Thursday, May 5, 2016

Education, Nationalism & Language

This is a perennial topic where discussion can go on forever because there are so many different angles to it. I am adding another one.

I think the key focus must be on the education of our young people for their own future and their own good. The ultimate purpose of education is individual survival of the person being educated. There is the master who has knowledge and hopefully wisdom. He is the master because he has learned to survive and now his role is to teach the young.

In traditional societies, the elders teach the young how and where to hunt and fish and plant crops and raise husbandry. To live in peace and harmony among the villagers, the elders teach manners and courtesy. There are customs of how things are to be done when certain things happens, akin to the standard practice instructions or standard operating procedure of modern organisations. The whole village also learn how to make peace with nature in hope of an abundant harvest and plentiful feasting.

At a certain point in the history of the current human civilisation enter religion which is also dictates a way of existence and survival in a certain environment, probably of a very harsh nature. The people are taught to keep faith, to defend their customs and traditions, and to kill off their enemies as self-defence or to disguise or hide their identities from their enemies. These are skills of survival.

In time, rational thinking and argument come in. The politics of democracy comes in, which is usually practised as tyranny. Religion gives way to the pursuit of material wellbeing and money. The means of survival requires young people to be able to read and write and count, be discipline and hardworking, be creative and productive and be everything that any capitalists would love to work to death for a few more pennies.

The people pay taxes for the government to employ experts to teach their kids to learn how to survive in this big and nasty world. Instead, the government twisted the system to inculcate nationalism which is a sense of identity which the elite politicians feel will enhance and prolong their longevity of their reign on earth. Instead of openness, they send in new half-baked people to indoctrinate young people that they are beholden to the false prophets for their well-being. So they lock the minds of the young people up into sterile cells where no thoughts are present except for the few propaganda items of privilege and exclusivity.

In so doing, the politicians on independence of the country from foreign exposure cut the entire nation from the rest of the world, close in onto their own limited language and old agrarian customs and foreign religions, feeling comfortable in their own familiar and shrunken world.

But the survival of the young generations and the young nation require that the young people must be open and versatile and think for themselves. They must not only learn the local languages but also the foreign languages of import. They must be encouraged to think for themselves and to argue against traditions and their elders because the outside world in which they and the nation is subject to are constantly evolving as the world tries to compete with each other. A nation that closes its door onto itself and thinking it is safe is containing itself in its own little enclosure, indifferent to the lack of the space their children and their children's children.

I have read arguments why the local language is also a language of science and discovery and I am of course not doubting that one can be in one's element thinking in one's own language. But it is not an argument against learning other languages and be conversant with them and be so good as to be able to think comfortably in foreign languages. Let not the slow ask the fast to slow down so that he can catch up.

I for one encourage multiple languages for they teach us to understand other cultures and other ways of thinking and looking at the world and each other. I am simply perturbed how limited and constrained the government of the day is, with its civil servants knowing only how to speak and write in their own local language and not being able to communicate with the rest of the world.

Focusing merely on the mother tongue is a dangerous proposition. The language used at home and in the market is colloquial. To be able to speak and write properly in the local language, there are also rules to be followed and therefore even for the native, the formal local language needs also to be learned and not everybody speaking the colloquial language will necessarily be good in the local language formally.

I conjecture that there are as many illiterate native speakers of the local language as non-native speakers. It is therefore likely that the promotion of only the local language will result in a nation full of illiterates compared to one where learning to read and write in different languages is conscientiously pursued as a matter of policy. I am saying that we should be promoting languages as a serious area of study in schools as opposed to the politicising of one language as the one and only one, to the exclusion of others.

In the modern world, it is instructive to learn Mandarin and other Asian languages too. In fact, for the nation to place strategically in the world, we should have experts in all the key languages of the world so that we have understand at the native level what is happening all around us. We cannot simply stand alone deaf and ignorant of the world.

At the very least, I would like the civil servant to be communicating to its citizens and the rest of the world in two or three languages - Malay, English and Mandarin. At least, show that Malaysians are not incompetent and that Malaysians can relate with others.

There is a need to expose the ignorance that is hiding behind the sole use of the local language in communicating with the people in our society. We were not isolationists in the first place. We were an open society but closed in on independence. Something went terribly wrong. It is not too late to turn around and face the world proudly.


walla said...

How long can a nationalist last without food?

These days economic independence is more critical. And EI means emotional intelligence about how to become economically independent. Which means one must know what to do when facing problems or espying openings.

