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Archive for December 6th, 2009

The Ridhuan Tee in Khoo Kay Kim

Of Chinese Schools and Copycats: The Racist History of a History Prof

Below, China Press report picked up from Reuters, and thus spake Khoo Kay Kim:

死背沒創意不值得取經

華小只出抄襲人才

他說,華小的教學制度,製造了一批批專門“抄襲”的畢業生,他們厲害之處,不外是將口袋式的牛津字典生詞,背個滾瓜爛熟。

“這批學生缺乏創意。請看看本地的華校子弟,有多少個是知名的科學家,或會研發產品?”

[In translation…]

Headline:

Rote learning stifles creativity, knowledge progress

Chinese primaries are mere copycats

The two key passages:

He (Khoo Kay Kim) said teaching in the Chinese schools system produces classes of graduates dedicated to plagiarism, awesome in this respect, but are nothing more than an Oxford dictionary pocket issue trawled inside out.

“These students have no creativity. Look at the Chinese school children, how many are famous scientists or can innovate on products?”

(By the same token: “Look at the Manglish school children, how many are famous scientists or can innovate on products?”)

In tone and in substance, Khoo Kay Kim speaks like a janitor, spending his entire career scrubbing toilet bowls, bitter at the world for his third-rate mind, and he then goes around looking for someone or some people to blame.

Still, to answer his question, using a sample list:

Famous scientist from Chinese schools:

  • Yang Zhenning, Nobel Physics Prize (for particle physics), 1957, born Anhui, studied in Beijing, able to recite to Khoo (who will not understand) nearly the entire text of Mengzi (孟子) from memory;
  • Tsui Chee, Nobel Physics Prize (for quantum mechanics), 1998, born Henan, rote learned Chinese classics, attended Pui Ching school, and migrated to Taiwan;
  • Kao Kuen, Nobel Physics Prize (fibre optics), 2009, born Shanghai, studied Chinese classics by rote learning, taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

As to product innovators, consider:

  • Lim Goh Tong, born Fujian, creator of Genting, and speaks no English;
  • Li Ka-shing, speaking worse than Manglish but owns Canada’s Husky Oil,
  • Taiwanese Chang Yung-fa, speaking no English, founder Evergreen Group which literally invented container box shipping in Asia.

When Khoo Kay Kim declares that the Chinese education system in Malaysia produces “copycat” students (because of rote learning), the statement is not an opinion. That judgement, his conclusion, has either to be true or false. It is either an objective, verifiable fact or it is not. There is nothing in between because to call someone a copycat is to say that he copies, he plagiarizes, for he is incapable of sound or innovative thinking. In short, the copycat is stupid.

So how does Khoo, who has never for a single day sat in a Chinese school, know that it produces copycats? Reuters has much to answer for this because they asked for Khoo’s judgement, and on what credentials?

(In July when the government announced that science and maths would give up English as a language medium and revert to mother tongue, this is what Reuter’s reporter David Chance wrote: “Neighbouring Singapore split from becoming part of Malaysia and retained English as the primary language of education. The city state has emerged as one of the richest nations on earth with a per capita income of $51,649 in 2008 while Malaysia’s is $14,225, based on 2008 data.” Chance says nothing of Japan, wealthier than Singapore and uses no English, while the Philippines, four times poorer than Malaysia, is full of English speaking nannies and servants that it exports.)

This is the sort of imbecile intellect produced by the Anglo-Saxon education system, with reporting that is repeated and copied in the Utusan, Star, Malaysiakini and so on. Khoo is asked for his judgement because he is teacher of history and he is Chinese, as if skin colour and English and Malay language competency makes him an expert on education, and Chinese education at that. Regardless….

To be considered true that Chinese classes produce copycats Khoo has to arrive at the judgement either by observation with logical reasoning or by evidential fact. The first is easy and straightforward.

Malaysia, as late as the 1970s, has four language types of education. Now it is down to three. If Chinese education produces copycats, another system must be producing great innovators. Which is, any or all of the three – Malay or Tamil or English? Who are these great thinkers, great business innovators from the Malay or English schools? Who? Mahathir Mohamad? Or, Khoo Kay Kim himself (he pats himself on the shoulders)?

Here is the second method to see if what Khoo says is true or false, that is by evidential fact. Before that, there is a preceding question. When is a person a copycat and when not? One obvious way is to test the person’s literacy. But test what? How about science and mathematics because those are Khoo’s criteria for calling Chinese language graduates stupid. More to the point, the subjects require strong analytical skills in reasoning (deduction and induction) and logical thought (stringing together a coherent idea from disparate facts or quantities).

