Saturday, February 19, 2011

Math and science

Looks like even the President of the (still) most powerful and most advanced nation in the world recognises the need to have better education in math and science to ensure that the United States are ahead of the pack in this competitive world (read story below).

Note that there is no debate in the US over whether to teach math and science in English or some other language. One can argue that the situation in America is different since all Americans speak only English whereas in Malaysia Bahasa Malaysia or the Malay language is the national language and English is the former colonial power's tongue and thus the policy to revert back to using Malay as the medium of instruction for science and math is justified, at least from the perspective of nationalism.

However, the point is that advances in science and math do not emerge from countries like Malaysia. Paradigm shifts in knowledge and invention take place in the West and English is the lingua franca of these vital developments.

Students from non-English speaking nations like China, South Korea and Japan work hard to learn English so that they can catch up with the West in science and technology, but in Malaysia issues of language and culture are more important and politicians are guided by expediency rather than pragmatism. It matters not if Malaysia lags far behind other Asian nations in science, math and technology as long as the Malays are happy that their language is used for teaching these subjects, and as long as Umno, the political party that draws its support from the Malays, remains in power.

And who are the losers? Malaysia and Malaysians.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says better education in math and science is critical to pushing the U.S. forward in the global competition for innovation and jobs, and he wants the private sector to get involved in making it happen.

Obama recorded his weekly radio and Internet address during a visit this week to Intel Corp. outside of Portland, Oregon. He praised the company Saturday for making a 10-year, $200 million commitment to promote math and science education - and held it up as an example of how corporate America can make money at the same time it builds the country.

"Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete - that instead of just being a nation that buys what's made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe," Obama said. "Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector. But it's also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business."

Obama's West Coast swing, which also included a dinner with big names in California's Silicon Valley including Apple's Steve Jobs and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, was part of his push to promote a budget proposal that increases spending in targeted areas like education, research and development and high-speed Internet, while cutting in other areas. Republicans newly in control of the House are pushing much deeper cuts and resisting new spending.

The Republican is also taking Obama to task for avoiding significant changes to the biggest budget busters: the federal entitlement programs Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In the Republicans' weekly radio address, Rep. Tom Price trumpeted the Republican push to cut $60 billion from the current fiscal year budget and promised a 2012 budget proposal that, unlike Obama's, offers "real entitlement reform."

"Our reforms will focus both on saving these programs for current and future generations of Americans and on getting our debt under control and our economy growing," Price said. "By taking critical steps forward now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement."

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