Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE), PPSMI & Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim’s

Controversy about PPSMI make me curios who is Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim and I believe the below article from the star have the most detail im looking for.

Wednesday July 13, 2011
Mum on a mission
Stories by WONG LI ZA

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) Malaysia chairman has faced vile accusations for advocating its cause. Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim remains resolute in her crusade for quality education for the country’s future.

ON the verandah of Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim’s home in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, a lovely family portrait is proudly propped on a table.

The family of six looks radiant in the photograph taken in December, clad in colour-coordinated traditional Malay costumes.

“Oh, yes, we emphasise Malay culture in our family, despite what everybody else thinks,” quips Noor Azimah when I compliment on their ensembles.
Picture perfect: A photo of Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim with her husband Datuk Dr Aizai Azan and their children, (from left) Anyda, 14, Alysha, 18, Azrin, 16, and Ariff, 13, displayed at the verandah of their house in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. — Photo courtesy of Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim

Why anybody would have doubts about Noor Azimah’s commitment towards her Malay heritage is simply because of the cause she’s been steadfastly championing in the past three years.

As the head of the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) Malaysia, a group formed in September 2008 by like-minded parents, Noor Azimah has been pushing for the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (known by its Malay acronym PPSMI) to remain an option in national primary and secondary schools.

With English being the universal language of knowledge in science and maths, PAGE envisions an education system capable of producing students adept at these fields, whose talents and abilities will be crucial in helping to transform Malaysia into a developed nation.

While Noor Azimah herself may not be a famous personality, her strident calls to the Government have not gone unnoticed. She has ensured that the voice of PAGE, even though it’s still a relatively new and small outfit, is regularly heard in newspapers, on television and in various forums throughout the country.

As the face and chairman of PAGE, the mother-of-four and former accountant is outspoken and articulate, ballsy even.

She has received her fair share of brickbats, many from detractors of PPSMI who have labelled PAGE advocates as “un-Malay” and unpatriotic for favouring English over the national language.
Devoted mother: Noor Azimah with her kids, (from left) Ariff, Alysha, Anyda and Azrin, having fun over a game of Scrabble at home. ‘I would like to guide my children towards a science career because science is a tool to transform the economy and I’d like them to contribute back to their nation,’ she says. — SIA HONG KIAU/The Star

“In the beginning, I used to get horrid text messages on my handphone from strangers accusing me of being a traitor. Some words hurled at me were crude, words so foul I never knew existed,” the 50-year-old recalls during a recent interview at her residence in the upscale suburb, where she and her husband, a cardiologist, live with their children.

“I would also get missed calls in the wee hours of the morning. When the PAGE blog was set up, things got worse with accusations towards my children too. I have stopped looking at the blog,” adds Noor Azimah, sounding otherwise unruffled.

Although she and her family members had not been threatened, Noor Azimah was urged to report the matter to the police but she didn’t feel it necessary.

“I think the police have more serious business to deal with. The crank SMS-es and calls have since stopped, but I believe the hate mail on the blog still continues.”

PAGE has since created a portal which requires users to register before proceeding to post their comments.

“I felt quite disgusted having to deal with people with such low morals and bad language. They have failed to understand the issue. We are discussing an education policy – a matter of national interest.”

A few friends have also turned against her since she set up PAGE.

“Some accused me of not being nationalistic; others believe I should just accept the (Government’s) decision. What is ironic is that these former friends have put their children in international schools, abandoning the national school system,” she says.

Although Noor Azimah has not been accused of being an Opposition tool, PAGE has been wooed by them.

“We have been very careful about being associated with any political party. We believe in the civil society making an impact without having to latch on to any political party to be heard. We continue to remain apolitical,” she says.

On the up side, Noor Azimah has received support from strangers and friends alike. But, most of all, her family.

“My family is quite proud of me and they are extremely supportive. Without fail, they keep abreast of developments and speak out at every opportunity,” beams the bespectacled lady with short-cropped hair who looks youthful and energetic.

The medical fraternity at the National Heart Institute (IJN), where her husband works, is just as supportive of the PAGE movement.

“Occasionally, I get to mingle and speak to cardiologists, anaesthetists and surgeons who are always eager to give their points of view.

“In all cases, they urge me not to give up as they believe that the medical profession could be further enhanced if core subjects like chemistry and biology are taught in English,” she shares.

Happy childhood

Noor Azimah studied in Britain before she returned to start a career in the financial sector.

Her parents, both government servants, had enjoyed a British education, too.

“My father was highly sought after in matters of engineering during his time. The many civil engineers he has trained are now CEOs in large companies.

“He believes that engineering terms are best learnt in English to keep up with today’s fast-changing technology,” says the Petaling Jaya-born Noor Azimah, a middle child; her older sister is an architect and younger sister, a graphic designer.