In the club of the richest, most scientifically advanced and developed countries known as the OECD, they conduct a periodic assessment into how well they teach their students. This is not good enough when  you test your name’s sake because there’s no benchmarking. Hence, they took their assessment worldwide, and this is named the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA – What is PISA?).

PISA uses the same OECD questions but in different languages to test individual students mostly age 15 because that is the end of the compulsory education for most countries. Age 15 education varies among countries but it is at the end of Form Three or Level Three Secondary in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. The assessment is done every three years, each time testing between 4,500 to 10,000 students per country, depending on participation levels and population size. The first global testing was in 2000, followed in 2003 and in 2006 when 57 countries took part (Malaysia did not). Recall that testing is uniform on three levels of literacy in mathematics, science and reading.

Here are the PISA 2006 partial results, released in 2008, in ranked order of 57 countries using mean scores from the test:

Science/Mean Score

Maths/Mean Score

Reading/Mean Score

Finland 563

Chinese Taipei 549

Korea 556

HK-China 542

Finland 548

Finland 547

Canada 534

HK-China 547

HK-China 536

Chinese Taipei 532

Korea 547

Canada 527

Estonia 531

Netherlands 531

New Zealand 521

Japan 531

Switzerland 530

Ireland 517

New Zealand 530

Canada 527

Australia 513

Australia 527

Macao-China 525

Liechtenstein 510

Netherlands 525

Liechtenstein 525

Poland 508

Liechtenstein 522

Japan 523

Sweden 507

Korea 522

New Zealand 522

Netherlands 507

Slovenia 519

Belgium 520

Belgium 501

Germany 516

Australia 520

Estonia 501

United Kingdom 515

Estonia 515

Switzerland 499

Czech Republic 513

Denmark 513

Japan 498

Switzerland 512

Czech Republic 510

Chinese Taipei 496

Sweden 503

Ireland 501

OECD average 492

OECD average 500

OECD average 498

Austria 490

Note especially Malaysia’s near and far neighbours clustered above the OECD averages, Japan and Korea, but in particular Hong Kong and Taiwan. Note also the absence of the US and Indonesia, which also participated, and the UK, birthplace of the English school system in Malaysia. Excepting for science, UK student reading and maths literacy is in the bottom half, below OECD average, while Indonesia is as close to the bottom of the pile as it can get in all three categories. (The original 2006 PISA report, executive summary, website contents ).

Taiwan – No 1 in Maths and No 4 in Science – is particularly noteworthy for Malaysia where local Chinese schools are modeled after Taiwan’s. Why? Because most Chinese school graduates, denied admission to Malaysian and equivalent Anglo-Saxon universities, have, until recent years, only Taiwan, identical, cheap and accessible, to get a tertiary education.

Hong Kong is a more interesting case to see if Chinese education produces copycats. It has two language streams of education, two-thirds in Chinese and the rest, a legacy of the colonialism, in English. Of about 5,000 students who took part in Hong Kong, they split the results farther, separating those from the English and Chinese language mediums. The Chinese schools scored higher in all the subjects, in science, maths and reading literacy. This is to also say the English schools brought down the Hong Kong mean score (Hong Kong executive summary report, in English).

Here then is the last question to answer: how are students taught in Chinese schools in Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong? Khoo, again for a man who has never stepped into such a classroom, says the schools adopt rote learning, that is, they use little or nothing else except strict memorization. This is a popular, and common, Malaysian Anglophile and Western perception, when in passing Chinese schools they hear students reading aloud from some text.

This view has two interconnected assumptions – how Anglophiles such as Thomas Lee (heaven forbids, another journalist) arrived at them belies understanding, so that says much about the idiot quality of high school graduates delivered by the St John’s and St Xavier’s.

One assumption equates reading aloud, which is recitation, to rote learning. The other assumption is that rote learning, by which they mean committing text to memory, will produce idiots. This is akin to the astonishingly perverse conclusion made by one minister who says that Malaysians should eat more seafood because it makes a person brainy. He goes on to cite examples of North Sea countries and Japan but ignores Fiji, Vanuatu and the likes that are belly full of fish guts. And, it is also akin to the David Chance of Reuters implying that English made Singapore rich, yet the poorer Malaysia wants to abandon English.

Back to Chinese schools … what do Chinese students recite? And, on what subject? Why does Chinese language learning begins with recitation? Why is recitation necessary and is used as early as the Tang dynasty, 1,500 years ago? Do the schools use recitation in all subjects, maths and science especially? And, besides, what’s wrong with committing text to memory? In maths, multiplication tables are committed to memory for the reason a single principle in multiplication governs the entire table so there is no necessity to repeat why the answers to 2 x 2 and 25 x 25 are derived from the same principle.

