Everybody has been talking about the decision the June 07 batch took in changing subject from English A1 to Malay A1, but so far there’s only one post written about it, by Anis Azmani. Any exchange of opinion between the two batches is therefore rather limited, and I think this should not be the case. This post is an attempt to bridge that gap, to offer some genuine and honest opinion, and it is my hope that the opinions presented will be accepted with open heart and mind and maturity that should accompany such issue. I don’t expect any flaming posts and exchange of hatred messages between the two batches, for it is never the purpose of this writing, nor does it reflect the maturity to do so, much less the professionalism that should exist in each of us.

Having said that, I would begin the post by saying that the Jan 07 batch generally all disagree with the decision, and though me myself share the same opinion, I’ll try to be as objective as possible in this post.

Most of us in the Jan 07 batch do not have anything against taking Malay A1 instead of English A1. We have a lot of friends in KMB taking Malay A1, and we don’t think we are any better than them in that regard. What we disagree with is the time when the change is made. It is already the end of the third semester for the June 07 batch, and changing from English A1 to Malay A1 at this time of the course would mean having to redo all the Internal Assessments (which include Individual Oral Commentary, Individual Oral Presentation), reading all the new books (which is quite a lot, really), learning all the new methods specific to Malay A1, and re-learning about the accurate structure and grammar of the language, among others. And all these have to be done within the 6 months or so that is left between now and the final IB exam in May.

Plus they have other subjects to improve on, which is in my opinion would require a lot of work and time allocated to them. Even us the Jan 07 batch, who are relatively OK with the other subjects compared to them have to really struggle to improve ourselves. Imagine having to do all that with the burden of having to re-do the whole language A1 course. Perhaps that’s why Mr Lawrence calls the change as a suicidal package instead of a rescue package. In your effort to chase for a 6 or a 7 in language A1, you risk causing your other subjects to drop from 7 or 6 to 5 or 4. I am not looking down at them in making these comments, but speak rather from my own opinion. Most of us in the Jan 07 batch does not feel secure with our exams even when we spend relatively a lot of time concentrating on other subjects while leaving English A1 with a relatively much less effort.

This is our real concern, and we have these opinions because we are somehow actually concerned about our friends in the June 07 batch. It is not my intention to brag or to look down on them, but to share my concern and hope that somehow you could think better of the decision, if anything can still be done.

Another reason why we disagree is that we really don’t see any valid reason for the change that is worth the risk. Anis talked about giving priority in learning our own mother tongue instead of a foreign language, for by doing so we will learn about our own culture and heritage. In his aptly titled post, “English A1 versus Malay A1”, he questions the position of Malay language with regard to English according to those who take English A1 instead of Malay A1, that somehow we think Malay is of lower status than English. He also mentions about the benefits of learning Malay A1 instead of English A1, that by doing so we will be able to learn more deeply about our own society and our heritage, instead of learning about the culture and heritage of other people. He also talks about learning the societal structure and sociocultural elements of our own society as the benefits.

Well, for starters, I would like to repeat again that our stance in this matter is not because we are preferring one language over the other. Never have we said that the Malay language is of a lower status than the English language. Again, we have nothing against those taking Malay A1. It is not about English versus Malay, never has been. Our only disagreement lies with the fact that they are changing the subject now, at this critical period when there is so much to do and so much to improve on. Had they made the decision during the first semester or even the second semester, we wouldn’t have disagreed so much. This same argument could invalidate all the other arguments Anis presented in that post. If really they are changing the subject because they would rather learn Malay culture, societal structure, and sociocultural elements, then why do it now? Why not change the subject earlier, when such change would not affect them so much?

The point about learning our own culture, societal structure and sociocultural elements can also be invalidated. As Siang Hang pointed out, even in English A1, we learn literary works from other cultures, including the book Salina by A. Samad Said, translated into English. True, a lot may be lost in translation. But by taking Malay A1, the books that they will learn will be from various cultures too, for it is the structure of the Language A1 course to include World Literature works. In KMB, the books they learn include the translated version of Things Fall Apart, written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe about the invasion of culture in the lower Niger. Obviously they will not entirely learn about our own culture, societal structure, and sociocultural elements. Even in English A1 we learn about our own culture, societal structure and sociocultural elements through the translated version of Salina.

So what is their actual reason and motivation behind changing the subject from English A1 to Malay A1? One of them told me that the universities in the US (where they are going) require their English result to be at least 5. This is, to me, the only valid reason to support the change, though I don’t know if the universities mean 5 for for all English subjects including English A1 without any distinction with the other English subjects, such as English A2 and English B, where huge disparity in difficulty exists. But even this is not mentioned in Anis’s post, so I presume that not all of them have this reason as the main motivator behind changing the subject (though this may be a premature assumption, as it is based upon just one blog post from one person).

Is there then any other reason apart from university concern? I call upon you to really ask yourselves, why take the change? Are you really honestly, genuinely interested in learning Malay A1 instead of English A1, or are you merely following certain figures among you who champion the change and just follow the crowd? Is the act really an act in the interest of your own future, or is it merely finding an easy way out? With all the extra burden that will be heaped on you and all the other subjects that you really need to improve still, do you really think the risk is worth it, or are you merely too intimidated to speak out against the more vocal among you?

If your honest and genuine answers to all my questions above are the first options, then I will have no issue with your choice. To each his own. But if your answers are the second options, then I ask you really to reconsider, to think again, will this change really benefit you in the end?

Update: Replies have been written to this post by Anis, Irfan, and Sofia.