Malaysian. Chinese. Totally Foreign.

Is it racialism that causes Malaysian Chinese to be cliquish? Or is it just bad faith? Let’s explore the reasons why some Malaysian Chinese youth can’t integrate into society and why abolishing vernacular schools may be just a blind shot at solving a growing problem.

Chinese School Entrance | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese School Entrance | Source from http://www.loyarburok.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/ChineseIndependentHighSchool002.jpg

Eu Jienn’s story

Chong Eu Jienn is 15. He lives in Kepong, KL. He speaks fluently in Mandarin. If you ever get lost in Kepong and bump into him, please do not ask for directions in English. He will not know how to respond to you. If you switch next to Bahasa Malaysia, he might be able to bring up a broken explanation consisting of recognisable words like “sana” or “depan” but the rest might be in Mandarin so you’d better know a bit of the language yourself if you want to understand what he is telling you.

Eu Jienn is a product of the vernacular schooling system. His parents decided long ago that their children would be educated in a Chinese Independent School. Firstly, China was quickly becoming an important economic power. Secondly, friends with children in National schools were lamenting about the quality of teachers in such schools. Thirdly, Eu Jienn’s parents came from very strict family backgrounds – discipline was top priority for them and Chinese schools were renowned for discipline. Fourthly, Eu Jienn’s parents were DAP supporters. His grandparents were aligned to BN due to the presence of MCA which was felt to represent the Chinese voice in government. But the loyalty ceased as the political landscape shifted with Mahathir, in favour of the Malays. Besides, what was so important about English or Bahasa Malaysia anyway? If Eu Jienn performed well academically, he could get a good job in Singapore or China. Singapore, for one thing, was close enough to stay in touch with their eldest son. Singapore was also kind to the Chinese. And, yes, in Singapore, people spoke Mandarin.

You could hardly blame Eu Jienn’s parents for such a narrow view. For them, vernacular schools were the best bet to ensure a future of better opportunities for their children. They must have known how important English was as it is still the lingua franca of the business and working world. And yet they somehow chose to ignore this point in shaping their son’s future.

Why?

Why are Eu Jienn’s parents also unconcerned with their son’s inability to speak the National Language? The National Language is something every citizen of every country should be proud of and be able to converse in comfortably – a badge of their national identity. But before we clamour for the abolishment of these vernacular schools or talk about racism (not to be confused with Chinese patriotism), we should look at the big picture and consider all the factors that led Eu Jienn to where he is today.

Then and now

My parents went to Chinese schools but they both speak English. My dad is more fluent because my grandfather spoke English at home with all his children. My mum is less so because her parents spoke Hokkien and Mandarin at home. I used to catch her learning grammar from a self-help book months before a team presentation at OCBC where she worked as a bank teller. During the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s, English was a more important language to master due to our colonial heritage, so Bahasa Malaysia (henceforth referred to as BM) for Chinese families was left on the wayside to rot into Pasar Malay, also known as the hybrid of Chinese dialect-inflected BM our grandparents and parents spoke when shopping at the wet market (e.g “Lu banyak pasal. Wah beli ikan kembong lu, lu bagi harga baik lah.“)

The point is – language needs to be put into practice or it’ll leave our working memory.

My time was the 80′s and I was enrolled in a Kebangsaan school. Malay and English were the medium of instruction for me and my lot. Even though our syllabus was in Bahasa Malaysia, if the teacher of the subject was Chinese, she would give instructions in English but refer to the terms and formulas of our syllabus in BM. Furthermore, BM was compulsory on Wednesdays – i.e everybody had to speak in BM on that day, throughout the day. Failure to do so might score a deviant a black mark in the prefects’ “little report book”. Among friends of different racial backgrounds, we conversed in a mixture of BM and English. So you could say that a lot of us were pretty well-versed in both languages, although for the Chinese and Indians, BM rolled less easily off our tongues. (It must also be said that I spoke English and Cantonese with my family.)

Again, the point is – if language is not put into practice, it’ll leave our working memory. We’ll eventually slip back into the language we’re most comfortable with – i.e use more often.

Now, if the issue of the day is “the inability of Chinese students to function in society due to the complete lack of proficiency in English and the National language“, then the Education System is a little flawed against both the Nationalism platform and the Prime Minister’s objective of turning our country into a high-income one. This is because that would mean all our students need to be able to compete on the world stage and not just among the best within Malaysia.

Let’s get better

Yet this issue can be arrested if the Ministry of Education steps in to ensure that English and Bahasa Malaysia are taken seriously at such schools. Make them compulsory subjects which have to be passed, NOT History which apparently has become very subjective. And lift the pass mark while we’re at it. Ensure there are qualified Language teachers teaching the subjects. Turn a day of the week (or two) into a BM-only day or English-only day. Incentivise the kids to do well in these subjects – cash prizes, discounts off computers, a free AirAsia ticket to the historical cities of China, etc. These are examples of possibly a long list of what can be done.

If racial integration is the key issue, then we must acknowledge that this is a much larger problem to tackle. It requires that we consider politically driven policies, climate, and environment beside the Education System itself. I personally feel that this issue has exacerbated the conundrum of language proficiency. How?

Most parents who insist their kids go to Chinese schools, for instance, insist because they no longer believe that National schools have the quality teachers to teach well. Chinese schools are known to be strict (read: disciplined) with high emphasis on good performance. Parents subscribe to this perception. Secondly, with China burgeoning into a Superpower in her own right, parents are convinced that the Mother Tongue is taught and taught well in schools, something that does not exist in National schools anymore. Thirdly, because of the political climate we are in, with all the race-tinged statements floating about in National newspapers as well as race-skewed policies affecting our education system (quotas and scholarships for example), these parents withdraw to self-sufficient mode. It’s a “Ok, I’ll work around the system then” kind of attitude. They believe they can survive and thrive against these odds because they can rely on their work ethic. As long as they can pursue their goals in life without too much interference or restrictions from the government of the day, they’ll just “do their thing“.

Malaysian Favelas?

Favela in Rio | Source: Flickr. Photo by Paula Le Dieu.

Favela in Rio | Source: Flickr. Photo by Paula Le Dieu.

You could categorise this behaviour as being self-imposed isolation smacking of racialism. But I see it as communality driven by self-preservation. There’s a bit of this in the favelas of Sao Paulo and Rio De Jeneiro. Essentially composed of the marginalised poor, favelas are shanty-like towns that make perfect hideouts for drug lords because they know a shootout with the police will cost innocent lives, a risk the police would prefer not to take. At the same time, drug lords offer protection to the residents (faveladors) from thugs and thieves in return for loyalty and silence about their identities and exact whereabouts in the maze of makeshift homes. Code words are used and every home has an open-door policy should a drug pusher find himself being hotly pursued by the cops.

Meanwhile these faveladors get jobs from the richer families that live and operate on the outer ring of the towns for their cheap labour – or at the bottom of the hills should the favela be built on the hillside. Kosher or not, there is a system that governs such favelas and systems make people feel safe and secure. Kosher or not, they get leadership and the time of day from the drug lords. Malaysian Chinese and South Americans are, of course, worlds apart in many ways, not least in the area of the economic power each community holds. But there are similarities.

If you visit typically Chinese-skewed townships in KL, you’ll notice that there is a little economy giving pulse to the communities there, making them self-sufficient neighbourhoods consisting of banks, markets, small law practices, supermarkets, tailors, pharmacies, cobblers and schools. Facilities you will also find in favelas – although to a lesser degree and in humbler forms. The factors influencing the strong communal behaviour of both cultures are also somewhat similar: there are signs of marginalisation of some form, pragmatism linked to some form of threat to their livelihood or well-being, and the basic belief of strength in numbers.

