Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I have a friend who wants to travel the world with the intention of talking to people and learning their culture. She wants to prove that religion does more harm than good. Like her, I too have always wanted to travel the world and talk to people. Unlike her, I already have my answer on religion. My motives are much simpler. I want to learn what each and every nationality thinks about their history and their future.

I have always wanted to ask the Japanese and Germans about the war - I wanted to hear both sides of the story. I want to know what the Russians think about their fall from grace (as the Americans would have you believe) or whether they think they are still a world superpower. I want to ask an Iraqi about Saddam and a Cuban about Castro. I need to know what the Indians and Pakistanis think about their love-hate relationship of each other.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of indulging some of those questions and satisfying my curiosity. I had a fruitful chat with an old German man and seperately, two young Germans, and it was amazing how their opinions were as different as night and day. I have not had the chance to discuss the same matter with the older generation Japanese, although I suspect their response would not be much different from the Germans.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of dining with 3 Iraqis. While Saddam was still a touchy subject, and one I felt inappropriate to ask business contacts at a first meeting, we still managed a chat about our respective cultures and political ideologies. On a sidenote, I am told that Saddam once owned a Proton (albeit a small one, a Wira I guess). On another sidenote, it is refreshing to talk about political ideologies with a foreigner because these days it is sickening to discuss politics with the average Malaysian.

Our conversation somehow diverged on me being a Chinese, but not being able to speak fluent Mandarin. I explained our schooling system and the different type of schools and the languages that we learn in school. I then asked whether English was taught in addition to Arabic and one thing led to another....

"Here in Malaysia, we are now teaching Mathematics and Science in English but a lot of people are arguing about that. What do you think? In Iraq, do you think they should teach this in English or Arabic?"

Immediately, the younger guy, an engineer, spoke up: "Yes! For sure English! We are not developed, we must learn from other people. All our manuals are in English but our people cannot read it, so what is the use? We cannot develop like that."

The older bloke, an official with the Oil Ministry immediately interjected: "No, no we must translate all this books into Arabic. This is our culture, our history we cannot damage it. Learning English is good for a second language, but all this knowledge we must keep in Arabic."

"But other countries, much more developed! We must learn from them. How to learn if we cannot understand what they saying? How we can understand their books and technology?"

"No, you see Japan and Germany they speak their own language but they have good technology"

"When we get developed like Japan then we can use Arabic, but now we have to learn English first"

"You know modern human civilisation started from Iraq Mesopotamia - how can we throw away our culture of 5000 years? We started mathematics, science all this and then translate to Greek to send to Greek civilisation then they become great, then they translate to Latin then the Romans become great. So you see, we must keep it in our language so that we can be a great country"

"Yes but now we know nothing! We must learn first!"

Their argument dragged on for a good 10 minutes until it eventually continued amongst themselves in Arabic while their third companion continued talk to my colleague and I. In between their argument, the older guy tried to explain something to us while the younger guy was shaking his head. As they got back to their argument, I turned to my colleague:

"Doesn't this argument sound soooo familiar to you?"

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Yes, familiar. But the points brought up by the older man are quite strong - they have a HUGE history, background in science/maths.[not saying I agree with him, but sounds good]

Those against the English policy here, are basically talking nonsense.

And, can you please write something the the religion thing?



Organised religion is kinda like dynamite. It has its pros and cons. But if history has taught us anything it is that there are a shit load of wars fought because people seem to think, "My God is better than your God".

I will find the time one day to write more, but until then enjoy this:



I must say that there are lot of things need to be counter and check regarding this issue. No right and wrong such. It is about the end result that will be the best for all.
That is what more important and not that political kind shit.


shouldn't we be asking if we even have the resources to implement such a program? enough trained teachers? the necessary materials?

whether it's "better" or not is something that can only be seen after proper execution of the proposed plans...keyword "proper".

i don't think we're able to do that.


oh wait sorry...this is more about "culture preservation" than it is about whether english is better than malay is better than chinese. so the above is kinda irrelevant. oops.

I was talking about the cultural issue, which I think is the crux of the problem here. But your point is interesting too...

Not having the resources is a piss poor reason not to do anything.

There isn't a single good engineer or scientist who can tell you that we can bulldoze through the technical world without a proper command of English. There is no two ways about it. Until Nobel Prize winners start publishing papers in Malay, we need to be able to be proficient in English. We don't have to be awesome, just know enough to understand an international paper.

So the problem and the solution had been identified - if there are a lack of resources, we work towards getting those resources in place.

I understand the problems here, loads of people are still unwilling to change. Loads of teachers are unwilling to learn even though its compulsory.

Just imagine - the politicians are saying we should go back to teaching it in Malay because the kampung kids are not doing well!! Just because some people are not doing well in Maths, shall we stop teaching them ??

This is not an easy road. There are loads of obstacles, getting qualified teachers, convincing the rural folks (and indeed some town folk), but it is a road that must be taken.


...and also convincing certain parties that it's an issue about education and the quality of the future workforce, not a venue to go and parade one's non-existent political prowess.

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