August 21st, 2015

Mengenang jasa tokoh

NASKHAH ini adalah sambungan buku jilid 1 dengan tajuk sama yang telah diterbitkan oleh Pekan Ilmu Publications Sdn. Bhd.

Buku yang ditulis oleh pensyarah kanan di Jabatan Bahasa dan Kesusasteraan Melayu, Fakulti Bahasa dan Komunikasi, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) ini menghimpunkan 25 tokoh pelbagai kaum yang banyak berjasa di Malaysia dan Singapura.

Mereka datang dari pelbagai latar belakang seperti juruhebah, penyair, sasterawan, pendidik, ahli politik, pemikir, ahli sejarah serta tokoh masyarakat di Perak dan negeri lain di Malaysia.

Sebahagian besar tokoh ini kurang dikenali oleh generasi sekarang kerana mereka hidup dan menabur jasa pada zaman yang berbeza.

Ada dalam kalangan tokoh yang dibincangkan masih hidup dan terdapat juga yang sudah lama meninggal dunia tetapi nama dan jasa mereka seharusnya dikenang sampai bila-bila.

Antara tokoh yang dibincangkan termasuklah Jaafar Abdul Rahim, Ibrahim Mohd. Said, Yusof Ishak, Datuk Aminah Din, Baharin Mohd. Tahir, Ali Majod, Atondra, Tun Ghazali Shafie dan Mana Sikana.

Tokoh lain ialah Tan Sri Dr. Awang Had Salleh, Baharuddin Kahar, Anchom Luji, Harjit Singh Hullon, Latifah Sidek, Yong Rafidah Yaacob, Md. Akhir Leman, Datuk Dr. Wan Mohd. Isa Wan Ahmad, Hariffudin Kamarudin, Mohamed Ali Osman, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, Tun Saban dan Usman Awang.

Salah seorang tokoh itu ialah Laksamana Kesultanan Pe­rak, Muhammad Amin yang namanya telah diabadikan pada kapal milik Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM). Beliau antara individu utama yang menentang penjajah Inggeris di Perak.

Pada 1877, beliau dihukum buang nege­ri tanpa sebarang perbicaraan bersama-sama Sultan Abdullah dan 45 pembesar Melayu Perak yang lain ke Pulau Seychelles, Lautan Hindi atas dakwaan terlibat dalam komplot membunuh Residen British pertama di negeri itu, J.W.W. Birch.

Walaupun Sultan Abdullah akhirnya dibenarkan pulang ke Perak selepas 16 tahun dalam buangan, Muhammad dan menantunya yang juga jutawan Melayu Pe­rak abad ke-19, Tengku Menteri Ngah Ibrahim tidak dibenar menjejak kaki ke negeri itu sehingga akhirnya mereka meninggal dunia dalam buang­an di Singapura.

Dalam pada itu, Nakhoda Muhammad Taib yang hidup sezaman dengan Ngah Ibrahim ialah seorang tokoh pahlawan maritim Melayu dan pedagang yang tidak pernah gentar memerangi kegiatan lanun yang sering mengganas di perairan Selat Melaka.

Allahyarham dikatakan memiliki sebilah keris bernama ‘Helang Menyambar’ yang cukup hebat sehingga menyebabkan lanun tidak berupaya untuk bertentang mata dengannya.

Beliau turut memiliki kapal bersaiz besar yang dinamakan Lancang Kuning yang digunakan untuk melawan lanun dan berdagang di seluruh Tanah Melayu dan Sumatera.

Seorang lagi tokoh dari Perak yang dimuatkan dalam buku ini ialah penulis novel seram Siri Bercakap Dengan Jin (SBDJ) yang dikenali dengan nama samaran Tamar Jalis.

Nama sebenar penulis SBDJ yang diterbitkan dari 1981 hingga 2005 ialah Ahmad @ Mohd. Radzi Mahmud, 75, yang berasal dari Beruas, Perak dan pernah bertugas sebagai Timbalan Ketua Editor Kumpulan Majalah Variapop.