No answers will be provided to those questions (why make wise the idiots?). They are asked merely to suggest that it behooves on Khoo Kay Kim to investigate farther, as did the Ministry of Education with its proposal to upgrade the standards of primary teaching nation-wide and across all languages. No, instead, Khoo Kay Kim draws on his taximan’s view of what goes on into Chinese education. So it is not just that he is wrong, fallacious and false in his judgement, but why?

For that question, we have to go back to Khoo’s personality and background, that is, his motivation. On Chinese education, he has rarely, if ever, uttered an academically impartial or even a mildly interested view of examining the nature and the qualities of Chinese education. Rather, everything he has said on the matter has been deliberately vile; before, he would say it is inferior and now he says it is stupid. Why?

Who knows? Perhaps, as a child he was taunted in school, almost certainly in the St John’s or St Xavier’s environment, being labeled a Chinaman kid. Then, at home his mother beat him up so badly that, ultimately, he turned against the motherland – the language, the schools, the culture – blaming it for his humdrum life and banal sufferings.

In the Anglo-Saxon culture and language, however, he saw a halo instead and, better yet, in it a method to repudiate his ethnicity and to spit on his forefathers in contradiction to the Chinese notion, as well as other cultures, that the ancestors are the only available source of comfort and values. Beside, where else does one find fertile ground for beating up on the Chinese; in Malaysia it is a national hobby and a political profession. Thus, against a dominant Malay polity, Khoo Kay Kim found the Chinese easy to pick on. He wouldn’t dare say the same thing of the Malay language schools.

Like the Thomas Lees of The Star, the Nathaniel Tans and the Siew Engs of Malaysiakini, Khoo’s St Xavier type education and personal prejudices helped convert him to the cause of Sinophobic racism – yellow on the outside, white on the inside, wherein everything about the Chinaman is stupid, the English-educated class is clever. Khoo Kay Kim may not have graduated as a copycat but the Manglish schools in Malaysia churn out imbeciles by the tons. And in him is exemplary proof.

His personal past is of no importance to society, of course. The larger consequences arise once he gives interviews (he fits the Reuters, Anglophile agenda so neatly), sits on the human rights commission named Suhakam and when he teaches. Imagine him as human rights commissioner answering a case involving Malays on the one side and Chinese on the other. Or, if he were teaching, imagine then yourself, say, Chinese from a Chinese school and he is grading. You’re finished. You see, Khoo is a Chinese version of Umno racism; he is the Ridhuan Tee without the Mohamed so that with him teaching it is small wonder the local universities are in such a bad shape: racism reinforced by imbecile professors. Or, imagine him as mentor to students; as the popular saying goes, may tian deliver us from the likes of him.

POSTSCRIPT

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Khoo Kay Kim are of the same generation, graduating from Singapore, learning English and growing  up with the same jaundiced view of the Chinese. Here, however, Lee confesses that in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s he, as prime minister, got wrong Singapore’s language policy that undermined the Chinese language. “But I will get it right if I live long enough,” he now says.

The prediction (cited here) is that Chinese language in SE Asia’s future will be, like English for British colonialism, riding on the backs of China’s economic advances and not as a cultural carrier. This view is, of course, erroneous; language in whatever circumstances and generation is always a carrier of culture. You have only to watch the antics of the Anglophiles, the Khoo Kay Kims and the Thomas Lees, for evidences in the influence of English on their thoughts and prejudices. In contradiction, see this in the life of one John Chen who makes taco for a living.

Science/Mean Score                Maths/Mean Score                        Reading/Mean Score

Finland 563                       Chinese Taipei 549                          Korea 556

Hong Kong-China 542                Finland 548                                        Finland 547 (2.1)

Canada 534                        Hong Kong-China 547                        Hong Kong-China 536

Chinese Taipei 532        Korea 547                                        Canada 527

Estonia 531                        Netherlands 531                              New Zealand 521

Japan 531                           Switzerland 530                                              Ireland 517 (3.5)

New Zealand 530        Canada 527                                        Australia 513

Australia 527                    Macao-China 525                           Liechtenstein 510

Netherlands 525                Liechtenstein 525                          Poland 508

Liechtenstein 522        Japan 523                                        Sweden 507

Korea 522                           New Zealand 522                       Netherlands 507

Slovenia 519                      Belgium 520                                   Belgium 501

Germany 516                    Australia 520                                   Estonia 501

United Kingdom 515                Estonia 515                                        Switzerland 499

Czech Republic 513                Denmark 513                                   Japan 498

Switzerland 512                        Czech Republic 510                     Chinese Taipei 496

Sweden 503                       Ireland 501                                        OECD average 492

OECD average 500 OECD average 498                         Austria 490

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