Here are three more articles in the series “Pro And Contra Views” concerning single-stream schooling or Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua (SSS).
There appears to be many comments on this series in the past. So let us have more discussions in the usual, civil manner.
Comments are welcome from anybody at all. Let us have the subject discussed thoroughly so that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Education can judge whether the rakyat want the SSS to be implemented or not. The PM has said that it can be implemented if the rakyat wants it. We hope he will decide on how to determine whether the rakyat wants it. We at the SSS have proposed that referendum is the the safest way for it to be done.
So, readers, say your piece here. Let us argue and counter-argue to see what is right by the Constitution of the country, by the norms of society, by the rules of morality as a democratic country, and, most importantly, by the need to reduce the existing racial polarisation and forge a united and cohesive Bangsa Malaysia.
1. From the New Sunday Times, 07 December 2008 and http://www.rogertan.com/2008/12/taking-politics-out-of-education.html:
Taking politics out of education
JERLUN member of parliament Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s suggestion that the government creates a single school system in the country is not new.
Not surprisingly, his statement drew protests from non-Malay politicians and educationists.
Such reaction is expected because since independence, educational issues in this country have always been and sadly looked at from the political rather than the educational point of view.
In fact, the first call to have one educational system based solely on the Malay medium of instruction was made by the British administrators before independence in the 1951 Report of the Committee on Malay Education, Federation of Malaya, or better known as the Barnes Report.
The Barnes Report 1951 recommended this: “Chinese and Indians are being asked to give up gradually their own vernacular schools, and to send their children to schools where Malay is the only Oriental language taught. In principle, we recommend the end of the separate vernacular schools for several racial communities and the replacement by a single type of primary school common to all.”
Then came the Abdul Razak Report which was released on May 6, 1956.
The 1956 Report recommended that “the ultimate objective of education policy in this country must be to bring together children of all races under a national education system in which the national language is the main medium of instruction”.
Both the Barnes Report 1951 and the Abdul Razak Report 1956 were met with strong protests from various ethnic communities, particularly with the proposal of “the ultimate objective”.
As a result, this proposal was dropped and the 1956 Report recommended to establish “a national system of education acceptable to the people of the federation as a whole which will satisfy the needs to promote their cultural, social, economic and political development as a nation, having regard to the intention of making Malay the national language of the country while preserving and sustaining the growth of the language and culture of other communities living in the country”.
The same words were incorporated in their entirety into Section 3 of the Education Ordinance 1957 which came into force on June 15, 1957 just as we were about to achieve our Independence.
Hence, the vernacular schools were saved and non-Malay educationists had argued that section 3 therefore represented the original social contract of the communities.
However, when Abdul Rahman Talib became the education minister, he decided to review the education policy as declared before Merdeka in Section 3 of the 1957 Ordinance.
The Rahman Talib Report 1960 reintroduced the “ultimate objective” for the sake of national unity.
Section 3 was accordingly amended to read: “The education policy of the federation is to establish a national system of education which will satisfy the needs to promote the cultural, social, economic and political development as a nation, with the intention of making the Malay language the national language of the country.”
On Jan 1, 1962, the new Education Act 1961 also came into force. With this, Chinese schools which did not convert to national-type (Chinese) secondary schools became the Chinese independent high schools which continue to use the Chinese language as the main medium of instruction without any financial aid from the government.
The 1961 Education Act also contained an infamous Section 21(2) which empowered the minister to convert any national-type (Chinese and Tamil) primary school to a national primary school.
Today, the law relating to education in this country is governed by the Education Act 1996.
There is no provision similar to Section 21(2) of the 1961 Act in the 1996 Act, and the non-Malay communities had much to thank the then education minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Section 17 of the 1996 Act now provides that the national language shall be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions except for a national-type school or any other educational institution exempted by the minister of education.
There are still some who have argued that without any amendment to Section 17, the switch to teaching Mathematics and Science in English in 2002 has infringed it.
Be that as it may, I feel our education policy requires an overhaul to address racial polarisation among our young today.
Where our children have their primary and secondary school education is nowadays so predictable according to their race.