Siri novel itu telah terjual lebih sejuta naskhah. Satu rekod yang menurut penulis masih tidak dapat ditandingi oleh mana-mana buku karya Sasterawan Negara yang pernah diterbitkan sehingga kini.

Sebanyak 221 siri SBDJ telah diterbitkan dalam 16 buku sekali gus menjadikan antara novel bersiri terpanjang di Asia Tenggara dan mungkin juga peringkat antarabangsa.

Kisah yang terdapat dalam buku berkenaan bukanlah sekadar tentang jin sebaliknya sarat dengan ilmu perubatan tradisional, psikologi dan kosmologi Melayu; ilmu persilatan; amalan perbomohan dan petua-petua untuk menewaskan syaitan daripada mengganggu manusia.

Usaha Talib menulis buku ini, memang sewajarnya dipuji kerana sesungguhnya hanya bangsa yang berjiwa besar akan menghargai pahlawan dan tokoh yang banyak berjasa kepada negara.

Penulisan biografi ringkas ini walaupun tidak dapat membalas balik segala jasa yang telah dicurahkan mereka, sekurang-kurangnya penulis menunjukkan contoh terbaik bahawa orang ramai tidak harus melupakan individu yang telah menabur bakti kepada masyarakat.

- Nizam Yatim Utusan Malaysia Rencana 21 Ogos 2015

Elakkan prejudis, kembalikan kedamaian

MUKADIMAH - TAN SRI DR. RAIS YATIM yang mendengar sosek-sosek bahang persidangan perwakilan UMNO bahagian di beberapa negeri berasa terpanggil untuk meluahkan apa di hatinya.

Sebagai orang lama dalam UMNO yang pernah bekerja di bawah lima Perdana Menteri termasuk Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dan seketika dengan Perdana Menteri pertama, Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, Penasihat Sosiobudaya kerajaan ini percaya suasana politik sekarang perlukan tindakan kedamaian dan bertenang.

Beliau yang ditemui wartawan Utusan Malaysia, ZULKIFLI JALIL, di Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM) baru-baru ini turut bercakap tentang isu menggulingkan kerajaan serta betapa perlunya suasana murni diwujudkan dalam kalangan pemimpin tertinggi UMNO, parti tonggak untuk 13 komponen Barisan Nasional.

Bagi Rais, 72, Presiden dan Timbalan Presiden parti, mesti mengembalikan ukhwah dengan membina semangat kepartaian walaupun Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin tidak lagi menyandang sebarang jawatan dalam kerajaan.

UTUSAN MALAYSIA: Pada waktu ini isu menggulingkan kerajaan hangat diperkatakan. Apa pandangan Tan Sri?

RAIS YATIM: Jangan gabra apabila berita ini keluar sebaliknya harus teliti dulu apa yang dimaksudkan dengan gulingkan kerajaan. Pertama, yang dimengertikan sebagai guling kerajaan itu mungkin melibatkan kaedah fizikal yang di luar undang-undang dan dalam keadaan itu sekiranya mengkomplot menjatuhkan Yang di-Pertuan Agong itu memang dianggap sebagai menentang Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Dan ini sekali gus memberi satu pengertian yang boleh disamakan hendak menggulingkan kerajaan menerusi kuasa tertinggi di Malaysia itu di bawah undang Kanun Keseksaan.

Tetapi sekiranya pihak pembangkang menggunakan proses Parlimen untuk mengemukakan sesuatu usul, kita tidak boleh anggap itu nak gulingkan kerajaan sebab Barisan Nasional (BN) sedia mempunyai bilangan lebih besar hak untuk mengusulkan sesuatu usul di Parlimen. Itu merupakan hak asasi dalam sistem demokrasi. Jadi, fahaman itu mesti diterima, cuma tinggal lagi jika ada dalam kalangan ahli Parlimen UMNO atau BN yang bersekongkol dengan pembangkang itu boleh ditakrif sebagai berniat menggunakan kuasa legistlatif untuk menamatkan kerajaan menerusi undi tak percaya.

