WHEN it comes to providing a sound education for the young, several ingredients must be present in order to achieve the desired results. Some of these key elements are enough teachers who have been given sufficient training to do a competent job, the relevant textbooks and other teaching aids.
The Government, in its efforts to promote the English language and to use it to teach Science and Mathematics, has set aside billions for this purpose over the next few years.
There is little argument that in terms of priority, the teachers will come out on top but without the proper tools, their contributions will be rather limited as they can only do so much on their own steam.
They will have to rely on suitable textbooks for themselves and their pupils who will find it easier to follow the lessons and also for doing their homework.
With the emphasis on the National Language in education, the Government has concentrated its resources on producing more such textbooks for the teachers and the pupils.
Understandably, there is little attention being paid to English textbooks and with the promotion of this international language, there is a serious shortage of such reading and reference materials.
Even with the use of computers, hundreds of thousands of Science and Mathematics as well as English textbooks will be needed by the pupils to study these subjects properly.
It is well and good for the suppliers to say that there are sufficient books available as supply is only one of the issues involved. A bigger question is pricing as such books are not cheap even if they should be printed locally due to the exchange rates.
Foreign books, for educational or reading purposes, have always been costly and well beyond the reach of those in the lower-income group. It is the biggest disincentive to encourage Malaysians to read more books.
To overcome this, the Education Ministry must source for more locally written textbooks, especially in Science and Mathematics. This is really not that difficult as there are many existing good ones by Malaysian authors.
Actually they are much better than those written by foreigners as they are entirely in tune with the local syllabus and so ideal for the ministry’s purpose.
Just a visit to the local bookshops will show the number of such books available.
Books on English and English literature are a different proposition and those by foreign authors and published by reputable international companies will still be the best in terms of content and language.
But there are also some good children's books by local authors and can be used for the primary classes. If there is a demand for it, there will surely be more Malaysians who will find it worthwhile to write books in English.
All we need is to provide the market and the local writers can be expected to meet the challenge. Of course in the final analysis, it is quality that counts and the contents and language must be of an acceptable standard.