So it is knowledge. Which comes from learning. And most knowledge these days is conveyed and stored in the english medium. So learn english. The language of WSJ and FT. Even Goldman Sachs and middle-eastern donors...

walla said...

We all know it is hard to reverse a trend made mainstream. In education, the problem is now the trainer. The teachers are not good in english so how can they can even teach the first groups to be re-oriented to enable these groups to become adept at handling textbooks in english in later stages as a prelude to taking on the entire world of knowledge?

This challenge should have been debated before starting on the path to certain irrelevance. Against others already caught up to be ahead, that's oblivion.

walla said...

We had two routes but took the easy way out. We took the path of pandering to the lowest majority with the single view to make it easy for them to come up. Fine, now that some of them have, what's next for them, as well as for the others who have had to be sacrificed from learning meatier and more relevant things faster? Where do all go from here?

Since we are talking about all, isn't that saying the strategic nationalism adopted that was skewed one-side has become counterproductive to the survival of the entire population in a globalized world that mandates investment value?

walla said...

Quality is gone kaput. Two mornings ago i walked past a lower classroom. The teacher was dictating a question to the few students who were laboriously trying to write down the words she was slowly saying out. It looked more like time-filling than education. We forget to the peril of the young that it is a race against time. And superficiality.

Unless i am wrong, that was a premier smart school. If that be the case, what hope harbors the other not so smart not so premier schools?

If lessons are not made interesting to students already down with ill-discipline and indifference, how can adopting a mono-cultural language policy create a learned society that can progress and rank pari passu with the best of the world?

Unless it was all along intended for us to remain third world in order to continue receiving sympathetic support from indeterminable donors.

walla said...

Since it has been a late and world-weary day, let's shoot sans political niceties:

- flatten all road humps in the country; the day we started on them, the country has been going downhill ever since with no end of stupid problems; agree or disagree?

- the meaning of 'official' should be taken with utmost lightness; that means the cultural representation of it should be limited to certain places and times on certain but not all proscribed national holidays, and the number of such holidays should be cut down by ninety percent otherwise you tell me what is our latest productivity index, ok?

- anyone can believe any religion or faith of his or her own choosing; there should be no compulsion to follow anything said by anyone unless some are more equal than others; are there any? if yes, produce documentary and notarized evidence from ...Him;

- there should be no disturbance in any neighborhood; religion is a personal thing;

- the enforcement and integrity arms must be made apolitical; no fear no favor no looking over shoulders and no religious overtones; leaders must before they start office say they will not stand in the way to be arrested according to the law;

- local elections must be returned and all campaigning funds must be preset, announced and accounted for by independent audit; vote buyers should be exiled;

- the entire mainstream education shall be reengineered to produce citizens who know things, know how to find out things, know how to evaluate what and how they find out things, and know how to intelligently read late-night blog comments that say such things;

- there is no such thing as a race in this multiracial country; everyone shall be considered multiracial so that crossbreeding shall not be disbarred;

- the slow and down will be helped up according to their abilities and speed of progress but never at the expense of the fast and up; such national funds as available must never be forfeited for the former exclusively at the expense of the latter; so that standards can be developed, aspired and maintained. Otherwise as is happening before your eyes, all will sink to the lowest denominator; -lah;

- if it comes to it, two different tracks leading to the same objective of learning according to ability, development according to capability; note here there is no such thing as a shortcut like there is no such thing as privilege disguised a right in much the same way no such thing as a free lunch;

- born and raised here, full and equal citizenship, and the respect shown by total freedom to learn and practise own what-ever (hottentotism may be the next wave) with full monetary support from the taxpayers funds applied fairly to all without preference;

- all corrupt politicians to be made raw material for zebra-crossings; the karma of trampling returned within the same lifetime;

- nationalism shall be defined as the bravery to do the damn right thing the first right time without any fear of ridiculously unfair retribution exacted by the guilty in all but label;

- journalists and editors can write anything they like anyway they choose insofar as they hold themselves responsible for the continued wellbeing of society but not to the extent of defining harmony as equal to maintaining the status quo of the guilty;

- service standards in every corner of the land shall be held upright again to exceptional esteem;

- any racist, religious zealot and people who punch foreign workers to be quarantined in a place concentrated with the object of their hate and prejudice;

- stupid policies will be banned with immediate effect; anyone who cannot think two steps ahead when making policies shoud be lobotomized;

- all hand-kissing - banned to prevent hypocrisy from spreading later;


walla said...