Jadi, harus ada perbezaan fahaman berhubung mengemukakan undi tak percaya dengan menggulingkan kerajaan secara di luar demokrasi. Bagaimanapun kerajaan tidak harus gundah gulana dalam soal itu (gulingkan kerajaan) kerana ia tidak akan berjaya.

Apa makna menggulingkan kerajaan di luar demokrasi?

Macam saya katakan tadi iaitu menggunakan kekerasan, menggulingkan dan menjatuhkan Yang di-Pertuan Agong menerusi kes-kes yang telah berlaku beberapa tahun lalu di luar demokrasi.

Adakah ahli UMNO dan BN yang bersekongkol dengan pembangkang boleh dikategorikan sebagai takrifan menjatuhkan kerajaan?

Saya tidak nampak benda itu berlaku pun walaupun Timbalan Perdana Menteri menyatakan hal ini sekarang. Cuma, nyatakan siapa yang beliau katakan bersekongkol untuk menjatuhkan kerajaan di Parlimen Saya cakap terus terang, jangan salah faham takrif menjatuhkan atau menggulingkan kerajaan

dengan proses di dalam parlimen. Dalam Parlimen boleh dikemukakan usul apa jua tetapi pihak yang mempunyai kuasa majoriti sentiasa memegang kuasa muktamad. Setakat ini tidak ada ahli parlimen BN yang diketahui sebagai bersekongkol dengan pihak pembangkang.

Jika ada syak wasangka ahli BN yang masuk dalam pembangkang itu tertakluk kepada pembuktian. Dan setakat ini tidak ada, jadi bahaya bagi sesiapa untuk menyatakan hal ini.

Jawapan saya dalam isu ini, sila buktikan! Kalau tidak, ia akan beri nama buruk kepada parti. Kelak, kita akan bersyak-wasangka.

Adakah wajar pemimpin BN atau UMNO bersekongkol dengan pihak pembangkang untuk menjatuhkan kerajaan?

Kewajarannya tidak ada sebab pembuktian itu tak muktamad. Setakat ini tidak ada. Kita tidak boleh membuat spekulasi bebas, ini bahaya. Yang ada sekarang hanya spekulasi.

Cakap-cakap mungkin memang ada tetapi tidak berani untuk menyokong dan memberi sokongan mereka. Macam juga sebelum ini Anwar Ibrahim menyatakan bahawa 16 September akan jadi (gulingkan kerajaan) tetapi tidak sampai ke tahap itu.

Apabila kita tengok situasi politik hari ini, apa formula untuk menjernih atau meredakannya?

Masing-masing mahu bercakap. Tetapi bagi saya tidak seharusnya soal penurunan atau pemberhentian (bekas) Timbalan Perdana Menteri itu dipanjangkan.

Biar proses undang-undang itu berjalan, tetapi pihak-pihak kerajaan ada pandangan masing-masing. Itu tidak dapat kita tahan. Tentang hal dalam UMNO, kita tidak dapat tolak bahawa ia bergolak. Pergolakan itu tercetus dengan pemberhentian (pengguguran) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin dari jawatannya.

Bagaimanapun kedudukan Muh­yidin harus dihormati sebab masih Timbalan Presiden UMNO dan sebagai mana kita hendak gunakan prejudis atau prasangka terhadap Perdana Menteri, jangan gunakan prasangka juga terhadap Muhyiddin.

Apa yang seharusnya dan seadanya diterima adalah sebagai jawatan beliau sebagai timbalan Presiden terhutang juga kepada beliau, sebab beliau berjasa kepada parti dan kerajaan.

Beliau pun ada kewibawaan yang lampau. Ini sepatutnya UMNO pegang. Jangan sekarang bila tidak ada jawatan, seseorang itu hendak dilanyak sahaja. Tidak harus begitu, sebab hak beliau bercakap ada. Juga, hak beliau sebagai timbalan presiden parti. Begitulah.

Apa jalan terbaik untuk UMNO sekarang?