For Malaysian Chinese, there is the added threat to their culture, the very essence of their identity. With the seeming Islamisation of the country, there is also a cogent fear among Chinese working class families that their culture will soon be swallowed up, dismissed or forbidden. This may sound flippant to some but if you could send your kid to a school that celebrates your culture, subscribes to high standards of discipline and performance versus a national school where you believe the teachers are lazy (and just pile up homework on your kid rather than teach), discriminatory (what with those reported insults of headmasters and mistresses in the news recently) and themselves not fluent in English or BM, then what would your choice be? Wouldn’t you want the former even though the possibility of your kid not being able to mix around later is high? What’s more important – being able to mix around or having the values and skills to be able to have a good career that could take you out of an increasingly hostile country?

Root out the illness, not the symptom

To summarise, the source of the problem is the Education System and its quality which affects the reputation of our National schools. The political climate and policies that are increasingly race-tinged and biased are secondary “viruses” threatening the Chinese community. Parents who insist on vernacular schools are just a symptom of the problem. The “illness” that is manifested are the children of these vernacular schools who are not able to function in society due to language proficiency issues.

If we want to treat the symptom, then, yes, just abolish the vernacular schools without doing anything else. If, however, we want to prevent the illness itself, we’ll have to go to the root of the problem, the source. We’ll have to revisit the medium of instruction for Math and Science. We’ll have to consider introducing Chinese and Tamil as subjects in schools. We’ll have to pay teachers a lot better, improve the selection criteria get good teachers – we’ll even have to review the teaching courses in our institutes and universities. And then some.

It’s sad that kids like Eu Jienn are destined to be another digit in our brain-drain statistic. It’s even sadder that he’ll grow up unable to mix with people other than his own race due to a language problem. That he is a foreigner in his own country. That, even if he ends up in Singapore or China, he will still be “middle-tier” even if he’s a genius back home because his academic performance may still not be as good as his regional counterparts. Whether partly by his choice, or his parents’, it doesn’t matter. Leaders have a great opportunity to shape the country, the pillars of society and bring out the best in its rakyat simply because they’re in power and they’re supposed to, well, lead. As a result, they are primarily accountable for the way things have turned out.

Too bad for Eu Jienn though.

Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of “giving a toss” towards things that matter to the human race.

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Posts by Lisa Ng

Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of "giving a toss" about the things that matter to the human race.

Posted on 13 May 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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70 Responses to Malaysian. Chinese. Totally Foreign.

  1. Hi Penguin. There's a whole article dedicated to demonising me on someone's blogsite. But it's okay. It is interesting to note that people will want to read what their insecurity compels them to read, even if what they understand out of the article is a very distorted version. Maybe I did not write clearly enough. All parents want the best for their children. They do what they think is best. Sometimes the education-based decisions they make are a result of the weaknesses of the government, and those decisions impact on integration even if it may seem unrelated. Victims of the system end up becoming collateral damage.

  2. Penguin

    Bravo for a fine article Lisa. Its wonderful to actually read a nicely written piece on this issue. And that too coming from a fellow Chinese. It is not easy for a person to accept the downside of their own, as you can see from some of the very defensive feedbacks thrown back at you. They felt the sting, thus the angry replies.

    My mother teaches English in Chung Hwa,I believe its the epitome of Chinese Vernacular school in Malaysia.At times she will come home and have a long talk with us kids, telling us the importance of learning English and Bahasa. Both languages are important for various different reason perhaps, but it is still crucial. Many of her students just refuse to speak in English. God knows the reason for that.

    My mother doesnt really blame the kids. But she says its amazing how ignorant the parents can be for not having a care how their kids fare in those languages. They really dont care because the kids will be sent to Taiwan, China. Yes, they can survive and they will. But imagine the opportunities and confidence it will give those Chinese kids who are able to converse in 3 languages fluently! Its a globalised world after all.

    I will not touch on racial unity. Obviously if you separate young innocent kids from one another, they will grow up being wary of one another. And if you cant speak your own national language, im not sure what is the reason for having a nationality in the first place.

    Good job Lisa.

  3. Pingback: Vernacular Education In Malaysia | LoyarBurok

  4. tenji

    HY: "Furthermore many of those that with “decent English” actually fancy the Anglophile way of life, Malaysia may not be their best choice."

    ________________________

    Why wouldn't Malaysia be a good choice? Being an Ex-British colony means Malaysia has a part Anglo cultural heritage.

    You strike me as one of those Chinese Malaysians who are very protective of the Chinese language even though this isn't China.

  5. szening

    Hi Lisa,

    You are trying to show that there is a correlation between someone's proficiency in BM and English and their ability to mingle and socialise with other races. I agree with you to a certain extent. Malaysia definitely has some serious racial segregation issues and our lack of a unifying language does play a part in that.

    But by focusing on vernacular schools as the problem, you're neglecting a whole spate of other factors. What about the environment that we're in BEFORE we even start school and which continues to permeate our lives long after we've finished school? What about our parental upbringing and the kind of community we live in? Or our class background? Or religious beliefs? Heck, what about the fact that our government is constantly bombarding us with racist politics to pit one race against the other?

    To me, if you want to create national integration, those other factors need to be looked into as well. Getting rid of vernacular schools will NOT solve our racial segregation problems. Having only national schools will NOT magically create a racially harmonious Malaysia where everyone mingles freely with one another.

    Like some of the other commenters who have commented on this post, I too am an ex-Chinese vernacular school kid (for both primary and secondary schools). Despite that, my classmates and I have a pretty good command of English. Our Malay isn't half bad either. We are currently scattered across Malaysia and the globe, making a decent living. And for those living overseas, we're not just in China or Singapore like Lisa would like to think, but in the UK, USA, France, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, NZ, etc. I say this not to show off but to show Lisa that there's more to vernacular schools than churning out one insular, monolingual nerd after the other. To use Eu Jienn as an example of what a product of vernacular schools is like shows how blinded by personal prejudices the author is.

  6. HY

    LN, you write well but I think you lack inclusiveness, your thought and concept is urbanized and Anglophile (I agree this word sound condescending, but I can’t find a better word to narrate my view).

    1) CIS is a too small sample to substantiate your claim, moreover, many CIS student languages skill is relatively good if compare against national school student that are with SRJK background. Perhaps you should not touch on CIS at this point of time, CIS exist imply choices, and they are not funded by government.

    2) In my opinion, Eu Jienn is equally Malaysian, no more and no less. Take a trip to Cameron Highland and have a word with the orang asli there, would their incapability to speak a “decent” BM and English make them less Malaysian? What shall we do to "integrate" them?

    3) I agree I should have used the term “some older generation”, my bad. I think I know what your article is about and I agree with most of the major message, but your choice of illustration and words sound disparage though I believe you are not intended as such.

    I expand a little on your part “English is of utmost importance” and after reading comments from Wai “that putting the national language on a pedestal at the expense of English skills will eventually come at great expense to the nation’s growth.” I believe both your claim is none other than the same judgment using Singapore as case in point. Singapore is, similar to Hong Kong, a city-state that relies heavily on trading and financial activity, however I don’t see English skill has much to do with Hong Kong success, thus there must be other reasons why Singapore have comparable performance.

    Even if English do have a role, does Malaysia wish or obligatory to emulate Singapore and HK model? Or shall we not take the path of Taiwan and South Korea that stress on both agriculture and manufacturing activities? The overlook of the importance of agriculture sector is actually a huge mistake in the past, while our industrialize progress were slow down and further derailed due to an economy policy that try to strike a balance among the various segment/race of society, I am in the opinion that this is kind of paradox require firm decision to be made on how we could transform the economy without much political influence. I don’t see how a workforce with English skill could help us break through such barrier, it might helps a little but not to the extent of “great expense to the nation’s growth.”

