THE issue of the teaching of science and mathematics in English in our schools remains very much a concern to Malay intellects, mainly those from linked to academia, the Malay language agency Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka on those in the literary world.
But before I proceed to tell you again what I think they should be focusing on because of the many problems with our Bahasa, I shall outline some sectors where I think Malaysians not conversant in English will not be able to find decent employment.
I want to make clear that I use simply Bahasa because I think even here those who have been championing the use of our national language are not sure themselves what we should call it.
A long time ago it was Bahasa Melayu which later was changed to Bahasa Malaysia. I think in between it was also referred to as Bahasa Kebangsaan. We then went back to Bahasa Melayu for a while before reverting to Bahasa Malaysia again.
There was a time when the government and some in the mainstream media had to show enthusiasm over Bahasa Baku, a terminology promoted by then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
You are still confused as to what is rightly the correct Bahasa? Not to worry. At the end of this piece you would probably be more confused like you’ve never been!
We now look at where the Bahasa-only Malaysians will not be able to find meaningful employment, in a job which would later help them advance to senior management level.
Needless to say those who are good in both Bahasa and English should have little problem in getting a job in most sectors, including the ones which requires only Bahasa.
What this means is that those who speak and understand both languages have more choices, both in and outside the country.
Media: Newspapers like the New Straits Times, Star, Sun, Edge, Malaysian Reserve, Malay Mail.. Also the major advertising agencies and public relations consultancies. The Bahasa people can only hope to find jobs in Berita Harian, the Utusan Group, Harian Metro. As pointed out, those good at both languages can also look for jobs at these places.
Banking: All types of banking. Absolutely no way the Bahasa only bloke can hope to rise to senior manager level and absolutely no way he or she can hope to be posted to branches overseas, with the exception of maybe in Indonesia.
Foreign service: Another big no. In fact so concerned was the government with the decline in the standards of English amongst Malaysians that it decided to set up an institute just to coach trainee officers and others English.
Pilots: Both in the air and on water, both commercial and military. How could you when the language internationally for this sector is English. No compromise here.
The other sectors which require a reasonably good command of English are engineering, medicine and architecture. You also need English to do things like sail around the world the way Azhar Mansor did or climb Mt. Everest.
One of the reasons cited for the objection to the use of English in teaching the two subjects is that most Malay kids from the rural areas cannot cope and compete with their friends from the towns.
Would reverting to Bahasa help these rural kids? In the long term definitely not because of the limited opportunities for them as mentioned above.
The way to go should be for the Malay intellectuals to ask the government to find ways to help those rural kids catch up. A good teaching system would definitely help and good teachers have been known to achieve miracles even with students initially deemed to be useless, those we often describe as having “no future”.
The Malay pressure groups need worry not about Bahasa being confined to the back corners of the classrooms. I don’t think any political leader would have the exceptional courage to initiate a move perceived to relegate Bahasa below English. Which means Bahasa will continue as the main medium of instruction in our schools.
Another reason quoted by the intellectuals was what the Federal Constitution says but again, because of the reasons above, this should not be seen as an issue at all.
As suggested last week, I think it will be time and effort better spent if the Bahasa intellectuals can get together soonest possible to diligently scrutinise Bahasa and see what’s wrong with the language.
Their priority should be to apply the brakes on something that has been moving unchecked for some years now, in the process making our Bahasa less and less recognisable from the Bahasa that Malaysians 40 and above are familiar with.
If nothing is done the next generation of Malaysians will speak not Bahasa Melayu, Malaysia or whatever but rather a language known as Salinan Bahasa Inggeris.
How could anyone call it our Bahasa when we have allowed jumlah penduduk to be replaced by populasi, rasuah by korupsi, ilmu hisab by matematik, masyarakat by komuniti, jaga kereta by parkir and ilmu alam by geografi?