Saya kira dalam keadaan sekarang kita mesti merapatkan barisan yang dilakukan presiden dan timbalan presiden. Dan sebagai presiden dan timbalan presiden, mereka mestilah membuat sesuatu yang rasional sebab banyak lagi bahagian belum mesyuarat sekarang. Salah faham prejudis banyak dibawa dalam mesyuarat perwakilan bahagian dan tidak harus berkata oh! tidak ada apa-apa. Semuanya akan baik. Orang yang bercakap begitu saya anggap tidak realistik. Sebenarnya keadaan sekarang agar kucar kacir di bawah.

Jadi, orang yang nak seronok menyedapkan hati presiden mungkin beri yang cantik sahaja sedangkan presiden harus menerima laporan sebenar di bawah. Dan dengan itu kaedah merapatkan presiden dan timbalan presiden harus dibuat. Ini banyak terserah kepada presiden untuk melakukannya dengan sebahagian sudah diberi kepada beliau.

Malah, saya yakin Tan Sri Muh­yiddin tidak akan menolak sekiranya dipanggil untuk berunding secara terbaik. Oleh yang demikian, kata-kata menuduh ada ahli Parlimen UMNO dan BN yang bersekongkol dengan ahli pembangkang, ini mesti diteliti dan diperiksa dahulu.

Kalau kita tidak percaya kepada mereka, mereka harus dipanggil. Itu adalah satu cara untuk meredakan. Saya yakin pembangkang tidak akan berjaya. Dengan pendekatan itu, isu-isu yang dibangkitkan oleh Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, oleh Timbalan Presiden, Naib Presiden, Datuk Seri Mohd. Shafie Apdal dan lain-lain dapat diberikan penjelasan. Presiden sudah beri penjelasan namun dalam keadaan sekarang ini perlu ambil pendekatan terbaik.

Jadi, pilihan raya adalah proses terbaik kalau ada tidak berpuas hati?

Mungkin benar (keputusan) melewatkan pemilihan parti walaupun ada pihak sekarang merasakan apa yang harus ditakutkan dan tidak perlu tangguhkan setahun lapan bulan atau 18 bulan.

Cuma, saya fikir harus pada masa setahun setengah ini memang agak lama kalau tidak pandai mengendalikan isu-isu ini yang mungkin akan jadi faktor-faktor yang menyusahkan presiden juga. Sedangkan sekarang sekiranya ada pemilihan, kalau rundingan dengan timbalan presiden molek, presiden tidak jadi hal.

Tetapi sekiranya langsung tidak ada perjumpaan, maka keintiman itu mesti diwujudkan sebelum mesyuarat Majlis Tertinggi UMNO akan datang. Ini pandangan saya sebagai orang lama yang melihat situasi dari luar. Dan akhir sekali, kita mesti beri ruang kepada Presiden untuk supaya mengatasi isu-isu ekonomi serta keretakan dalam parti selain isu kehidupan. Kalau tidak, terlampau banyak tenaga beliau habiskan semata-mata ingin menyelamatkan politik semasa. Undang-undang harus terus berjalan dan kepentingan kehidupan rakyat mesti diteruskan. - Utusan Malaysia Rencana 21 Ogos 2015 1:26 AM

Pursuing English proficiency

A FLAWED rationale or is it unpreparedness of the system that has caused the compulsory requirement of a pass in English at Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia in 2016 to be postponed?

The practical exams for science, too, is to be postponed to a later date because the laboratory facilities in schools are inadequate. What these postponements smack of is incompetence on the part of policymakers and implementers.

For, the assumption is that a time table must have been considered before dates are announced. Inadequacy of facilities and teaching staff is surely not an arbitrary occurrence that cannot be forecasted.

For example, it has long been understood that there is a shortfall of proficient English Language teachers and to overcome this, teachers from English speaking countries were brought in. What happened to them? Were the numbers brought in too small?

Because if that move had been implemented properly, the problem should have long been addressed.

