KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Education groups supported today Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar’s call to emulate Singapore’s English-medium education system, saying his proposal was long overdue.
Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) chair Datin Noor Azimah Rahim pointed out that 200 buses with schoolchildren commute from Johor to neighbouring Singapore daily, which she said was a “poor” reflection of Malaysia’s education system.
“I think he has raised this issue because Johor is especially affected,” she told Malay Mail Online today.
News portal Malaysiakini reported yesterday Sultan Ibrahim as saying in his address at the Johor state assembly sitting that Johoreans should be open to change regarding Malaysia’s education system, citing Singapore’s unity that was fostered from the republic’s single-stream education system with English as its medium of instruction.
The state ruler reportedly said a single-stream education system would foster racial integration and produce a united and harmonious society.
Malaysia’s education system is largely fragmented with national schools using Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction, while the vernacular Tamil and Chinese schools use Tamil and Mandarin respectively as the mediums of instruction.
Noor Azimah stressed today that Bahasa Malaysia and native languages would not be sidelined if Malaysia were to use English, instead of the national language, as the medium of instruction in schools.
“There would be no such thing as the unity being affected but the reverse, where more often you see a fantastic integration of races. You can still learn the national language, despite English being used, as well as their own native tongue under the People’s Own Language (POL) system in schools,” she said.
Noor Azimah also said replacing Bahasa Malaysia with English as the medium of instruction will help the government cut costs by doing away with the import of foreign native English speakers.
“At the very least, the English medium schools should produce the English teachers that we so desperately need, instead of importing expensive native speakers,” she said.
Herald of Penang for Education (HOPE) deputy chairman Krishna Sreenevasan said the problem of unity, which Sultan Ibrahim highlighted, could be tackled by using English as the medium of instruction.
“There is a deeper issue that he is calling out. We are very much divided. English is the right way to go,” he told Malay Mail Online.
He also alleged that many ministers and rulers are English-educated and that they send their children to English-medium schools.
“There has also been a mushrooming of international schools in the country,” Krishna said.