    Today global economy has the inclination towards protectionism and patriotism (nationalism) and favors a reversion of manufacturing activities back to their home country. We have to ask ourselves do we still anticipate the same level of foreign investment as in the past. If the answer is a firm negative, then I think this might be a crucial point for us to develop our own industrial that provide good synergy with oil and agriculture sector, definitely not something like national car, national carrier or national bicycle. The think out of the box creativeness don’t require English.

    Point is, the blab of English this and English that is actually the illusion of small mind. Their intelligence level is still maintain at the colonize epoch thinking that the world remain revolving around the Queen. And they expect “decent English” a must have to survive the fittest. Furthermore many of those that with “decent English” actually fancy the Anglophile way of life, Malaysia may not be their best choice.

    Look forward your next article, we are learning from each other.

  7. anomie

    LN,

    I responded strong to yr takes in the original article u wrote.

    Yr description of Eu Jienn’s family background is stereotyping the pro-CIS section of the Chinese M’sian. How wrong u r!

    How do u know that Eu Jienn’s parent r unconcerned with their son’s inability to speak the National Language & English? All of them know about the position of BM & English as the lingua franca of business. All of them want the children to learn BM/English with a good school, with the mother tongue in keep, so as the root of the family can be maintained. & the irony is that only vernacular school stand-up to their search for the best that they can give to their children in this criteria search.

    Don’t u know they also worry about the school workload of learning 3 languages. But what other choices do they have under the current circumstances? Most of them can’t afford the fees of international schools. Thus vernacular school is their best choice to ensure their children have the best education.

    This system works well in the primary level. Almost all primary CIS pupils ‘graduated with basic handling skill of all the three languages. 90% of the primary goes on to SK while 10% continues with SMJK/private schools. Then on moving to secondary school, their future r been thrown with a ‘racial spanner’.

    Those 90% r suddenly exposed to a racially-favoured system of selective education, where emphasize is forever at BM, even to the detriment of English. Mandarin is been waylaid as a non-essential subject. Many of the pupils from the primary vernacular schools can’t fit into that type of secondary school environment. & that account for 1 in 4 of drop-out rate. & yet the current govt turns blind eyes to their plights. So much for I love my country & my country treats me second class. That's despite the fact we, the pendatang' contributes the most for the continuing well-being of the country.

    Thus to survive in the hard cold world of reality, a self-sustained economic eco-system has to be created by these unfortunate drop-outs of no-choice. & they survive with their ingenuity, despite the language deficiency & financial hardship. So any wonder why Mandarin/Chinese dialects/pasar malay/broken manglish permeate throughout their circle of business survival? U said it yrself – ‘language needs to be put into practice or it’ll leave our working memory.’

    So is yr skewed conclusion of – "the inability of Chinese students to function in society due to the complete lack of proficiency in English and the National language". They r surviving, with their can-do attitude of never say die within their ‘self-sufficient mode’. By doing so they also support the economy via the SME mode.

    ‘It’s sad that kids like Eu Jienn are destined to be another digit in our brain-drain statistic. It’s even sadder that he’ll grow up unable to mix with people other than his own race due to a language problem. That he is a foreigner in his own country.’

    So how sure r u about this bit of ‘grow up unable to mix with people other than his own race’ mis-information? Human adapts. Our grand-parent has adapted well in the face of language problem during their time. Can’t our children now, despite the loads & loads of discriminative policies? R they weakling, growing with all the modern amenities?

    I wrote strongly bcoz I’ll forever oppose to assimilation as a mean for integration. & I’m NOT alone.

    anomie

  8. LN

    Forest Lim,

    I respect your decision. Again I would like to point out that the article is about how the government – if they want integration that we all want – need to better the education system as well as implement fairer policies so everybody can fulfill their potential within the country before considering options abroad. All the best.

  9. LN

    Anomie,

    Your points are valid and as I have mentioned in the original article – only-Chinese-speaking Malaysians DO do well in China. Some do well locally too. So I am not saying that CIS-background Malaysians cannot be successful. Some are just as some are not. Success also depends on drive, opportunities, right-time-tight-place, not only skills (language included). The point of the article is mainly about integration among Malaysians in the country and explores factors contributing to it which is why vernacular schooling system is mentioned. Do not forget that the article is a response to people calling for the abolition of vernacular schools. It is saying to separate apples and oranges. One part is about language proficiency, the other, integration. For integration, racial politics is a huge barrier as well as other "racist" policies. To abolish the vernacular schools, the education system needs to be improved because many parents believe national schools pale in comparison with vernacular schools, etc.

    You have formed an opinion about me re: anglophile-syndrome? I am a product of a Chinese upbringing but I have a mixture of Eastern and Western views of things. No, I am not in a dilemma. Maybe I was when I was 15? I wrote this article not out of dilemma – I know I want a good education for my son that includes him being skilled in English and Chinese – but in defense of well-rounded education and also integration.

    HY,

    I will only say three things: (1) You are questioning my article based on your insistence of linking it back to the importance of language proficiency suggesting that this is the focus of my article. The article is in response to people calling for the abolition of vernacular schools who also link lack of language skills (beyond, say, Chinese or Malay, except I am not writing about the Malays in this article as they have close-to-zero representation in vernacular schools) to vernacular schools; I am saying there are two issues to deal with – language proficiency and integration. And that abolition of such schools may not solve anything until the education system improves and government policies are fairer to all Malaysians. So, no the article is ALSO not about Malaysians in national schools doing better academically than those in vernacular schools.

    (2) Yes, I may appear foreign to Malays who can't speak English or Chinese who can only speak Chinese but the thing is I have Malay friends that I hang out with. And Indian friends as well. We speak a mixture of BM and English. Again, Eu Jienn is an example of someone who chooses NOT to mingle and who is almost self-reliant in that he lives in Malaysia but has no interest to engage with other elements of Malaysia.

    (3) I think you're generalising that older people don't understand why 513 happened. Just as you think I am generalising about CIS graduates, think I am condemning CIS (which is not the case). We have a "healthy two-party system"? You're using the existence of PKR and BN to state that all Malaysians get along well? To some extent, many Malaysians of different cultures continue to mix well. My article is – guess what – not about those. Please try to understand the angle of the article before you get defensive over what is actually being written. But thanks again for taking the time to write.

  10. anomie

    LN,

    Perhaps, deep within yr psyche, u r still been tormented by that dilemma of which race category should yr son be 'classified'. Yr choice is showing!

    Should I suggest Malaysian?

    BTW, I run a MNL operation in China – having moved my operation there after the HQ in Norway decided that Bolihland was/is just bolih s'ja. My point of bringing this piece out is due to yr take of;

    'Besides, getting 20 applicants a day from CIS students interested in a job – but who cannot speak English to present their work to international clients like Nestle) is not only tough for the applicants who may be rejected, but also on companies in dire need of talented people with basic language proficiency.'

    Very sad indeed. U r still thinking about English, more so in the anglophile context. Doesn't that indicate yr sub-consciousness about everything English? Anglophile through & through? What about other markets where English is only a small tools? Try using English in Europe, S America, & China to promote yr products, the creative director who hires u should be the first to see the door out.

    Yes, I'm from a CIS environment. That didn't/doesn't deter my career advancement, as a proof of my current standing. Still I'm a multi-linguist, just like many other Chinese M'sians. My language proficiency (English, BM & Mandarin as compared with the mainlanders, other Chinese dialects, plus a very little bit of Norsk), till now is still so so only. But that didn't/doesn't stop me from running my company well, well. My HQ's testament shows just that.