Instead the public is now told that neither the students nor the teachers are ready. There can be no claims of ignorance. How is it possible then that there is a mismatch between policy roll out and its timeline?

One would have thought that with all the fanfare that went with the launch of the National Education Blueprint in 2013 — and with the decision by the ministry, barely a year ago, to make English a compulsory pass subject from next year — everything had been thought through carefully given the importance of the objectives: to provide quality education in line with international benchmarks.

The clarion call was to bring about an education system that produces the human capital necessary to place the country on par with that of the developed nations.

As a result of the postponement, the stated objectives will be delayed in an area of national concern. That English is almost a global lingua franca is a given and the importance of being proficient in the language should not be understated.

Communicating between people of different nationalities, including those whose mother tongue is not English, is for the most part done in English irrespective of where they find themselves. In the world of commerce this reality is even more acute.

A command of English by Malaysians would give them an edge with respect to employment opportunities, whether at home or abroad.

This is already a fact with companies preferring employees who are fluent in English and have good communication skills. A survey a few years ago by the Malaysian Employers Federation revealed that 60 per cent of its members identified poor English proficiency as the main problem with school leavers seeking employment.

The federation said the inability to converse in the language, even among SPM holders who had a grade A or B for English, was a common complaint among its members.

For business people the ability to communicate clearly, in a language all negotiating parties understand, facilitates negotiations, thus helping to procure projects, contracts and trade. So why the policy and the ease with which it is being postponed?

Malaysia needs an approach to education that is stable, not one that vacillates between one political whim and another. NST Opinions 21 August 2015

It’s in our hands

I WRITE with sadness after reading your report “Compulsory English pass in SPM postponed” (NST, Aug 20), which details that the compulsory pass for English and Science practical exam for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia have been put on hold.

Firstly, the English compulsory pass was mooted two years ago by our then education minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. As for the Science practical exam, it has been in the pipeline since 1½ years ago.

Now, we are back to square one but worse since the students and teachers who had been preparing for both the English compulsory pass and Science practical exam will now just have to pull the handbrakes and change tack.

In fairness, let us see the reasons given. For postponing the compulsory pass in English, the reason given was to “allow teachers and students to have more time and opportunity to prepare”.

For postponing the Science practical exam, it was “to make sure that all the science labs in schools nationwide are fully equipped and up to standard”.

Now, I am not an English person but I am a man of Science. So, I shall leave the English part to my fellow esteemed but equally concerned proponents of good education.

Presently, SPM Science students, which include the subjects Biology, Chemistry, Physics and General Science, sit three papers in November every year.

Paper 1 is objective, multiple choice questions or MCQ. Paper 2 is structure and essay. Paper 3 is the practical paper but this is a misnomer as there is no practical done.

Instead, Paper 3 students are given pictures of lab apparatus and their “readings”. Students then read the “readings” as if they are in the lab and then proceed to answer questions related to the “experiment”.

This system was in place for 10 years from 2003 to 2013.

Then, someone in the Education Ministry (MOE) realised its shortcomings, which was that it grossly incapacitated the Science students’ capabilities when they enter colleges or universities.

You see, without hands-on handling of test tubes, chemicals, vernier calipers or even microscopes, an average student will struggle in a science course at higher levels.

Hence, the plan to reintroduce the practical exam as was the norm for many of us who grew up in the 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s.

I agree that this venture would require schools labs to be adequately equipped.

Unfortunately, I believe that after an audit was done by MOE officers, the conclusion would rightly be that many schools in the country did not have adequately equipped labs. A sad fact but true.

Hence, the decision made to postpone this practical exam as logically so.

Nevertheless, I wish to argue on a different platform. Firstly, let’s get our batches right. This decision affects Form 4 students sitting SPM next year,

But do you know that Form 5 students who are sitting SPM this year also faced similar predicament last year? Yes, the present Form 5 science and pure science students were informed that there will not be Paper 3.

I could hear the “Yahoo!” and “Whoopie!” from all parties. Then, the students looked forward to preparing for the practical exam for the whole of 2014 with zero regard for Paper 3 since it was done away with.

