Dinosaurs, 160x6 English teachers and 'Rachel Corrie'Thursday, June 10th, 2010 12:42:00
RECYCLED materials are fine but not in the context of Malaysian politics and politicians. The other day, we heard a chorus from the Pakatan Rakyat choir chiding the Prime Minister for using "the same dogeared pack of cards" in his so-called "minor" Cabinet reshuffle and for bringing back former minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, 67, to head the government's latest vehicle to help overcome the country's land public transport woes.
But that's the pot calling the kettle black. The Opposition hasn't fared any better and so, soon after their ruckus, we heard from the BN's choir about Pakatan Rakyat's own reshuffling using "recycled" leaders such as Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Chua Jui Meng.
In this case, both were ex-BN leaders who joined the Opposition after the last general election!
Surprisingly, there is a point here: Where, indeed, are the young Turks of Malaysia's politics? Are the below-40 not good enough to lead or is their rise being suppressed by their seniors?
This is not a BN or PR phenomenon. DAP's Lim Kit Siang, 70 next year, and Karpal Singh, 70 this month, and Pas' Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, 79, are in the company of MIC's Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, 75, and Sarawak's Pehin Seri Abdul Taib Mahmud, also 75, in the rise and rise of Malaysia's political dinosaurs.
THERE was mention of dinosaurs at the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) International Conference in KL on Monday. Raja Zarith Idris, the Sultanah of Johor and Melta patron, lamented the fact that "most Malaysians cannot speak or write well in English, compared to the ability and ease with which older Malaysians dinosaurs like us speak and write it".
Raja Zarith's crusade to stop the decline in the standard of English in Malaysian schools is well-known and her concern understandable.
"My youngest son goes to a local government school in Johor Baru, so whatever decisions and whatever innovations have been made, regarding the education of our children is of interest and much anxiety to me, as a parent."
One such "innovation" must be the decision to stop teaching Maths and Science in English, a matter that Raja Zarith didn't touch in her speech but which the conference participants talked about, nonetheless, among themselves and to anyone who'd listen. No doubt with the hope that somehow the government would do a U-turn, which is very unlikely.
There is talk, in fact, that the government is about to award contracts for the import of 960 native speakers of English under the ministry's plan to give equal emphasis on BM and English (MBMMBI or Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia dan Memperkukuhkan Bahasa Inggeris).
Under this policy to improve the standard of English teachers in our schools (some see it as an attempt to appease those who were in favour of teaching Maths and Science in English), 160 English native speakers will be made trainer-teachers spread out over six regions throughout the country (hence, the 160 x 6 formula) and act as "mentors" or "consultants".
The idea, perhaps, is to bring back the days when English in our schools was taught by the "mat sallehs" themselves. One may argue, however, that English native speakers during the colonial era had lived among the locals and understood not just their language, but also their culture, history and traditions.
Will the imported teacher-trainers under the MBM-MBI scheme be as good?
Raja Zarith did ask the question. "Which would be better? To have our local teachers teach it as they have done so for the past 50 years? Or to bring in native English speakers as teachers?"
If we do bring in the native English speakers to teach our children, the authorities must mind the gap that it will inevitably create between the foreign and local teaching staff. The 960 native English speakers, according to proposals, will be paid between RM8,000 and RM15,000 a month, besides the usual perks that has made Malaysia a haven for expatriates.
Convert the amount to euro, sterling or dollar and it won't be excessive, but with an experienced local English teacher getting RM3,000 to RM4,000 a month, we have a disparity in hand that will lead to resentment and discontent.
Unhappy teachers are the last thing this country needs.
JOURNALIST-ACTIVIST Shamsul Akmar, 46, who was part of the now historic MV Rachel Corrie voyage, was quite touched by the renewed and sudden interest shown by Malaysians, especially the politicians, dinosaurs et al, towards the plight of Palestinians and Gaza.
His wish is that people will remember how hard the former PM, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was pushing to
get the Palestinians and Gaza their place in the world's and Malaysians' collective conscience.
After the Israelis hijacked Rachel Corrie in international waters just an hour away from Gaza, Shamsul and the others on-board the Malaysian vessel, including UN's former assistant secretary-general Dennis Halliday and Nobel Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire, were brought to Israel for questioning.
Even his interrogators, Shamsul said, were passionate about Dr Mahathir. The ex-PM's name was mentioned several times during his Q & A session.
"Your former Prime Minister, the man you work for, hates Israel, yes?!"