    Ok, enough of syok-sendirism.

    Do u know that Nestle China would love to hire M'sians, who have an in-depth knowledge of Mandarin completed with an ex-mainlander mind-set to promote their products within China? (& that include HK, Taiwan & Macau too. & how big is that market size?). That goes for many other MNL selling OTC products in China.

    Many of the mainland copy-writers can't write anything out-of-the-box to show some marketing creativity. Jingoism works just so much when KISS has been over-exploited. They r green horns with limited exposure, ideally & world-viewly enough at this juncture of their career development. There just isn’t that something extras that bring new fresh air to their copy-writing. & as a copy-writer, u should have known! That's where the students of CIS from M'sia stand out. This applies throughout the M&P industries within Greater China. The only problem is how to get these CIS M'sians to this market.

    Many have attempted lately & many r good people from the normally deficient ‘art’ courses. Do u know that traditionally most of the CIS people making good oversea r techies?

    Traditionally, art subjects r just not been fancied enough by most of the Chinese M’sian family as a career. Lest so to send the kids oversea to further this death-end education. This has a lot to do with traditional & cultural thinking. More so for those CIS students who ventured overseas, both for studies & career, as their financial supports r mainly F&M heirloom source.

    This trend has seen a big reverse lately, due to the opening of China marketing opportunity. This also add to the increasing brain drain, as now even those death-end careers can seek oversea openings, thanks to the vibrant China market. & many of the CIS professionals, either in tech/art proficiencies, r giving new in-sights to the mainlanders. & they r doing well.

    My point is, yes, there is deficiency in the CIS educational system. But at the current setting, they r still much much better than those from the national schools. & u can’t blame the parents to choose the best for their children. These parents, who send their children to CIS, obviously can see the future better than u, even though they might lack yr level of education, as u described Eu Jienn’s type.

    U r just deluded & face it. Anglophile is deep within u, to openly admit it. U r just patronizing, for whatever reasons, in promoting yr ‘solution’ to the complex bolihland education fallout.

    CIS/vernacular education IS NOT the problem. Bigotry short-sightedness is the root cause to all the oft-argued logic of national unity, language proficiency. & hiding behind these argument is the evil of assimilation, PERIOD.

    anomie

  11. HY

    LN, good discussion. I will try to clarify my comment and stance, and I will raise further question, apparently the onus is on you to shed gray of your article and viewpoint.

    “I am talking about a segment of those who attend Chinese Schools that (1) cannot speak fluent English and/or Bahasa; and who (2) do not seem able to mix with other Malaysians or show that they need to. “

    – May I know why you limit your scope to Chinese that attend Chinese school? Can you clarify what you mean by Chinese school, do you encompass both primary and secondary level? Generally, 90% Chinese kids enroll SRJK and 10% further study in CIS. So which segment and number you think would fall under your classification of no 1 and 2? My concern is you may confuse and equate education problem with one that cannot speak fluent English and BM.

    “I am purely exploring the reasons why, increasingly, Chinese parents are opting to send their children to Chinese Schools….”

    – I accept your explanation if you are talking “exploring”. Quality and discipline could be a major reason but that has nothing much to do with “came from very strict family backgrounds”, and to be blunt, your no 4 is a daft one. I provide you a ‘what if’ scenario to explore, what if the national school is an English stream school, do you still confidently hold your view that to learn Chinese in Chinese school is because China become an important economy power? Please read my qualify statement when I said well-off type. If I (the parents) could afford overseas education tuition fee via A-Level and Twinning and whatever, do I really care about BM and integration?

    “With regards to your Q1, I am not saying that we must be good at several languages to be successful……”

    – My Q1 is not about English and career or succeed. Perhaps you should re-read your own article when you claim “You could hardly blame Eu Jienn’s parents for such a narrow view” and the follow up statement “The National Language is something every citizen of every country should be proud of and be able to converse in comfortably – a badge of their national identity.”

    What you mean by narrow view and what make you think they don’t know the important of English? Every year there is at least 20% that can’t complete secondary education, is that a narrow view?

    BM is national language, both “Chinese” and English are international language and coincidently, Chinese is mother tongue for a segment of Chinese Malaysian, and I guess English might be the mother tongue to some Malaysian as well. My question is what makes you think my BM+Chinese is different from your BM+English in your context of “a badge of their national identity”? Do you have any statistic to prove the claim that the “Chinese” school graduate speaks inferior BM as compare to a SK school graduate if both finish a desirable level of education? Have you ever try to make a comparison between a Chinese school kid in Kelantan and one SK kid in Penang? What about village, kampong and estate? Point is, generalization is bad.

    “Your English is almost decent. I do not mean to insult you but your sentences are broken which means you have a grammar problem. And I have trouble trying to understand what your Q4 is really asking. So please forgive if I skip that one out.”

    – Okay and agree you should skip Q4 (not sure why your reply is in such disorder manner but that beside the point of discussion), it means to be a sarcastic remark.

    “On Q3: It is not I who seek integration, it is “we”, the people I can safely tell you that there is only one kind.

    – Then why you wish to preserve English? Don’t you think the one kind is Satu Bahasa Satu Bangsa? I suggest we skip this topic as well because I don’t think you have the capacity to debate.

    “I do wonder why you’re suggesting that I do not “ask the older generation as they do not know what they’re talking about…..”.

    – The older generation boost how integration work well during their time but could never explain why 513 happened that lead to many so-called racial policy. Our generation that are with integration issue (according to government and the older generation) are having a healthy development of bi-party system that are with support and backup from a mixture of Malaysian that with diverse background. In this context, the older generation is living in the past and lacks the basic understanding of what is integration and the causal factor, for instance, no matter how good is your BM, you may not able to integrate into a job as civil servant today, the older generation didn’t face this barrier in the past.

    “On question 5: The 10% which you probably found somewhere does not tell me anything.”

    – The 10% means only a handful of Chinese further their study in a relatively ‘Chinese’ environment, it is their choice and indicates that most still prefer the national system, and among the 10%, there are many that work in multinational, overseas, and speak and write decent English. And the 90% that goes to non CIS, many can’t find a job. And among the SK, many don’t speak and write English.

    “As for the difference between a Eu Jienn in Singapore/China or one in the UK/USA/etc – err, when I speak of a foreigner in his own country, I am talking about how a Malaysian can feel or appear to be like a foreigner in his own “home” because he/she is perfectly fine mixing among his/her own kind. If you leave your country, you’re a foreigner already whether you can adapt to life abroad, integrate, or not. But what I’m saying is it’s a bit sad if you can become like a foreigner in your own country.”

    – Dear, you mix with one that are with common background, do you have much Malay friend that are with pious religion background and don’t speak English? Don’t you think they find people like you appear foreign? So no different if i work in China and you work in US. In short, you either insist diversity or goes for integration, and if you wish for integration, the long run is satu bahasa and satu bangsa, and I haven’t touch much on religion yet. Keep in mind that Malaysia is not Singapore.

    • nishicienjia

      Yep, you are right.

      LN is not genuine, her real motive is to promote English under the disguise of " national unity ".

  12. forest lim

    I’m a “Chong Eu Jienn” and so will my kids. No regret at all.
    I’m a small people and view the thing from small point of view.
    What the good if I am perfect in BM? Can I be a PM? Would I have discount on buying a house?

  13. LN

    HY,

    Thank you for your passion and for taking the time to write. I think you've made some assumptions about the article – that I'm talking about all Malaysian Chinese. I am not. I am talking about a segment of those who attend Chinese Schools that (1) cannot speak fluent English and/or Bahasa; and who (2) do not seem able to mix with other Malaysians or show that they need to. Probably a small number to you but large enough for the rest of Malaysia to take notice of.