In the days before the medium of instruction switched from English to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools, the majority of non-Malay parents, especially the Chinese, would send their children to national (English) schools.
As a result, there are Chinese children like me who would grow up not being able to read or write much Mandarin.
Today, the Chinese in this country can best be categorised as those who are English-educated and Chinese-educated.
The manner in which they were educated when they were young would show up later in the way they looked at certain issues and approached a particular problem.
This is evident today in the rivalry between the two groups in Chinese-based political parties.
In fact, not all Chinese were in favour of an English education in the 1960s.
I remember that when my father sent us to English schools (in those days they called it tak ang moh chek in Hokkien), he was advised against it by his relatives who said we would grow up embracing Western values and mores, discarding Chinese ones like filial piety.
They were wrong.
Though I may not read or write much in Chinese, I do speak some Mandarin and the Chinese Foochow dialect.
My primary school education in English has not made me feel any less Chinese or fail to love my parents any less than a Chinese-educated person.
However, for those who study in national-type Chinese primary schools, the majority still opt for the national secondary school, probably because education is free and in order to enter local universities. But the sad part is, every year there are thousands of drop-outs among the Chinese students simply because they are not able to cope with the change in the medium of instruction from Chinese to English in the 1960s and 1970s and thereafter to Bahasa Malaysia.
Many ended up as labourers, farmers, plumbers, mechanics, VCD pedlars and unskilled workers.
In this sense, while it may be well and good to preserve one’s mother tongue, it remains a social issue whether the current system is in fact in the interests of non-Malay students with such a high drop-out rate among them?
This is a serious problem affecting especially the Chinese in rural areas and those in lower-income groups.
As a temporary teacher in a rural Chinese independent high school for six months before I left to read law in England, it saddened me to see close to 90 per cent of my students drop out after their Senior Middle Three education.
Only a handful managed to further their studies in Taiwan after having sat for the Chinese Unified Examination.
Of course, the students also registered to sit for Sijil Rendah Pelajaran and Sijil Pelajaran Menengah examinations but many did not do well.
Today, the future of the students in Chinese independent high schools is perhaps brighter as the Unified Examination Certificate is now recognised by Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and many foreign universities in Singapore, Australia, Britain and the United States.
In fact, the English taught in Chinese independent high schools is even more advanced than the syllabus taught in national secondary schools. But sadly, the standard of the English language among our students is still not good enough according to international standards.
Having associated with many secondary school students in youth activities, my observation is that our secondary school students today may find it difficult even to answer the English language paper in the Singapore Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).
In this respect, we have much to learn from Singapore and its education system is perhaps one of the best in the world.
The Singapore government abolished vernacular schools and the Nanyang University long ago.
The main medium of instruction in all its schools is now English. But every child is required to take up a mother tongue language, be it Malay, Chinese or Tamil as a second language.
Most of them will be promoted to express stream in secondary schools where they will sit for the GCE “O” Levels at Secondary 4 which is equivalent to our Form 4.
Starting from next year, a secondary school student has an option to learn a third language. Hence, a Malaysian Chinese who studies in Singapore will end up being trilingual — in English, Malay and Chinese.
All in all, the ultimate objective is that Singaporeans of all races get to mix together right from the pre-school stage to their tertiary level.
Here, most of our children only get to mix with other races when they converge in national secondary schools.
The problem is compounded with the rise of religious fervour in national secondary schools.
I fear if our national secondary schools are not run based on a secular concept, one day more Chinese will opt for the Chinese independent high schools because they are producing more competitive students.
This will only worsen racial polarisation among our young people.
In fact, racial polarisation was particularly bad when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was education minister.
He not only required all schools to call Bahasa Malaysia as Bahasa Melayu, but also sent Malay administrators to national-type primary schools.
The non-Malays should not, therefore, be blamed if they regard Bahasa Malaysia as the mother tongue of the Malays.
We should, therefore, seriously look at the Singapore model.
Of course, not everything is good about Singapore but it cannot be denied that its education system is top class.
Had the Singapore government governed along racial lines and made the Chinese language as the main medium of instruction in its schools, Singapore Chinese today would not have been more competitive than the Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China due to a poor grasp of the English language.
