Of language and good morals

Sunday July 15, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/7/15/education/11638417&sec=education

THERE HAVE been various comments made on the teaching of Moral Studies in schools and institutes of higher learning which were published in StarEducate in the last two issues.

Students, lecturers and parents seem to be unhappy over the length of time they need to spend on memorising the list of moral values and then answering objective questions in examinations.

Let me point out that teaching Moral Studies without being proficient in the language it is taught in, would be of little use.

Every language has its form and functions, and there are appropriate words or terms used for certain situations as in the phrase “Thank you” in appreciation of a kind gesture or gift.

T.J. Phang in his letter (under the heading “Give Science students a break”, July 1) had stated “grateful” was no longer considered a moral value in upper secondary school.

Although the writer does not clearly say whether the term has been taken away from the syllabus or simply modified, it is still possible to make a parallel with the language.

Gratitude

In English, it is polite to say “thank you” when someone does something for you. And the standard reply is “you are welcome”.

Both phrases imply gratitude. To say “thank you” means that the speaker acknowledges and is grateful for an action or good deed.

When one answers “you are welcome” it means that you are grateful for having had the opportunity to do the good deed. There are other possible answers to “thank you” such as “my pleasure”, “don’t mention it”, or even “anytime”.

However in this situation “you are welcome” is perhaps the best answer because it is appropriate and complete. When language competency is tested in a multiple choice question test, there is only one correct answer.

This is again very well demonstrated in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) where the reply to the term terima kasih (thank you) is sama-sama.

Certainly, a BM speaker must wonder why there are more possibilities in English when there is only one answer in BM.

This is why we need to simplify terms for all to understand and the task of simplifying and presenting such terms can only be carried out by a competent teacher.

Basic manners

Teaching students to say “you are welcome” after every “thank you”, are lessons taught for one to learn and acquire basic manners. Those who apply such values will be appreciated and are certianly a cut above the rest. In my opinion, the fact that students are expected to take up some form of “Moral” studies even at tertiary level is to inculcate universally-accepted values that are understood by people of all faiths and from different countries.

The government is no doubt concerned that students must conduct themselves in accordance with the rule of law, for peace and harmony to be maintained. And for this, the Malaysian government stands apart and is to be highly commended.

In many developed countries, religion is no longer taught in school. In Malaysia, Moral Studies substitutes religion for all non-Muslim students.

We see the decadence and desperation of the West because of the lack of morals and religion. It is evident that the government does not want this to happen in Malaysia.

Perhaps scientists can overlook the need to study morals, but they are necessary on a day-to-day basis and for social interaction. Ultimately, I believe the effort the government has made in upholding Moral Studies in schools despite such strong resistance, is worthwhile.

MARISA DEMORI

Via e-mail