    I am purely exploring the reasons why, increasingly, Chinese parents are opting to send their children to Chinese Schools. You may find the reasons I've stated for this as being "non-factual" (this corresponds to your Q2) except for one but I've taught English tuition before to Chinese school students whose parents I speak to, and I've also taught primary school kids. I am also a parent and deal with other parents on this subject. Then there are also the reports on Malaysian Insider as well as websites such as this:

    http://educationmalaysia.blogspot.com/2005/07/nat…

    You may be able to find others. Please also, in your spare time, google for the debates on vernacular schools when you're free.

    With regards to your Q1, I am not saying that we must be good at several languages to be successful. English is of utmost importance however as it is the lingua franca of the working and business world. The difference between me (speaking and writing comfortably in English) and you (Cantonese) is that if you're only good at Chinese, you limit your opportunities to some extent unless you take a job in places where Chinese is used in the workplace, even large international corporations like China. Some parents actually feel it's okay that their children excel in Chinese AT the expense of English (not so much Bahasa). They may be concerned that their children won't do well in English and Bahasa (to pass local exams) but it's not the biggest concern. If you manage to find a good job that you're happy with in Malaysia even if you all you speak is Chinese, then good for you. Many young graduates from CIS or even national schools (because the education system isn't very good) come to corporations for interviews with big dreams of climbing the corporate ladder and despite good grades, fail the interviews because they cannot speak or write well in English. Your English is almost decent. I do not mean to insult you but your sentences are broken which means you have a grammar problem. And I have trouble trying to understand what your Q4 is really asking. So please forgive if I skip that one out.

    On Q3: It is not I who seek integration, it is "we", the people – young and old. And maybe the government is also wondering why we are not as "together" as we used to be. There are many factors to why. The article goes on to suggest that racial politics is mostly to blame and implies that maybe this factor also makes CIS more appealing to more Chinese parents. Is integration important for the country's progress? I think you should know the answer to this one but since you've asked, I can safely tell you that there is only one kind. Our country's success is a story of cooperation between Chinese, Malays and Indians. By interacting with one another continuously, we get to exchange ideas, benefit from the amalgamation of strengths and learn and respect each other's cultures, thus making us truly Malaysian. Make sense? I do wonder why you're suggesting that I do not "ask the older generation as they do not know what they're talking about". The first step in learning humility and learning anything at all is to refer to our elders. They may lose their hearing, their memory and maybe they've lost some relevance in this fast-paced age of ours, but they have gained plenty of wisdom over the years. They SAW and enjoyed a peace our country has never known before and they fought together (all races) when Communism threatened out country so they know how important integration is for the strength of a country.

    On question 5: The 10% which you probably found somewhere does not tell me anything. The Malaysian Police can tell me that crime has gone down 60% but it doesn't tell me anything until I feel safe on the streets. And until my neighbours concur with me. Besides, getting 20 applicants a day from CIS students interested in a job – but who cannot speak English to present their work to international clients like Nestle) is not only tough for the applicants who may be rejected, but also on companies in dire need of talented people with basic language proficiency. This is what's happening in the corporate world, the world that pays a decent salary given the horrible cost of living in Malaysia. As for the difference between a Eu Jienn in Singapore/China or one in the UK/USA/etc – err, when I speak of a foreigner in his own country, I am talking about how a Malaysian can feel or appear to be like a foreigner in his own "home" because he/she is perfectly fine mixing among his/her own kind. If you leave your country, you're a foreigner already whether you can adapt to life abroad, integrate, or not. But what I'm saying is it's a bit sad if you can become like a foreigner in your own country.

  14. Wai

    Hi Lisa, I agree that things are bad in Malaysia. The standard of English proficiency is an unfunny joke here. With all races, not just the Chinese. In fact, I'd venture a (possibly controversial) opinion and state that the Chinese are generally better off, comparatively. Why? Because of the deep-seated culture of education ingrained for thousands of years. And that preoccupation with getting a good education includes aptitude in the global lingua france: English. But that's kinda like saying "The Last Airbender" is a better movie than "The Happening". They're both pretty dire.

    As an aside, the so-called nationalists in this country will soon have to concede (willingly or otherwise) that putting the national language on a pedestal at the expense of English skills will eventually come at great expense to the nation's growth. 'Nuff said.

  15. HY

    DST, you mean you can only get things done when there is participation from everybody?

    QT, thanks for the very short note, it shown your caliber, so is your English decent enough to rebut my assertion? Or that is how far your brain goes?

  16. QT

    HY, sorry to break this to you, but your English is not "pretty decent".

  17. D S T

    1. abolish vernacular schools – one school for all

    2. overhaul education system – integrate all good elements from all schools be it syllabus, values and discipline. ready to learn from the malay, chinese, indian, and the rest. combine & apply.

    with this you will having a solid and robust schooling system and might be the envy of the world. student integration issues will be almost eliminated.

    the thing we are missing now is the effort and participation from everybody.

  18. Facing the truth

    I really admire UMNO because it is right on schedule with their agenda which I knew some 30 to 40 years ago while I was a Government servant. The heads of departments who were/are UMNO members openly discuss the agenda among themselves and also in the presence of the non Malays/muslims with impunity.

    UMNO has almost completed their agenda and I can imagine what the last item is going to be. In fact there are signs that it is happening now.

    The consolation is that not all Malay Muslims are in agreement to all its items in the agenda. I am very convinced that there are many more Malay Muslims who are very kind hearted with sense of justice and extremely good human beings compared to many of my own kind.

    Lets pray to the almighty GOD to continue to bless these good Malay Muslims. Amen

  19. I enjoyed reading the analytical reasoning but I can't find myself to agree with the solution that you proposed – simply due to the fact that I'm from a Chinese independent school and I (including friends who're graduated from the same school) can hold a 2-hour (or more) conversation with you on the phone.

    You did not overly generalize the problem. I agree that the descendents of well-segregated Chinese communities entering these schools may not integrate very well with the society. But it takes a few criteria to produce this probability (although high) and its outcome.

    I have friends from the North who they belong to this tragedy BUT they managed to overcome this. And I bring this up not to disagree that vernacular school can be the source of the problem, but to suggest that we shall widen the focus and frame the problem at multiple milestones of one's life.

    Putting things that way, you will realize that improving vernacular school's system can also be a solution – which existingly has a solid system on other non-lingual subjects.

  20. HY

    Good articles, however still many questions not answer.

    1) I am not much difference with Eu Jienn while I was 15. I learned BM to pass exam and learned English for my career. I can speak and write pretty decent Malay and English now so what is the problem? Do you expect your parents to speak BM with you or BM becomes your family lingua franca? If English is your common language, how that make you different with me that speak Cantonese?

    2) Among your reasons of selecting VS, only no 2 is relevant. The rest is hearsay without facts. And getting a good job in Singapore and China is purely your delusion. I haven’t met any parents that “unconcerned” with their kid inability to speak National language, unless the extremely well-off type.

    3) Have you ever ask yourselves what sort of integration you look forward? Don’t take cue from our older generation, most of them don’t know what they talking about. If they really know and doing fine, what make their younger generation, the me and you generation, were so appalling divided or not integrated as claimed by them?

    4) The Chinese Malaysian went to Chinese school when China were a poverty communist, therefore the claim that China become a Superpower and the yearning to learn mother tongue is again, the delusion of some Anglophile. In fact, we all know China and Chinese (mainland Chinese) work very hard to learn English.

