik yang dianggap tidak relevan lagi dan telah dipertikaikan secara terbuka oleh rakyat terutamanya generasi muda. Ini termasuklah konsep ‘kontrak sosial’, dasar ‘ketuanan Melayu’, pelaksanaan DEB dan perpaduan kaum yang longgar yang telah menyebabkan jurang perkauman atau polarisasi kaum semakin menebal.

Kini ramai orang telah sedar dan menyalahkan pengwujudan sekolah-sekolah aliran jenis kebangsaan menyebabkan polarisasi kaum semakin menebal. Kewujudan sekolah aliran jenis kebangsaan ini telah memisahkan kanak-kanak berbeza kaum daripada dapat peluang untuk berkawan dan bergaul.

Sebenarnya tidak salah untuk mengajar anak-anak kita tentang bahasa ibunda dan adat resam kaum masing-masing, tetapi yang salahnya bila kita asingkan sekolah kanak-kanak ini mengikut kaum.

Sebelum isu sekolah berasingan ini hangat diperkatakan, saya telah banyak juga menulis berkaitannya dan banyak surat yang saya tulis ke Malaysiakini berkaitan dengannya. Alhamdulilah, perkara ini semakin hari semakin mendapat perhatian ramai.

Dengan arus fahaman politik yang berubah, saya percaya penyelesaian kearah ‘satu sekolah’ ini akan menjadi kenyataan jua menjelang 2013 nanti. Apabila semua orang sedar betapa pentingnya kepada dasar ‘satu sekolah’, maka orang-orang politik pun akan tidak teragak-agak lagi untuk mengambilnya sebagai satu isu yang dapat menguntungkan politik mereka untuk diperjuangkan.

Di zaman manusia yang semakin cerdik dan celik ini, manusia tidak lagi boleh menerima adanya perbezaan taraf dan darjat disebabkan perbezaan keturunan dan warna kulit. Sebaliknya kualiti manusia adalah ditentukan oleh usaha, sikap, dan kebolehan masing-masing.

Setiap insan dilahirkan bebas, mereka mempunyai hak dan peluang yang sama, tidak ada yang dilahirkan untuk menjadi tuan dan tidak juga untuk menjadi hamba.

Entiti politik mana yang menjadi pilihan rakyat pada pilihanraya ke 13 nanti bergantung kepada keberanian mereka memperjuangkan aspirasi rakyat yang inginkan perubahan ini.

BN telah mula mengorak langkah untuk menjenama semula partinya, parti komponen yang berada dalam BN mula mahu mendengar suara akar umbi mereka. Kedengaran parti-parti komponen yang berada dalam BN telah menyuarakan isu-isu yang tidak senada. Banyak dasar-dasar yang mereka setuju sebelum ini telah dipersoalkan.

Ada pemimpin parti komponen BN telah secara terbuka dan berani mempersoalkan ISA, mempertikaikan konsep ‘ketuanan Melayu’, mempersoalkan pelaksanaan DEB dan ada juga yang mempersoalkan pengasingan sekolah mengikut kaum.

Sebaliknya Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) dalam Pakatan Rakyat pula sibuk untuk mengembalikan kekebalan raja-raja yang telah dimansuhkan oleh UMNO semasa pimpinan Tun Dr. Mahathir dulu.

Saya melihat langkah yang diambil oleh PKR ini merupakan langkah yang ke belakang. Mereka seperti ingin dan berminat untuk kembali ke zaman purbakala. Sistem beraja atau monarki adalah warisan sistem kuno, di zaman itu manusia percaya hanya raja dan keturunannya sahaja yang layak memerintah. Malah ada sesetengah kaum di zaman dulu yang percaya raja adalah dari keturunan Tuhan yang harus disembah.

Mungkin PKR ingin mengambil jalan politik populis hingga hilang pertimbangan dan kewajarannya. Kalau Pakatan Rakyat tidak lagi menonjol untuk membawa pembaharuan kepada rakyat Malaysia, saya tidak nampak mereka boleh menjadi entiti politik pilihan utama dalam pilihanraya ke 13 nanti.

Di zaman manusia yang semakin cerdik, berilmu, bertamaddun dan masyarakat madani, kita diajarkan bahawa manusia semuanya adalah sama. Manusia hari ini tidak dapat lagi menerima sistem feudal, tidak boleh menerima adanya perhambaan sesama manusia, amalan perhambaan telah lama lenyap dari muka bumi ini, dasar aphartheid yang trajis dalam sejarah manusia juga telah berakhir di Afrika Selatan beberapa dekad yang lalu.

Isu persamaan hak, kebebasan, keadilan, ketelusan dan meritokrasi adalah isu-isu kemanusiaan yang akan terus menjadi medan perjuangan utama politik.

Manakala isu-isu yang hanya memperjuangkan kaum sendiri dan memperjuangkan warna kulit bakal akan menjadi isu politik ketinggalan zaman, ahli politik yang memperjuangkannya pasti akan lenyap seperti lenyapnya dinosaur.

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