Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Storm over Copycat Remarks

A Malaysian professor, Dr Khoo Kay Kim, recently said that Chinese schools in the country have produced copycats through its rote-learning methods. As one might expect, angry Chinese Malaysians who are defensive of their ‘mother tongue’ lambasted him. One blogger wrote, “Khoo is a banana man. He is not in the position to criticize Chinese schools.” (Apparently the blogger wrote in Chinese. I do the translation.)

Well, I was educated in Chinese schools. Am I in the position to say a word or two on Chinese education system?

It is a known fact Chinese schools produce students who can hardly think independently and creatively. The Chinese-educated people condemned Dr Khoo simply because they wanted to defend their much-loved mother tongue. (The claim that Mandarin is the mother tongue of all Chinese is dubious in the first place.)

I am currently doing MBA. Many of my classmates were Chinese-educated. I have found that, even at this level, quite a few of them like to ‘copy and paste’ when it comes to doing their assignments.

To be fair, it is not just Chinese schools which churn out copycats. Most schools in Asia do. Which is why Singaporean Kishore Mahbubani had written a book with the title Can Asians Think?.

I had a chance of working in California several years ago. I remember a guy told me, “Americans have the tradition of challenging the authorities.” Such spirit is lacking in Asia.

We should be courageous enough to acknowledge the shortcomings of our education systems, and take steps to rectify them. There is no need to be mad at Dr Khoo’s remarks simply because he doesn’t speak Mandarin.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. 这篇报道我也看到,他说的不完全是错的。

  3. they should learn to be independent and think instead of copying blindly..

  4. We've been trained to recite and memorize and pour out whatever we hv memorized during exams. That's why...

  5. You'd be surprised to see how similar are French and Chinese education systems. Lots of pressure, lots of national exams, lot of emphasize on learning concepts but not challenging them.

    On the other side, I do find the North American a bit too free... it sometimes lacks rigor.

    What can I say, I'm French!

  6. KS, I don't know about being copycats but I do know that if a Std 6 student from a Chinese school were to be a school dropout, years down the road he'd still be able to read and write the language. The same is not true when it comes to a national-type school dropout.

    All that rote-learning and reciting in class are paying off in the long run because the mind/memory system gets double the chance of remembering - thru sight and hearing when the lessons are being recited. Plus, there is a lot of writing and copying in the lessons so a dropout is being drilled into remembering and into practice.

    About 'attacking' the professor, he's just making an observation and generalisation. People do that and in fact is free to express their views. It's also normal for people to over-react to such generalisations. Life..

  7. Here we go again...ppl just love to stir up news...

  8. hey, thanks for visiting my blog. comment replied! :)

    about your post, i agree with u. Chinese education system has its flaw and Dr. Khoo is simply just pointing it out. which education system is ever perfect, right? There's absolutely no need for people to over-react and get over protective about this. we're supposed to take critics seriously, think about it and if it's right, make changes, not denying it. good post by the way! :)

  9. I am Mandarin educated too and I agree with his view...but not all aren't able to think out of the box. :)

  10. ...but this is not just chinese definitely :P

  11. Everyone,
    Thanks for your comments.

  12. From my observation, Chinese educated people not only can't think independently. They are quite socially inept as well.

  13. sometimes it's not just copy and blindly paste.. most of the time things are enhanced a little more, you could say we still think but thinking about short-cuts.. :p

  14. me too chinese educated....

  15. DEBATE: Tan Sri Dato Dr. Khoo Kay Kim(KKK) & YB Datuk Dr. Wee Ka Siong(WKS)
    ISSUE: Does the Chinese Education System Produce 'Copycats?'

    I happened to watch the so-called debate between Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Dr. Khoo Kay Kim and Datuk Wee Ka Siong (Deputy Education Minister) last night. The topic of the debate “Chinese School Education, is it an advantage?” and “Chinese School produces copycats.”

    This debate reminded of the controversial statement that KKK mentioned sometime back that Chinese School produces copycats. I would have agreed with him partially as I was a product of National School. I send both my children to Chinese School just for them to have an advantage of mastering another universal language.

    KKK was already fidgeting even before the debate starts and when he was given the microphone to speak first, I almost dropped dead. This old fart can even speak properly and whatever that comes out from him mouth does not explain to the issue of Chinese School producing copycats. Before the debate start, I thought the old horse (KKK) will kick the ass out of WKS but instead KKK made a donkey out of himself with some stupid explanations that my eleven year old son can do better. Every word that came out of his mouth is not related to the issue of the debate. One can see the response of the audience in utter disbelief. If not for the NTV censorship, KKK would have been the most disgraceful to all Malaysian. He should be watching last night and regretted that he attended the debate.

    KKK should not have accepted to attend the debate in the first place. He only thinks highly of himself and the British and American Education System which in the first place not adopted in our National Schools. He even lambasted the Singapore and China Education System knowing well that National University of Singapore ranked 4th best in Asia and Chinese Universities littered the top 20s. NUS is also rank as the best in South east Asia and MU where KKK works ranks 18th. Don’t even asked where MU stands in the world ranking. With people like KKK around in MU, no wonders the standard of education in Malaysia has dropped so badly. I have great respect for KKK based on the articles written about him and I read history books written by him. As of this moment, I think he is fits to teach only in the kindergartens.

    Of course WKS came well prepared with the data and reference names of students from SRJK (CINA) with roll of honours and those who have done extremely well on the global scene.. KKK came holding two books, probably history books and then he mumbled throughout the debate without any substance and we can see the audience laughing at his unintelligent and incorrigible explanation. WKS should have whack the hell out of KKK instead of mumbling of the Constitution and the present education system which both of them are part of it. Well, that what politician does.

    What did we gain from this debate? Nothing! The issue was not properly debated and the answers to the copycat’s issues remain as it is. I hope my children will gain some advantage from the education in Chinese School which I think is the reason why parent send their children to, irrespective whether there are Malay, Chinese or Indian. As for KKK, I think it is time for gardening and look after the grand children and keep his mouth shut before he losses out on his status as an Academician in Malaysia. For me, I am learning Mandarin from my children, helping out in their homework by looking into the dictionary as I have no formal Chinese education. I have learn a lot in the past few years from my children and that the advantage. Copycats or not, I will wait and see.

    PS: For those who miss the debate on NTV7, you can find the full debate on Youtube and the best part uncensored.

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