If English language is the main medium of instruction in our schools, no one can claim that it is the mother tongue of any race in this country because it is the international language.
But we can stipulate a requirement akin to those days when we had English schools whereby students must have at least a credit in Bahasa Malaysia before they can be promoted to Form Six or secure a place in public universities.
Our children must also be required to study their mother tongue in addition to Bahasa Malaysia at the primary and secondary levels.
To those who say that having the English language as the main medium of instruction will threaten national unity, I will say that we actually obtained our independence because of the joint efforts of a united group of English-educated elites.
If this is possible, I am confident more non-Malay and even Malay parents will send their children to national English schools.
Then the issue of abolishing the vernacular schools will not arise because more non-Malays will be attracted to study in English schools.
For this to materialise, this change must be built into the Constitution so that future leaders will not change our education system whenever they like by just amending the Education Act; thereby causing another generation of Malaysians to suffer.
We Are All Racist
I think we Malaysians are in denial. We are all racist. I will outline below why I say so…
It’s quite funny to see Malaysians accusing each other of being racist. This, is from the Ministers right up to the working class (the cow head group).
I think we Malaysians are in denial. We are all racist. I will outline below why I say so..
All Malaysian political parties are somewhat race based; this includes those who claim to be multi racial. Multi-racial political parties while claiming to be all equal, conduct their ceramah targeting particular race at various spots usually frequented by a particular race.
For example, DAP, MCA and Gerakan have their ceramah at Chinese restaurants, complete with dinner and drinks. UMNO and PAS like to have their campaigns near mosques and open areas within usually a Malay majority area while MIC and Hindraf like to do this in Indian Majority areas and even temples.
The only time these political parties do otherwise is when they campaign for candidate from another party, only then they share the same stage. This is quite evident during by-elections where campaigns are more focused one various ethnic groups apart from the customary door to door campaigning.
Why is that certain political party leaders give their speech in Mandarin and Tamil, aren’t we supposed to be communicating in Bahasa Malaysia or English. The whole objective cannot be other than delivering messages targeted at certain race.
We have various school streams based on mainly race and not really actual mother tongue. We have so called vernacular school champions, whose statement and overall outlook are racist in nature, supported vehemently by MCA, MIC, and not surprisingly self appointed multi-racialist, Gerakan, PKR, DAP and various other mosquito parties.
Why PKR and DAP supports vernacular schools, even to the extend of marching the streets in pressuring government to reverse the Maths/Science in English policy, is beyond me. They were also the first to denounce single stream school idea put forward by a racist party, UMNO (Mukhriz brought it up first in the parliament).
Of course, everyone, including UMNO, MIC, MCA and multi-racial parties often rely on the clauses in the federal constitution which guarantees vernacular education as well as special privileges for the Malays. While Multi-racial parties wants Malay rights to be abolished and the government to treat everyone equally, they are unwilling to accept the idea of having children study in the single school system, even though Mandarin and Tamil will still be taught.
When Vision School idea, a compromise of sorts to maintain Chinese and Tamil schools in it’s current form while sharing a common venue/building, the same racist vernacular school champions objected and not to our surprise again, their objection were supported by so-called multi-racial parties such as DAP. Why, because DAP’s support is mainly derived from one race, hence race is a main factor in DAP’s political strategy. Why is that there are hardly any Malays in DAP, the answer is the same, the actual focus is on RACE, RACE and RACE.
What is the reason for Selangor state government, helmed by a multi-racial party back track on their decision to appoint a Chinese as the head of PKNS. Why is that their representative line up for EXCO and councilors are various local council in all states (including those helmed by multiracial parties ) is based on racial quota, not on basis of experience and competency.
Why do ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ leader Lim Guan Eng, who want equality, and champions ‘Competency, Accountability and Transparency appoint a Malay and Indian Deputy Chief Minister, who have no administrative experience, if not for the reason none other than the candidates RACE!
Why is that DAP is very much focused on the PKFZ scandal and not say MIED or Maika or even the roof collapse of the stadium in Terengganu, if not for the fact that the scandal is linked to MCA, their arch-enemies in vying for Chinese votes.
