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BarisaBarisan Nasional leaders often made contradictory stands on education and highly politicize the issue of education since independence

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Media Statement 
by Dr Boo Cheng Hau
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(Johor Bahru, Monday) : I issued this statement in response to Johor Chief Minister and UMNO Johor Chief Datuk Abdul Ghani Othmanís statement made at Ledang Division AGM that he worried the position of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language being eroded after the implementation of teaching Mathematics and Sciences in English.  

Abdul Ghani was also quoted by today Sin Chew Jit Pohís Front Page report to have said that  the extensive usage of English  schools would eventually replace Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction. 

Abdul Ghani was also quoted to have said that other developed countries such as Japan, Denmark, Switzerland have used their peopleís own languages as media of instruction but that never hindered them from mastering other languages.

I stressed that Barisan Nasional leaders often made contradictory stands on education and highly politicize the issue of education since independence without looking into the fact that not only accessibility to education is our peopleís basic human right, but also the form of education of which each community desires should be viewed a basic right. 

The Barisan Nasional has switched from mainstream English medium schools to Bahasam Malaysia between 1970ís and 1990ís, and now switched back to English medium again after many failures in our education system. It shows their inconsistency and failure in understanding that fact that Malaysia is a diverse society. 

The Barisan Nasional leaders of different race-based parties only interested in appealing to their separate communal-based supporters in that they fight for the rights of certain races only. This shows that our Malaysian society is still largely polarized along racial lines. The race-based component parties of the ruling Barisan Nasional are responsible for the racially divided Malaysian society especially when it comes to the basic issue of education.  

I personally agree with Abdul Ghani on the fact that developed countries such as Japan, Denmark, Switzerland have used their peopleís own languages as media of instruction but that never hindered them from mastering other languages. Nonetheless, it is UMNO and its Barisan Nasionalís component partiesí failure in treating fairly each and every Malaysianís right to thrive best in their own mother tongue without neglecting the learning of franca lingua especially Bahasa Malaysia and English.  

It is timely that Abdul Ghani raised the example of Siwtzerland which is a multiethnic country as compared to Japan and Denmark. Switzerland has four official languages and its constitution allows four languages as media of instruction in schools as required by its constitution. The similar provisions were also incorporated into South Africaís post apartheid constitution that permits eleven official languages and every citizenís right to learn and to learn in his own mother tongue. South African constitution also required Government of the day to allocate fund fairly to develop mother tongue education.  

On the contrary the Barisan Nasional government has suppressed polarize the society by giving apartheid like allocations to various vernacular schools. Under the 9th Malaysian Plan, each Chinese Primary school student gets only one seventh government allocation, each Tamil school student one-fourth as compared to each national School student. Abdul Ghaniís claim that children thrive better in their own language is contradictory to the actual fact that Barisan Nasional Government has treated various vernacualr schools unfairly and further polarized Malaysian people.     

Such contradictory statements made by BN leaders show their failure to view education as a basic right and not a political issue. Education is no longer seen as a privilege of the ruling class to be manipulated for political interests. It is a basic human right to which all Malaysians are entitled. Therefore every Malaysian has a right to envisage what form of education he or she wants.

They also fail to empower people with education. Peopleís empowerment through education must be a foresight to be pursued. Education has to be democraticized by introducing into the curriculum values which will guard against corruption, abuse of power, cronyism, racism and discrimination. Socialization of education is the next step in education reform where the people are empowered to formulate what kind of education they would want for their children.

Our people should be allowed freedom to learn and to learn in mother tongue through the purview to diversify our education system. Diversification  allows all forms of education to co-exist by allowing whatever language of instruction that is needed and effective. The misconception that diversity leads to disunity has to be stamped out. Many examples testify to the fact that diversity promotes unity in a diverse society.


Globalisation will force us to adopt a more cosmopolitan approach towards our education system and this is something we canít avoid. Our countryís education system has to be tailored to fulfill the needs of the international atmosphere while taking into account its responsibility to local communities, ethnic groups and national demands.
                                                           


(23/7/2007)    


*Dr. Boo Cheng Hau, DAP Johor State Chairman

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