It’s no surprise that Noor Azimah’s father is equally passionate about the cause she now champions. Living a few doors away, the old guy would make time to talk at length to his daughter about the issue.

For a family that so readily embraces English, perhaps it comes as a surprise that her parents hail from Kota Baru in the Malay heartland state of Kelantan.

Now in his 80s, Noor Azimah’s father was a civil engineer while her late mother was a secondary school teacher who taught various subjects including English.

“My mother’s forte was domestic science and she was also actively promoting English back then in the 1950s,” says Noor Azimah.

Growing up, she and her two sisters conversed with their parents mainly in English.

“English, I think, integrates people and it is a neutral language.” (It’s a point that Noor Azimah emphatically emphasises at every turn.)

After her parents got married, they left Kelantan and lived in different states following her father’s postings. Before settling in Kuala Lumpur, the family had resided in Alor Star, Ipoh and Kota Kinabalu.

“I spent my best childhood in Kota Kinabalu. All I did was play, go to the beach, climb trees and ride my bicycle,” reminisces Noor Azimah, who still managed to secure top grades in school.

While there, she studied at an English primary school, and had friends from all ethnic groups.

“There was no such thing as ‘race’ then. A race was only something we ran in,” she says, with deadpan humour.

Noor Azimah continued her studies at St Francis Convent, Kota Kinabalu, before relocating to KL and studying at Bukit Bintang Girls’ School and later, Victoria Institution.

She went on to do her A-Levels in Wales, and her foundation in accounting at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham. She obtained her CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualifications at Emile Woolf College of Accountancy in London.

Family first

Upon her return to Malaysia, Noor Azimah worked as an administrative officer, and then as an executive assistant to an adviser in the Governor’s Office, in Bank Negara for two years.

Next, she joined Price Waterhouse Management Consultants as a systems consultant. Two years later, she moved to Rashid Hussain Securities as a corporate dealer in equities, where she remained for 10 years before calling it a day. By then her eldest child was in Year One.

“I decided that I wanted to raise the children, and not leave that to the maid or the driver. The kids appreciated me being around, so I guess I must have done something good,” says Noor Azimah, who is also a Certified Financial Planner.

Does she have any regrets leaving a promising career?

“Sometimes I do ... but I hope to move things within the education system with what I am doing now via PAGE,” she says, with obvious pride.

Her two older children, Alysha, 18, and Azrin, 16, learnt science and maths in Bahasa Malaysia in primary school, while her younger two, Anyda, 14, and Ariff, 13, were taught in English.

At home, English remains the family’s spoken language of choice.

“I leave it to the school to teach them Bahasa while I concentrate on English at home. I would like to guide them towards a science career because science is a tool to transform the economy and I would like my children to contribute back to their nation.”

Just as Mum and Dad are doing.

Noor Azimah stresses that she and her husband have benefited from the country’s New Economic Policy (NEP) and therefore, aim to give their children a decent education borne by them and not rely on the Government.

“Slowly, we need to move away from the crutch mentality because although the NEP has helped us, there have been cases of abuse,” she notes matter-of-factly.

Birth of a new chapter

Currently, Noor Azimah is vice-chairman of SMK Seri Hartamas Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

Before this she was active in the PTA of SK Bukit Damansara, having risen to be its chairman. It was at this primary school’s canteen that PAGE was born.

Noor Azimah, along with several fellow parents including the group’s current deputy chairman and treasurer (see sidebar “PAGE makers” below), was talking about how they needed to do something about preserving PPSMI, first introduced in 2003.

The debate about reversing the policy first began in 2008, the year that five round-table sessions with relevant parties were organised by the Education Ministry.

Noor Azimah attended the second round-table meeting under SMK Seri Hartamas’ PTA. It was there that she felt the National Parent-Teacher Association Collaborative Council had failed to represent PTAs and parents.

“They had 20 minutes to present views that represented member PTAs but the deputy chairperson basically presented his own stand, which was against using English.”

That disappointment led Noor Azimah and a few others to form PAGE to provide a platform for parents to express their concerns on education matters.

Since assuming chairmanship, Noor Azimah’s learning curve has also grown in tandem with the responsibility. Skills she had to quickly pick up include public speaking, making appearances on live TV, thinking on her feet and being bilingual.

Despite PAGE’s stand to remain apolitical, Noor Azimah has considered going into politics.

“However, the family still comes first and if I join politics, it is strictly because civil society has failed to push forward for a reformation of the education system,” she says.

“I believe matters of education should be left to the educated minority and not the uneducated grassroots. And they should not be used by politicians as a tool to garner votes. Decisions on education should be based on what will benefit the nation and not what young activists and ultra-nationalists want.”

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