    5) Another fact is, only 10% go to CIS, what this number tells you? What is the difference between one that end up in Singapore and China against one that end up in US, UK, Australia and NZ? So what foreigner in his own country are you talking about? Naive conclusion.

  21. LN

    Thank you Cikgu Shamir and Cina Kedah for sharing your own experiences and helping to further clarify what I was trying to say. There is nothing wrong with learning ANY language but it's important to have a foundation in the national language and English if we want to be able to integrate (by this I also mean find a good job we can thrive in) and do well wherever we go (in this case, I'm referring to English).

    Facing the Truth – you don't have to wait for the Chinese to leave to eat on the floor. Sekarang pun boleh buat. Please also do not speak for all Malays. I am also not talking about all Chinese, just those who are forming the trend I speak about. Further, "remorseful Malays" is not the objective of the article as we don't want anyone to be remorseful but happy in Malaysia. Thank you though for your opinion.

    CCLiew – Thanks for letting me know about your repost. I do not mind, on the contrary, I would be interested to know how your readers feel. Please share with me which parts you do not agree about my article; I would like to know what you think for my own learning purpose.

    Remorseful Malay – please do not feel bad. We all have a choice. I think the government is accountable but I would also be brave to suggest that some of the Chinese I am speaking about need to understand the negative consequences of their choice. If they are happy with their choice, good for them. But they shouldn't complain about how other Malaysians don't want to mix with their kids.

    Currypuff – I think it's good that you're encouraging your children to learn what's important for their future. I have a really young boy. First of all, the NRD insisted he either followed his dad (Indian) or his mum (Chinese) when we were deciding which race box to tick. "Dan Lain Lain" apparently is not an official category. Now, given the whole sentiment about "Pendatang" and what not, could you blame me for having this thought fleeting through my mind: "If I tick Chinese, he'll be slightly better off that if I ticked Indian". Shame on me. But it is what it is. I don't want him to grow up feeling he's any class of citizen – just a citizen so I also want to equip him with the necessary skills to be able to thrive, not just survive.

    John Ling – I am enlightened by your backstory on vernacular schools. Could you point to me where this info comes from as I'd like to read more about it. Thanks!

  22. KNHong

    If you were to ask those who agrees with your article to raise their hand, i will definitely raise both my hands, plus both my legs. :)

    I am tutor is a skills training academy in JB and all my students are chinese. Most of my students have little command in both BM and english.

    One day just two weeks ago, an Indian lady press the door bell and i ask one of my student to help me answer the door, she hesitated, not willing to pick up the intercom. I looked at her, and she answered,"I can't speak malay (in mandarin)."

    Roughly two months ago, i met a secondary school counselor (she is chinese and was just transfered from KL) and she is so shocked to find out that almost 90% of her chinese students can't utter a complete sentence in BM and English. She proposed to all the teachers to speak BM and English to these chinese students, guess who objected…the chinese teachers, claiming that this will cause chinese to lose our race identity. of course the teachers are just a tip of the iceberg. the way Bm and english are taught in their primary school is also a contributing factor.

    You can say that our education system has been turned into a political agenda, but then the real responsibilities lies in the hands of the teachers. I honestly believe that every teacher knows that it is important that good command in both BM and English is important for these childrens future, without it will render them disfunctional in the our society. But sad to say that some teachers just ignore these important point in exchange for their own personal excuse. Yes, these teachers are to comply with the education ministry's directives, but it is up to their own conscience to do what is right.

    There are millions of eu jienn out there. I hope all of us join hands to correct this.

    Most chi

  23. Hsieh-Yin@MR

    [Keeping this history in mind, it’s not going to be easy for the Chinese nor the Malays to concede anything in the educational arena. Not in the near future, anyway. The hurts and suspicions run too deep]

    To initiate change, one must first get over their suspicious mindset. Nothing can ever move forward if we choose to be consumed by the past with that preconceived notion that there is always someone out there to hurt us. This applies to all human relations, singular or plural.

    "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." Obama.

    I am not saying it will be easy but it has to start with the individual “Us” – The “I” in everyone of us. Plus, I do want to have faith in this because I believe "If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress."Obama.

    If we're all going to continue to remain in Malaysia, let's be honest with ourselves. We have to have that concerted effort. It must not be halfway but a genuine concerted effort. Even if the next guy does not believe in this, it should never stop you.

    It should manifest in our actions and also in how we utter things. I don't think I am asking for anything extra or less in my request. I think it is a neutral aspiration that does not take anything away from anyone. Instead it can only be a wholesome gain for everyone.

    I am mindful, there may be turbulent days, but it does not mean it is impossible.

  24. Cina kedah

    Cikgu Shamir., I strongly agreed with you. I was brought up in BM & English, my wife from Chinese school. We both agreed to enroll our children to Chinese school. Now both my children communicate I can't understand except my wife.

    I find it difficult for me to be close to them

  25. Cina kedah

    Facing the truth, can you also please tell your PM Najib to scrape his talent Corp so that your kind can go eat on the floor on banana leafs.

  26. As much as some would like to keep vernacular schools, I sincerely don’t think it is healthy to have them in the long run if we were to promote integration among races. But mind you I say this with a caveat that the national education system has to be restudied and elevated to a respectable standard before we can even ask the People to give those up.

    Historically, the Chinese have faced a hostile reception in Southeast Asia — the indigenous Malays found their values and ambitions inscrutable, even threatening.

    For example, during the Second World War, while Malays collaborated politically with the Japanese occupiers, it was the Chinese who spearheaded the military resistance to fight them. After independence, this point of difference kicked up a notch: Malay-backed nationalism clashed with Chinese-backed communism, and the results were deadly.

    Everything that has happened since then has an outgrowth of that — Chinese aspirations balanced with Malay fears.

    In Malaysia, vernacular schools were used as a way to isolate and dilute the ability of the Chinese to enter the mainstream and threaten Malay interests.

    In Indonesia, Suharto went in the opposite direction, banning Chinese culture, Chinese festivals and Chinese language completely. This is why many Indonesian Chinese had no choice but to adopt indigenous names.

    Keeping this history in mind, it's not going to be easy for the Chinese nor the Malays to concede anything in the educational arena. Not in the near future, anyway. The hurts and suspicions run too deep.

  27. currypuff

    I stayed in California many years ago. There l met many Chinese who speak Chinese and English very fluently. Some of them from Malaysia but most of them from China,Hong Kong,Taiwan,Singapore,etc.,they were all doing very well. Most importantly, they are cultured in their deportment.

    Now l'm back to Malaysia,after observing the current education system, unequal treatment on non-malays, unhealthy politics, corruption…., l make sure that my children learn two languages well,Chinese and English.If they are not welcomed by their own motherland, if they are called 'Pendatang' and asked to go back to China, l want them to leave the country. Out there, the world is their oyster. I want them to live their life happy and dignified.

    And l speak BM fluently.

  28. Remorseful Malay

    @facing the truth

    Wrong. We're remorseful.

  29. Facing the truth

    Hey the non-malays and non-muslims. Don't ever for one moment think that when you talk about brain drain of the non muslims and the non malays, the malay muslims will feel remorseful.Far from it. They will be jumping with joy if all of us non malays/muslims were to leave Malaysia.

    If all non malays were to get out of malaysia, the Malays wouldn't mind reverting to sitting on the floor to eat their food on banana leaves with their hands.

    So don't talk about brain drain again.

    • goh

      tell me again what's wrong with sitting on the floor and to eat with hands? If nelson mandela stuff his food through his arse he's still nelson mandela. he's still a very noble person. I'm still very cool, and you still don't get laid!!

