Nurture young minds

I RECENTLY witnessed my nephew being enrolled at a primary school. Everything went smoothly until a teacher announced a little "bombshell".

The teacher informed my sister that her son has to be present at an extra language class on Arabic. The teacher explained that the teaching of this language was "gazetted" by the Education Ministry, and all government primary schools have to abide by this.

A language learnt should serve the purpose and the interest of all within the community. This is not the case here. Or a new language learnt should serve us well in our working lives.

Mandarin would be an ideal choice. What economic benefit does Arabic serve most of us in multi-cultural Malaysia, unless the Middle East is our choice of destination for studies or work? But if working in the petroleum industry could be one of the answers, think again! Going forward, with the current scenario of the oil and gas industry, even oil rich countries would be reining in their dependence on foreign labour.

I explained to the teacher the other pupils make a negligible portion of the class, sometimes only one; engaging another language teacher may not be cost effective. This being the case, the other pupils should perhaps be allowed to go the library to do their homework, or read. Teaching and engaging young pupils via "read and share" sessions would inculcate better reading habits, resulting in better thinkers. This is widely practised in many developed nations, including Singapore.

But instead sending the child to the back of the class if the child is not interested in learning a new language is not a good thing. It shows disrespect to the others in the community – although this may not be the intention of such action. I was informed this practice has been ongoing for some time now, which I find unacceptable.

Instead of learning a new extra language, a better option for the all the pupils is civic studies, or learning about ethnic relations.

Changing the blueprint of education should also focus on building the wholesomeness of society, instead of purely learning a new language, that too not of their own volition and interest, but made to fit into the mainstream by sending the child to the back of the classroom. This does not augur well in the long run. Imagine this practice going on as a routine for six years of a pupil's life. Children should be shown and taught the right thing. Respect is one of them!

Dr Thanaseelen Rajasakran