Sadly, in March this year, an MOE circular came out saying “minta maaf” (sorry), the Science practical exam cannot be implemented and would be postponed to 2016, thus affecting this year’s Form 4 students.

So, these students have been told that there is no Paper 3 — until today, when they are informed otherwise. I am as distraught as many students, teachers and parents.

Yet, I am not surprised. I have two questions to ask: why were school labs nationwide allowed to deteriorate from 2002 until today, to the point where they are grossly inadequate to host a science practical exam?

If ever we implement the “fully equipped and up-to-standard” labs, do we have the right personnel to source the equipment and eventually know-how to use them?

Trust me, you can have lab assistants today who are unaware why we store sodium in paraffin and not water.

That was how the Tianjin explosion happened. Firemen unwittingly sprayed water on chemicals that were highly exothermic when they came into contact with water.

Anyway, that is a different story altogether. The state of education in our beloved country is grim. Will things improve?

Only time will tell and only us, the people, can enact a change. Boo Soon Yew, Georgetown NST Opinion 21 August 2015

Nurturing unity in the school system

MILLIONS of Malaysians have university degrees in relevant fields. All ethnic communities have passion for education except that some emphasise on secular and others on religious education.

That there are excellent and talented people shows that the system has been successful in many ways. By the thousands, Malaysian students do well in foreign universities.

It is assumed that the study and award of a degree marks a level of thinking beyond those who do not spend more than 10,000 hours mastering a discipline.

However, it would seem that in matters of race, religion, language, politics or ideology, the academic processes of objectivity do not exercise positive interventionist roles.

Educated people are not broadly educated in all fields. Legal, spiritual, literary, scientific-technological literacies are not mastered to a higher level enough to ensure objectivity in dealing with matters of race, religion, language and ideology, where primordial instincts and forces still reign.

With all the efforts and resources invested, it would seem that as a whole, the education system loses out to the negative messages by the mass media, particularly, negative messages from irresponsible leaders who pay lip service to national unity in their rhetoric but uphold values which transgress the principles of basic rights and other significant elements which nurture authentic national unity.

Positive national messages from schools compete endlessly with negative messages of disunity from families, communities, politics and mass media.

There is no choice. Education must win. When we examine what is in place for the building of a united nation from our multiracial society we note the following:

COMMON set of overarching national codes, such as Negaraku, Rukun Negara, Malaysian Educational Philosophy, National Integrity Pledge and various Educational Development Plans;

COMMON universal values;

COMMON national language;

COMMON international language — English;

COMMON core curriculum;

COMMON textbooks;

COMMON quality control protocols and common pursuits for excellence;

COMMON professional and management circulars;

COMMON public examinations system;

COMMON school sports meet;

COMMON teacher education (pre- and in-service);

COMMON educational leadership and governance frameworks;

COMMON school holidays;

COMMON code of discipline;

COMMON awareness raising of the importance and opportunities of vocational technical education;

COMMON agenda for knowledge information technology literacies; and,

COMMON shadow education — tuition, extra classes, examination frenzy in the culture.

Beyond secondary schools are realities in the world of work and in higher education institutions, which reinforce, and or reject many of the important matters achieved through the school system.

Detractors find all kinds of reasons to reject and discredit the good done by the national school system. The detractors are from religious or language pressure groups, political pressure groups, even business pressure groups.

Typically, detractors have tendencies towards supremacist ideologies, religious bigotry, racial zealots, people with vested personal interests, sometimes, even simply anarchists for, from their perspectives, nothing good or right is happening in the education system or in schools.

Professional non-governmental organisations and Parent Teachers Associations (PIBG) typically have the agenda in the interests of the students and the immediate communities.

Usually, rational criticisms have to do with finetuning the policies and practices in existence, or promoting new policies and practices not yet considered, or even reviving old policies and practices considered relevant and beneficial for the present generations.