  30. Dear Lisa,

    Your article has been translated into chinese and published in my blog. Although I do not agree with certain arguments stated in this article but for overall speaking, it reflect the reality chinese community are facing. I think it is my obligation to convey your ideal to those chinese-literate readers. Keep it up. Cheers.

    The link is here: http://ccliew.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post_15.h…

  31. Im a teacher where majority of my students are Chinese. Almost 40% of them did their primary education in vernacular schools. I have to say that almost half of these 40 % are currently struggling in school. They made up the most number in the 'back' classes.Their main problem? Language- BM and BI. Some of them need 'interpreters' and they are already in upper secondary! You speak to them and they will start calling their friends to interpret what you say. I find this worrying.I feel sorry for them. Due to their lack of understanding of language, they shut off/skip school/drop out. As for not teaching Bahasa Cina in national schools….it depends on the demand. My school offers both Bahasa Tamil and Bahasa Cina but many students 'dropped out' from these classes as time pass. They find their own language difficult to 'pass' or its difficult to get an A they need for SPM. Another thing I have observed is that Chinese students who come from national primary school mingle better with students of other races. They are able to communicate better because their ability to use BM or BI. Im not saying they are better students but they dont face the problems of students from vernacular schools who tend to be uncomfortable mixing around.

    • nishicienjia

      " Chinese students who come from national primary school mingle better with students of other races. "

      We real Chinese call them Bangsa…r Chinese. they are the rejects from our community and we always laugh at them .

      Stay away from them if I were you, they are nothing but dirty snakes

    • anonymous

      Not quite true though.I came from a chinese elementary school and speak perfectly fine malay and english(the way how the native speakers converse)

  32. LN

    Thank you for your comments.

    This article wasn't meant to over-emphasise on language proficiency or even bi-, or tri-lingual capabilities. Bahasa being the national language seems best to unite all Malaysians (aside from English) as most Malaysians of different cultures can speak it, even if it's just a smattering of it. The question is why the education system has failed to even ensure Bahasa – IF NOT ENGLISH – is well spoken. Language may not be a precondition for unity or integration but it does help boost one's confidence to mingle. If I feel uncomfortable speaking Malay I would hesitate to join a conversation held exclusively in Malay. In this sense, the article is suggesting that holding onto one language – especially if it's not a "widely spoken" one (unless you're in China and Singapore) and being comfortable not knowing any other can be detrimental to integration.

    The article is also suggesting that integration has been compromised by racial politics, which seem to have created xenophobia over the years among Malaysians. That perhaps this factor is what gives the first (written above) its momentum.

    As for Chinese chauvinism – well, I can see why the Chinese are viewed in such a way. They can be clannish peoples (the Foochows and Teochews are known to be extremely clannish) but every community has pride. Perhaps the Chinese are always singled out because of their stereotypical drive, ambition and aggressiveness in pursuing success.

    Hsieh-Yin@MR – I agree with what you're saying. Totally. About History. About the education system. About being able to broach issues that affect a multi-cultural society more openly. Unfortunately, the people in power to change things are a little slow on the uptake. The rest of us who are actually "living" the education system we have been given can only make choices based on the options we have.

    Yes, it's about options. It's about making do with what we have and choosing our own paths. It is a positive attitude but a positive attitude does not necessarily make a great Malaysia. Fixing what is wrong would though and the article is just the tip of the iceberg by suggesting the few things that are wrong. Like what Angeline says – a bunch of CVs with good qualifications but the interviews go bust because the language proficiency is just not there. Like what John Ling says – Malaysians going abroad with better qualifications but not necessarily the aptitude or attitude to adapt.

    I hope things get better. Maybe we can all write to the Education Minister. In Bahasa of course.

  33. David

    Being able to speak the same language is not the precondition for unity. What will promote or demote unity rather is the spirit in which the so-called 'races' deal with each other in everyday life, and how the bloody politicians behave.

    • Suzainur KAR

      Shall we have a single national identity per the Thai and Indonesian then, dear David? No more Tionghua, no more Indian/Ceylonese/Sikh and lain-lain?

      No more vernacular schools, no other mother tongue except for the national language.

      There is this idiom in Malay, "Tak kenang diuntung."

      Perhaps you should study the meaning.

  34. Hsieh-Yin@MR

    As much as some would like to keep vernacular schools, I sincerely don’t think it is healthy to have them in the long run if we were to promote integration among races. But mind you I say this with a caveat that the national education system has to be restudied and elevated to a respectable standard before we can even ask the People to give those up.

    So moving forward and assuming a better system is found; in matters of wanting to preserve the mother tongue of these races, why can’t we have language classes in schools. Perhaps the system can make it mandatory (aside from the national language) that a child must take up a language course in their mother tongue and a child can also elect another language if he or she chooses to. It would seem that there would be a good opportunity for Malaysian children to be multilingual and the opportunity can be opened to all regardless of race. Plus that integrated environment would be made part of it already.

    As for subjects like Sciences & Mathematics, lets just nominate a medium that enables students and teachers to also keep up with the other latest development going on globally. English seem to be the best bet at this point. Let’s not be taken by the emotions that we’re sacrificing a part of us that is Malay, Chinese or Indian. Let’s just be objective about it. It’s knowledge that we should be hungry for!

    As for History, I never thought this was an important subject when I was growing up but I think it had a lot to do with how it was thought at school. History in my time was never clearly made related to the times I lived in. I saw it more of just a subject with lots of memorizing of the names, places and God forbid years!

    But as I grew up and read more biographies which were clearly weaved into some history background, I recognized that there were more to the subject than mere memorization of names, places and years. I learn to understand why ideas of people of a certain times were such, and you know what – it is great when we can be allowed to have our own arguments of why we believed a person thought of an idea this way or even why a particular event happened or even why one situation gave rise to another. And like anything else this subject should be open to interpretations as History as a subject has many sides to it. It’s never black or white. Teachers and children alike will learn to accept that. In the long run we as a society can learn to see things from the perspective other than the ones we are used to.

    The subject need not be a linear one, but one which children can enjoy debating about. I honestly think if the younger generations are encouraged to question in school in subjects like History, we can develop a generation of students who would not be likely to take things at face value. Which is pretty much the system that I grew up in and I don’t really think much has changed even today!

    All these guilt that we are made to feel because we ask will naturally fade away because we will then be immersed in a society who believes that it is always our right to ask and it is our right to be given intelligent answers.

    Somehow or rather, (and I would like to believe), we don’t always have to feel afraid once we can be encouraged to accept the tolerance to discuss sensitive issues. I think this is particularly important for a multicultural society like ours.

    It’s been too stifling in the past and it will be nice if our society as a whole can be given the chance to express freely – and we ought to start this culture in school if we are going to want a better tomorrow.

    At the end of the day we all strive for this – Principles of Fairness and that can only be One for all races. And if we were to start thinking for ourselves, we sure as hell should be ready to be unselfish to think for the others too. No buts. And lets not discussed the preference of a language in such bigoted terms, it does not seem right at all.

    • nishicienjia

      you talk alot but have no solutions – typical bangsar chinese.

      if you want " better integration ", then why not have the balls to call for the abolition of NEP?

      Not what I want but just pointing out your flawed logic

  35. Not having the child be bilingual and learn English just sounds stupid. By all means Mandarin is an important language, but English is more important, and there are studies that show that being multilingual as a child is beneficial to the development of the brain. These parents narrow minded view has short-changed their child.

    Unfortunately, I have heard many Malaysians using what has become a tired old excuse — that the Japanese are monolingual, and yet they are a world-class success. Therefore, it's not necessary for them to master English.

    I'm not sure whether to giggle or weep.

  36. Taikohtai

    No understand Bahasa/English/Mandarin/etc ? No worries, just hit Google translate and viola!

