No more hullabaloo over English?

“Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) contribution to the national education system proves that Bahasa Malaysia can be used in higher education,” so says Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Education Minister of Malaysia.

“Much work [such as academic papers, books, and doctoral theses] have been produced in the Malay language, thanks to the efforts of the UKM lecturers, researchers, professors and the students for the past 40 years…We are proud of UKM’s achievements of being recognised as a research university which has been given self-accreditation status.”

In short, he is implying that UKM’s  success in using Malay in the classrooms proves there is no need to resort to teaching in English in the classrooms.

Unfortunately, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin fails to realise that problem of our university students today has little to do whether their universities earn the Research University and/or self-accreditation status. UKM has merely chosen the path of least resistance. Most Malaysians speak and write in Malay better than they do in English. That makes learning and writing in Malay easier for most students.

But is UKM’s success in using Malay as the medium of instruction an indicator of their students’ competitiveness in the global world? No. Our university students, be they from UKM, UPM, or other local universities, are doubly handicapped.

First, our university students do not have the reading and learning culture. They prefer to be spoon-fed with information, told what and how to do things, and learn passively. Second, even if our students tried to read or learn on their own, they would still struggle to understand what they have read from books or the Internet because of their abysmal command in English.

So congratulations to UKM for being a Research University and a self-accreditation institution. But to use UKM as proof that Bahasa Malaysia can be used in higher education is a red herring. It distracts us from the actual and core problems in our education system.

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