If students succeed, it is the alignment of the efforts put in by the students, teachers, principals, parents, school board-PIBG and education system leaders.

If students fail to succeed, it is the misalignment and derailment of inspiration and hope, efforts and resources, and it is because of poor leadership across all levels, which cause wastefulness and efforts in vain.

Chew Tow Yow, in his doctoral thesis, wrote about the necessity for alignment of the formal curriculum, the instructional curriculum, the operational curriculum and the experiential curriculum.

The formal curriculum is the document issued by the Education Ministry regarding the syllabuses for the school system. The instructional curriculum is the interpretation of the teacher of the objectives and contents of any particular syllabuses.

The operational curriculum is the implementation of the course, whether in the morning or afternoon, in air-conditioned or non air- conditioned room, in or outside the classroom and the pedagogies used, as well as strategies for motivating students.

The experiential curriculum is what each student takes away from the learning experiences and how they construct the relevance of knowledge and sharpen their minds for the future, from what has been learned.

The challenge of all good teachers is to ensure that learners take away positive learning experiences that they can use throughout their lives. Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid NST Opinion 21 August 2015

English is a necessity

I REFER to the article “Malaysians need to master English, says Dr M” (The Star, Aug 11).

This advice coming from an elder statesman is certainly a timely reminder to all, especially the younger generation.

Among others, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad advised Malaysian students to master English, especially in Science and Mathematics, or risk being left behind due to a poor command of the language.

In a fast developing and borderless world, a common medium of communication is vital. Not surprisingly, because of its widespread usage and acceptance, English stands out as an important medium. It facilitates communication, thus making it easy for two parties to engage in a dialogue effectively.

Businesses involve transactions, both local and international, across borders and cultures, and the communication, in most cases, is in English.

Failing to master this language may mean a loss in business or failure to secure projects and international joint ventures.

The world is in a race and it’s not seasonal, unlike the Olympics that comes once in four years. It’s an ongoing race. Just like only the fit and disciplined athlete will succeed in a race, only nations who are focussed and disciplined will excel on the global stage.

Look around you, and you will be able to identify the nations which lead the pack today, and probably lead in the future too. These countries seem to have a formula for success.

Countries like Japan which have steadfastly placed their national language at the forefront in international trade and transactions over the years, have begun to master English, alongside Japanese, as a means of communication.

India alone is home to scores of native languages but English is taught in almost all schools nationwide.

Similarly, in Malaysia, English is taught as a second or third language from primary to secondary education. In short, by mastering English, you will not be handicapped. You will be well-equipped to keep track of developments around you and compete evenly on the global stage.

Technology advancements, in­ventions and discoveries, extensive research and development in various fields are almost certainly documented in English. No amount of translation, no matter how rapid, will be able to cope with the influx of newfound information, knowledge and technology.

By the time these printed materials are translated, some of the information in them may be obsolete. In other words, in order to remain relevant and on par, it has to be understood in English.

Having said that, I’m not negating the role and significance of other international languages like Mandarin or French. It boils down to need and urgency. I will not hesitate to learn Mandarin if I want to open up a factory in Shanghai or learn French if I want to invest in Paris.

It is always an advantage to communicate in more than one language, especially if one is engaged in business and trade, or the job requires communicating with customers, or simply travelling. It saves you time, energy and frustration. There is no need to hire interpreters or experts in individual languages or invest in bilingual dictionaries.

I recall reading a cartoon strip depicting a cat and its litter at the mercy of a few wild dogs. Having nowhere to run, the cat lets out a scream “Woof! Woof!” The dogs, upon hearing this, just turned and walked away. The cat turns to its litter and boasts, “See the advantage of speaking a second language!”

Having highlighted the importance of mastering English, a pertinent point to note is that it must not come at the expense of your mother tongue. Be proud of your mother tongue as your heritage, identity, culture, traditions and religious beliefs are closely associated to it.

Simply put, mastering English is a necessity. Mastering it alongside your mother tongue will give you the best of both worlds. Jaginder SIngh Batu Gajah The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 21 August 2015