    Semua kowtim!

    That's exactly what the Malaysian government did and even put up banners when welcoming a foreign dignitary from China recently! And your poor PM had to apologise profusely for the mistake……. malu lah.

  37. Earth Ling

    Not having the child be bilingual and learn English just sounds stupid. By all means Mandarin is an important language, but English is more important, and there are studies that show that being multilingual as a child is beneficial to the development of the brain. These parents narrow minded view has short-changed their child.

    Now on another point… I can see not being interested in Bahasa Malaysia, aka, the National Language. Call it what it is, Malay, and it has been imposed by the Malays on the rest of the Malaysian population. It should have never been the National Language — it would be more fair to make English the National Language. Malays are only 60% of the population… why should the Chinese and Indians have to learn their language, anymore than the Malays having to learn Chinese/Indian languages.

    • Suzainur KAR

      Golly! From which dimension did thou cometh, dear Earth Ling? In the great US of A, the indigenous people was forced to abandon their culture, religion and language because they became a minority (thanks to the dear germs brought across the pond by the colonists and the guns that won the West). 60% is still not minority, dear Earth Ling.

      And why should a country that has been the domicile of Malay speaking communities for centuries (yes, even before the Western colonists carve up the map and separated us) adopt the language of the invaders as their National Language? Did we not oust the usurpers? Did we not negotiate our independence to chart our future as we see fit?

      Hence, dear Earth Ling, as God's earth is far and wide, feel free to go to countries where English is the national language whence you may get the treatment you think you deserve. And God help you in that endeavour.

  38. Pingback: Malaysian. Chinese. Totally Foreign. | Malaysia Blogs

  39. When my kids went overseas to study with my very hard earned money I told them not to come back. no future in Malaysia. Now both of them are in Australia earning well and living in a fair and free country

    vanaja, you have my deepest respect. What you have done is certainly not easy. No parent wants to see their children living far away, and it's a heavy sacrifice.

  40. mmmppphhh…leaving the country bcoz of money…same old stories…yum..john ling…vanaja…can you all tell me which countries are your childrens living in…bcoz i got few friends here from malaysia n singapore who came back to their motherland after 1-2years living overseas citing unfairness n not even able to find jobs although they have better education than the local ppls.Even those who works in singapore prefer to return to malaysia after their shift ends.

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of dishonesty among Malaysians. They are dishonest even to themselves.

    For example, they come to New Zealand thinking they are world class and able to demand high salaries and perks. This despite having *zero* experience in a world-class working environment and being very stubborn and inflexible; refusing to learn and adapt.

    So it's no surprise that Malaysians lose out to other migrants who are more humble and come to New Zealand with more positive attitudes. People like those from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines. Those who are willing to work harder and learn more.

    So let's not even talk about competing with local whites. Malaysians can't even match other Asian migrants in terms of work ethic. Which is why, even with similar educational qualifications, a Kiwi employer will take a Filipino over a Malaysian anytime.

    It's not discrimination. It's common sense.

    Also, in my department, I'm only the Malaysia employee. Yes, I have Asian colleagues. But they were born and bred in New Zealand. And guess what? When I first settled into the job, I noticed that they had a better work ethic than I do. They performed their duties to an very high standard, and I found that I had a lot of catching up to do. I had to be humble and admit where I fall short.

    So, john tan, for all your friends who scream discrimination, I believe they are just being dishonest. They are either incapable or unwilling to engage with a competitive labour market. So, yes, perhaps they are better off returning to Malaysia. In fact, they shouldn't have bothered emigrating at all.

  41. john tan

    mmmppphhh…leaving the country bcoz of money…same old stories…yum..john ling…vanaja…can you all tell me which countries are your childrens living in…bcoz i got few friends here from malaysia n singapore who came back to their motherland after 1-2years living overseas citing unfairness n not even able to find jobs although they have better education than the local ppls.Even those who works in singapore prefer to return to malaysia after their shift ends.

  42. Captain Hook

    "those who jump ship, to swim to treasure island, leaves his estranged mate to enjoy the bounty of food and wine"

    "while those who jump ship, due to a brawl, leaves his injured mate to die"

    Such is the law of the sea serpent (eating its tail)

    Arrr now git back ter work yer scruvvy chums

  43. Debbie

    Brilliant!

  44. vanaja

    When my kids went overseas to study with my very hard earned money I told them not to come back. no future in Malaysia. Now both of them are in Australia earning well and living in a fair and free country

  45. It is OK.

    Both Liza Ng and Eu Jienn can stay in Malaysia, eat our wonderful foods of various kinds and tastes and drink our various teh tarik, Chinese Teas, Japanese teas and all sorts. These are cheap here in Malaysia. Then when you feel bored or feel you are not well looked after, go elsewhere. Make your living there (provided the other country or countries will accept you.) And then when you get pushed, come back here to Malaysia. But for the lucky few who are trained in certain disciplines, they can live well overseas and these are a gain to those employers. Life is full of choices and oftentimes we cannot get all we wish for. Dreams are dreams and no Government is perfect for each and every citizen. Individuals must protect and prosper on our own capacity and capability. Good luck to all.

  46. angeline

    Hi Lisa. I couldn't agree more. Each time a resume lands of my desk, I look out for their education. Which high school did they go to, which college. I can no longer rely on the written English because a huge group of youngsters either ripped the template off the Internet. My phone conversations with them is most telling. They can't even hold a simple conversation to arrange for an interview. In cases like these, how can I not 'auto eliminate' even before the interview takes place? We work in the business of communications. They may have a brilliant mind with brilliant ideas but if you can't express it, what's the point? It's very sad…

    • nishicienjia

      Really?

      I think you mean you get scared if a Chinese speaks fluent English and all your speil is a cover for your various acts of insecurity, selfishness and cowardice.

      • vernaculargarbage

        Why would she get scared if a Chinese speaks fluent English? Sounds to me you can't refute her point properly so you're just resorting to ad hominem attacks. Cowardice? Lol. Sounds like you're just a typical narrow-minded Chinese-educated scum that the author describes.

  47. I tell my kids not to come back to Malaysia if I can afford to dispatch them overseas for their tertiary education.

    I also tell them to learn enough Bahasa to pass their exams. But even if they don’t, what the heck. Don’t come home. There is no future here for them.

    My dad told me the exact same thing. That's how I ended up New Zealand. One country's loss is another's gain, I suppose.

  48. yum

    I tell my kids not to come back to Malaysia if I can afford to dispatch them overseas for their tertiary education.

    I also tell them to learn enough Bahasa to pass their exams. But even if they don't, what the heck. Don't come home. There is no future here for them.

    But I do tell my kids to treat all languages practically. If you need to learn French to prosper in Ivory Coast, do so.

    But there is no future here in Malaysia. So, no need to be a language expert.

    Depressing, innit?

  49. anomie

    There is a 'better' word that the anglophiles of bolihland used to describe yr 'favelas' – ghettos!

    It bears its similarity with the way the German Jews (those whom the Nazis r teying to exterminate' lived.

    So, don't used flowery words. Just say it!

    Simple-minded solution for a complex situation wrt the the Chinese M'sian's chauvinism (as defined by the gangs of perkasa & the choirboys of deminegara).

    In fact, the real catch should be pragmatical adaptation, which many has forgotten, is the true hidden agenda of the evolution. Simply put – survival of the fittest.

    Drilled that into yr mindset & tell that to those soon-to-be-extincted tongkat-ali inhalers.

  50. 19-year-old

    Thank you for this piece of article (even though I don't believe that raising the passing marks of Bahasa Melayu and English is the right way).