It’s also normal for all these politicians to take advantage of certain incidents to become champions of certain race. Good example is Kugan and Teoh Beng Hock’s death, though Malaysians as a whole deplored such tragic events, certain politicians found it fit to use it to their advantage and in the process, become hero of the particular race.
In Kugan’s death, Indian politicians from both opposition and BN came to the fore but when innocent and not so innocent Indians are dying on almost daily basis due to violence perpetrated by fellow Indians, these Indian Champions are no where to be seen. I am not exaggerating here, almost one Indian is killed everyday by usually fellow Indians, due to fights, gang fights, crime gone wrong etc. Those who read Tamil newspapers will agree. In fact, I had a relative who became a victim, whose case is never resolved until today.
The same applies when known criminals are shot dead by police, more than usual, only politicians of certain race comes forward to slam the police but when policemen are killed or injured while on duty, the same racial heroes are nowhere to be seen. You must have realized that similar scenarios prevailed in Teoh Beng Hock’s case.
Actually I need not go far to illustrate this point, just go and have a look at the vernacular newspapers. They are full of reports on certain race only. A non-record breaking Sea Games gold medal win by an Indian were glorified by all 3 Tamil newspaper while a double gold medal win by a Sarawakian were left in a small column of the back page in two of the 3 newspapers. Another just highlighted it in the summary.
I pity most of our Malay friends who can’t read these vernacular newspapers. Even for Chinese or rather Mandarin newspapers, one need not know the language; you can know what’s going on, where the focus is, what the main issues etc are by looking at the generous amount of pictures in the pages. You will never go wrong if you conclude that the main issues are about Chinese and key personalities are none other than MCA, leaders as well as Chinese leaders from the so-called multi-racial parties.
In Tamil newspapers, you can also easily detect the media conduct of Indian politicians from so-called multi-racial parties. People like Manikavasagam, Sivanesan, Gobalakrishnan and even Dr Ramasamy (DCM, Penang) . They pander to Tamil media, appearing almost daily basis on stories exclusively focused on Indians. The war between politicians in the Tamil newspapers, who are generally more independent than English or Malay mainstream papers are quite ferocious and these politicians from so-called multi-racial parties use the papers to slam MIC and BN leaders. It is so obvious that the only reason they do this is of course to slam BN but on the other hand, to be seen as a hero to their own race. They hardly invite Tamil Media to cover events involving other races.
On a personal basis, it is common for Malaysians to criticise and make racially insensitive comments about another race when their own kind get together. We would be lying if we deny this. We deplore the habits of certain race and the only opportune time to talk about it is when the same race get together. We make all kinds of accusation against another race when we can easily find similar deficiencies or weaknesses within our own race.
It was apparent in the case of Indians, where all the blame for their misfortunes are leveled against the government and Malays in general when the actual fact, most of the problems faced by the community is their own doing but none of the racial heroes have come forward to criticise their own community for their failures.
I had similar feeling when reading ‘The Chinese Dilemma’ where the community, despite being quite well of in general, was portrayed is being in denial of their own weaknesses. Most of the facts presented were quite true, says a Chinese friend of mine.
In summary, we are all racist and politicians should accept this fact and stop accusing each other of being racist. No country in the world is without racist or people with such tendencies. We just have to minimise such rhetoric’s and focus on bridging the divide.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
National vs Vernacular Schools
Hey, I have my first article published in The Sun yesterday, entitled “Schools Debate Not a Zero Sum Game”. It was originally rejected by another local daily. I’ve written various posts on national versus vernacular schools before, particularly from the perspective of where I should send my daugther for school in the coming years. However, this article attempts a balanced look at the important question of how the Government should be treating vernacular schools.
The recently launched National Education Blueprint 2006 by Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein focuses purely on “strengthening the national schools”, with vernacular schools representing just a statistic in Malaysia’s education landscape. Vernacular schools are often neglected or treated with suspicion due to their ethnically Chinese or Tamil nature. There are widespread fears that the strengthening or even the presence of vernacular schools in Malaysia is antithetical to achieving national unity.
