Don’t Sideline Bahasa Melayu, Says Muhyiddin

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CANBERRA, Nov 11 – Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Bahasa Melayu had a place as the language of knowledge and it should not be sacrificed amid efforts to empower the English language. In defending the government’s decision to revert the teaching of Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Melayu from English, the deputy prime minister made his stand clear on this.

“As a Malaysian, I don’t think my language should be killed just because I want to strengthen English language usage,” he said during the question-and- answer session with members of the Malaysian community and students at a gathering, here, Tuesday night. The event held at the Malaysian High Commission premises in Canberra kicked off Muhyiddin’s three-day working visit to the Australian capital and Perth.

He had flown into Canberra from Nagoya, Japan this afternoon after attending an international conference on education for sustainable development. Muhyiddin, who is Education Minister, said his views on this matter were not because he is Malay as it had more to do with his concern over the issue of imparting and absorbing knowledge in an effective manner.

“This is not a question of my nationality because if Malaysia had not started that way (upholding Bahasa Melayu)….it means for both subjects, Bahasa Melayu would just die,” he said. Muhyiddin explained that he would not be fair to Malaysian students if the move to teach Science and Mathematics in English was continued given the constraints faced by the ministry.

He cited insufficient qualified teachers to carry out the task at hand as among the reasons the decision to revoke the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English was made in 2009. He pointed out that many of the teachers were the product of a system in which the medium of instruction was Bahasa Melayu. Muhyiddin said during the time that the policy was implemented, many teachers involved would automatically revert to Bahasa Melayu when students in Science and Mathematics classes failed to understand what was being taught, and this defeated the purpose of the introduction of the policy in the first place.

Muhyiddin noted that some might argue that the policy was well executed in urban schools but this was not the case in rural and remote parts of the country. The deputy prime minister revealed that the ministry studied the situation in depth before the final decision on the matter was made. “Maybe in your school, it is okay but for many other schools, it’s not okay, as the teachers are not qualified, so the students don’t undertand. But what is wrong with Bahasa Melayu (to teach Science and Mathematics)? So now we’ve gone back to Bahasa Melayu.

“And the students can understand. For me, I’m concerned about knowledge; Science is knowledge, Maths is knowledge. Language is the medium. So if you are concerned about English, I’ll teach you English,” he said. Muhyiddin cited Japan which excelled in various fields of knowledge despite everything being in Japanese.

Among those present at the event were Malaysian High Commissioner to Australia Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad, heads of government agencies in Canberra, high commission staff and Malaysians residing in Australia. Earlier Tuesday, Zainal Abidin was on hand to welcome Muhyiddin on his arrival in Canberra from Nagoya, Japan where he represented Malaysia at Monday’s 2014 Unesco World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development.

On Wednesday, Muhyiddin is scheduled to launch the Global Malaysian Studies Network Centre, a collaboration between the Australian National University and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He is also expected to call on Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss before travelling to Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

His itinerary in Perth includes a visit to the office of Fugro Offshore Survey where he is expected to be briefed on the new phase of the search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The Boeing 777 jetliner with 239 people on board was en route to Beijing when it vanished about an hour after take-off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8.

The current phase of underwater search for the aircraft is being conducted in the southern Indian Ocean where it is believed to have gone down after veering off course in mysterious circumstances. Muhyiddin’s visit to Perth will also be marked by a courtesy call on Colin Barnett, the Premier of Western Australia and opening of Malaysia Hall Perth.

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