I REFER to Datuk Dr Ananda Kumaraseri's comment piece "A cut above most schools" (NST, Oct 19) He was referring to the prestigious Malay College Kuala Kangsar. Victoria Institution and Penang Free School were mentioned by the writer too.
These schools were said to have produced "a rich harvest of luminaries". I cannot agree more because having taught in Victoria Institution for two decades, I know too well the many products of this premier school as their photos are exhibited in the "roll of honour" gallery and the school museum. Outstanding scholars and sportsmen did the school and nation proud.
However, here I would like to mention my alma mater, the humble Sultan Ismail College in Kota Baru, Kelantan, which has also produced outstanding civil servants, corporate figures and diplomats.
Among them are the mediator in the peace deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippines, Tengku Datuk Abdul Ghafar Muhammad, the Malaysian executive director of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Datuk Mohd Noor Yaacob (just retired) and Chief Justice Tun Ariffin Zakaria.
Upon reading the many accolades about the two diplomats who made headlines, I am duty-bound to highlight the low-profile college which has produced many high-profile yet humble public figures.
Sultan Ismail College, like Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Muar High School and many other premier schools in small towns, has played its role well.
These were all English-medium schools then and that explains how their products (with a high-level of English proficiency) could handle issues at international level brilliantly. The success of their diplomacy has got to do with the mastery of their field of work and the communication tool, that is English.
Nevertheless, I am not advocating that English-medium schools be re-introduced. Datuk Johan Jaaffar's "English can wait as nation-building takes hold" (NST, Oct 27 ) is a must-read.
In nation building, national language takes precedence above all else in Indonesia, and in Malaysia, it should be no different. However, we cannot expect the same formulae to be adopted in our country.
Indonesia has a different past, history and a homogeneous citizenry. They never had the Dutch language, let alone English, as the national language as the colonial master had a different policy altogether. The Dutch masters used Bahasa Indonesia in ruling the country for reasons they knew better. Malayans under the British had a different experience. We went to different schools by choice and English was taught in all schools. Those who went to English-medium schools had better job prospects and were more open in outlook. Today, to bring back English-medium schools would be turning back the clock and would not do justice to the independence achieved 55 years ago.
National schools with Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction have more than performed except that the lack of English language skills caused some consequences.
The implementation of PPSMI (Teaching of Maths and Science in English) added value to national schools as it was to serve the purpose of strengthening the pursuit of knowledge in the sciences among the young generation as the country is moving towards achieving Vision 2020. In no way did it jeopardise the status of Bahasa Malaysia.
Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening the English Language (MBMMBI) should thus be implemented with full fervour and supported by all.
This does not mean that PPMSI cannot be re-introduced. The majority of the rakyat do not expect English-medium schools to be re-introduced. After all, the switch was inevitable, but what is so wrong about teaching the two subjects in English?
It could well kill two birds with one stone. As for English-medium schools pursued by some, I would think that it is a distant dream. When having teachers who are very competent in the English language is an issue today, it will be near impossible to have teachers teaching history, geography, living skills, etc, in English. Those who are from English-medium schools are all retired.
In nation building, we should uphold Bahasa Malaysia and at the same time, strengthen English language. Everyone has to make an effort to speak and write in either Bahasa or English well.
As a retiree, I will continue to do my part in nation building via the social media and by advising kin, ex-students and friends to mind our language. I am rather sentimental when it comes to the beautiful language of our forefathers and the acquired language the colonial master left us.
They left us a treasure of poetry, idioms, proverbs and all. Let us revive their usage in our interaction. Above all, use good Bahasa Malaysia and English as much as we can.
Maimun Hussin, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times Letters to the Editor Thursday, November 1, 2012