NST columnist, Zainul Arifin, asked that English schools be brought back in a NST article today.
I think he has a point and i do agree with his view that :
The importance of communication skills – to be able to speak and write well – as a major determinant of one’s economic potential must be acknowledged, and in some instances, outweigh one’s ability to do sums and understand science.
If the communication ability includes an international language, so much the better. The real world now promotes communication of ideas, knowledge and commerce mainly, and unfortunately, in English.
I am Chinese ed up to secondary school, and I agree that Mother Tongue education is important to let a person learn about the culture and his roots. I also support the right of the parents to let their children study their mother tongue. Having said that , I think one must also be competent in English if one would like to succeed in this era of globalisation.
So, why not bring back the English Stream as an additional choice for parents. We have the National schools now, which many parents, particularly the non Malays, would not like to send their children to, partly because of the emphasis on religion, and partly because the standard of these schools are deteriorating, as part of the syndrome of Loss Of Excellence in our country.
We have the vernacular schools, the Tamil and the Chinese schools. I do not know much about Tamil schools , so I would leave it to my Indian readers to comment on it, but Chinese schools are certainly better run. These schools know that they need to excel to survive and most of these schools have maintained a rather high standard. There are now thousands of Indians and Bumi students studying in Chinese primary schools because of this.
For the ruling and business elites, they know the poor standard of the National Schools, and many of them are now sending children either overseas or to international schools (English schools ) locally because they want their children to have a head start over the others.
But for the majority of the people, they are unable to do so because private education is very costly and out of reach.
SO by bringing back the English schools, we are actually giving the ordinary people more choices. More choices also mean better competition, and better competition will bring better results… better educated and more rounded students.
We must however, continue to keep the existing National schools and vernaculars schools. In that way, those who wish their children to have a better grounding in mother tongues can send them to these schools, but those who wish to let their children prepare for a more global outlook can perhaps send them to Englsih schools.
It is basically about the right to choose. This is a flat world where everyone is becoming aware of his or her rights as an individual. Most people would like to have the right to choose what is best for their children. While the rich and mighty can have this choice by sending their children to private international schools and overseas, we must extend this right to choose to the ordinary folks.
To make the schools more acceptable, the curriculum can include the study of mother tongue as a language subject. In that way, those going to English schools can have a good command of English as well as his or her mother languages.