Chinese and Tamil educationists on the other hand, fear the strengthening of national schools will erode the future character and viability of vernacular schools. For many of them, every facet of the existing vernacular education must be protected at all cost. Otherwise, they fear detractors will pounce on any signs of weakness to destroy vernacular education in this country.
As a result, parties on both sides of the equation treat the issue of national versus vernacular schools as a zero sum game — one party’s gain is the other’s loss. However, such views are certainly flawed and works against the interest of a multi-racial and multi-cultural country like Malaysia. They are bred through mistrust and hardened by years of negative experiences.
Even the Education Minister has admitted in an exclusive interview with Nanyang Siangpau that “people should not regard the various types of schools in the country as a hurdle to be cleared. After all, this is not a zero-sum game because multi-culturalism is an added advantage and a strength for the country.” In fact, treating vernacular schools as obstacles to national unity is akin to the fallacious argument that national unity can only be achieved through cultural assimilation.
Hence, the only way to break this self-perpetuating cycle of combativeness and mutual distrust is, well, to build trust. It is important for the government and its officials to gain the confidence of the guardians of vernacular education. They must fully believe in its rhetoric that “multiculturalism is an added advantage and a strength for this country”, and take concrete steps to demonstrate its sincerity to the people.
To a large extent, the Chinese and Tamil educationists cannot be blamed for their fear of marginalisation. The government’s disbursement of RM1.4 million to 248 Chinese primary schools, or a meagre RM6,000 per school as hyped by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim in the vernacular press, pales in comparison to the RM709 million allocated to building 15 new Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSMs), and more for upgrades and repairs of existing MRSMs.
In addition, despite the consistent claim by the government that it will build more vernacular schools in accordance to the needs of the people, the number of Chinese primary schools have declined from 1,333 in 1957 to 1,288 today while enrolment has more than doubled from 310,000 to 636,000. At the same time, the number of Tamil primary schools has been reduced from 526 in 2001 to 523 in 2006 despite a 12.7% increase in enrolment from 88,810 in 2001 to 100,142 in 2006.
Vernacular school educationists are also, understandably, unconvinced by the “national unity” argument because the government has taken steps to build and expand MRSM secondary schools which are almost exclusive domains of ethnic Malays. Pre-university matriculation colleges which limit the intake of non-bumiputeras to 10% are also set up as an alternative to national two-year STPM programmes.
At the same time, it is important for vernacular schools to play up its Malaysian character to improve its perception amongst government officials and Malaysians in general. Instead of taking an overly defensive stance of protecting “mother tongue education”, it should perhaps focus greater on its nation building contributions and Malaysian character.
For instance, it should share its expertise in helping national schools get their stuttering mother tongue language programmes off the ground. This is an education policy which has been delayed by some two years already. By introducing such programmes in national schools, it will ensure that students will be able to preserve their cultural identity in multi-cultural environment. Strengthening national schools should hence not be seen as a threat to the survival of vernacular schools, but instead be treated as complementary to the very cause pursued by the latter.
Overall, the Chinese vernacular schools have for example, provided consistently high teaching and academic standards which has led to better educated Malaysians. It is for this reason, that many parents of all ethnic groups are increasingly attracted to these schools despite their typically overcrowded and under-equipped nature. Recently, at a Malay wedding, I was surprised to find out from a Malay parent who sends her daughter to a Chinese primary school in Ampang that the school had approximately 20% non-Chinese students in its most recent intake. Surely, there can be no better endorsement of vernacular education than its multi-racial character, which contributes immensely to our nation building process.
The emphasis of mother-tongue education in vernacular schools should not colour our judgement of their national unity contributions. Instead, its contribution to society should be judged by the quality of students, their patriotism to the country and in turn, their future contributions back to Malaysian society.
Hence, it is critical for the government to have faith in its own rhetoric, that not only does vernacular education contribute to the richness of the Malaysian education system, it weaves the very fabric of our diverse multi-cultural identity. The government must take the first step to win back the trust of the vernacular education community by giving priority to their development via coherent and well-funded programmes, instead of handing out piecemeal breadcrumbs. As a matter of fact, continued neglect of the vernacular education system may ironically sow the seeds of national disunity, the very outcome which our government has been seeking to avoid.