Opposition to PPSMI - it is about class, not race - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, February 03, 2020
Malaysiakini : “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”- Ludwig Wittgenstein
| The old maverick’s recycled initiative of teaching and learning
science and maths in English is of course welcomed. However, its
reception by the usually subservient minions of Pakatan Harapan was
expected. The prime minister can make audacious demands and policy
changes but when he attempts to rock the vote boat, all these jittery
cretins are lining up to claim that “this was not discussed in the
As if cabinet discussion did not merely involve the
nodding of heads or, as we are told to believe, vigorous discussions
which ultimately end with Harapan backtracking or slithering away from
any election promise made in the fictional election manifesto. Honestly,
the former education minister Maszlee Malik should have been the one
making this bold move but instead, the “decent” guy was making other
moves. This is the kind of first step move which is justified if the
reform of the system was really what Harapan was about.
important point to remember. The detractors of this move are not afraid
of science and maths. Those people are afraid that teaching science and
maths in English will open up young minds to a world of possibilities
that are at odds with the fascist underpinnings of culture and religion.
be honest, I am not sure why some Malays would be afraid of such a
thing. Non-Malay groups think is evident that “English” has not
ameliorated their devotion to whatever cultural and religious dogma they
rely on to navigate the fast-changing technological and geopolitical
Learning sciences and maths in English, the perceived
danger is of course that people will move beyond just science and maths
and start engaging on a whole other level. Imagine that. The “Mercedes
Islam” crowd – shouldn't this be a hashtag or something – would rather
have a polity who goes ape manure when a social media influencer is
photographed without her tudung than a polity who are inflected
by “English” sources which started when they were taught science and
maths – the building blocks if you will – in English.
that the prime minister is getting blowback from folks who would usually
grovel at his every word and gesture is indicative of what a hot button
issue this is. Who implemented this first or who wants to implement it
now is not important.
is important is that power brokers of the day have always folded
because they assume that this is an issue that would galvanise whatever
opposition they are facing. In other words, they allow those elements
who oppose this, including in their own coalition to control the
narrative, instead of defining the discourse.
Harapan “reformers” who are always telling their base to give them more
time or understand that there need to be baby steps, for the reform
agenda, turn around and trash a good idea, you really have to wonder
when this country will turn into one of those “sh*thole” countries
Donald Trump likes to ban.
This is not really a race issue. I get
why some people may think that. Certainly, the detractors of this policy
tart it up as a racial issue, hiding behind the importance of Bahasa
Melayu, or is it Bahasa Malaysia, and other racial tropes.
reality is that this is a class issue. Mainstream Malaysian politics is
predicated on sustaining a jingoistic, nationalist but permanently
underprivileged Malay base. When politicos talk of rural folks, you have
to understand that these are rural folks by design. While rich
and middle-income Malays ensure that their children receive an education
that would make them competitive in this fast-changing geopolitical
landscape, the system is designed to keep “rural” Malays or
working-class Malays bereft of the opportunities available to that class
of Malays who control or who serve a political system that enables
course, the kind of class that this system of education engineers makes
them perfect as petty mid-level bureaucrats or working-class drones,
steeped in religion and racial grievances, using the system at the
behest of their political masters always hoping to jump to the next
level using corrupt means. A new serf class created post-May 1969. Ironically
it is that “class” of Malays who the current PM has contempt for, even
though he admits his failures created them. This is what he said in 2002:
"They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little. They want to be rich
this very moment... no work is done other than to be close to people
with influence and authority in order to get something. After selling
and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more."
is a rich dialectic going on in the Malay polity but the religious
bureaucracy is used to mitigate the fallout from agitated and agitating
groups. The idea of making English verboten is estranging the majority
from the minority.
Malay children who came from
well to do or even middle-class families have the option of going to
religious schools where religion is basically pantomime but where they
are exposed to a Western education all under the cover of going to a
“religious” school. Then, of course, there are Malays with money who
bypass all of that and send their kids to private schools where they can
get an education which the “rural” Malays do not get. Then
there are those Malays who do not have the money but who understand
that their kids need an education which would enable them to compete who
send their kids to “Chinese” schools. Meanwhile, urban Malay kids who
are lucky enough to attend government schools which, because of their
location, cannot get away with the kind of nonsense that the
Islamisation process encourages in rural schools.
politicians have no interest in the greater Malay polity because this is
not their base. The fabulous Siti Kassim on social media took umbrage
with the DAP’s Nga Kor Ming, who claimed that the DAP would leave
Harapan if it did not recognise the UEC.
Siti argued that (1), why
make this a “Chinese” issue by using the UEC, and (2), that the
Islamisation process was a greater threat to Malaysia and why isn't a
supposed multicultural party taking this on instead of focusing on
communal issues. Besides the UEC is not going to disenfranchise the
Chinese community, unlike how educational policies marginalise the Malay
The reality is that non-Malay politicos, like the
deputy minister Teo Nie Ching not throwing her full support behind such
initiatives instead of relying on some procedural hiccup, is because
they do not want to be seen as anti-Malay. They do not want to feed into
the anti-DAP narratives not only coming from Umno and PAS but from
within their own coalition.
Besides, to non-Malay politicians,
this issue really does not affect the non-Malays because they have
always managed to survive and thrive in a malaise system that is for
Bersatu to handle. Why? Because this is mainstream Malaysian politics
and the DAP told us that Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Bersatu were needed to
court the “rural” Malay vote.
The former deputy education
minister, P Kamalanathan, is correct when he welcomes the move but wants
consultation with “stakeholders”. This is the pusillanimous game
non-Malay politicos play with the Malay power brokers they are attached
to. This only means, do not rock the vote boat.
If there is a
political will to get this done, it will be done. Unfortunately, nobody
wants to disrupt the class-based politics of the majority.