Cabinet tomorrow should give the public two weeks  for feedback  on the terms of reference and composition of the second Mahathir education review committee into  the two biggest failures of the national education system – providing quality education and fostering national unity

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Cabinet tomorrow should give the public two weeks  for feedback  on the terms of reference and composition of the second Mahathir education review committee into the two biggest failures of the national education system – providing quality education and fostering national unity. 

The Cabinet should make this decision after considering and  approving the recommendation of the UMNO Supreme Council of Nov. 29 for the  establishment of the most high-powered national education review committee in the nation’s history under  the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, to review the entire national education system to improve the quality of education and ensure that national schools are the popular choice of all Malaysians to foster national unity.


Let the establishment of the highest-powered education committee in the nation’s history be the most democratic one as well, with Malaysians able to participate in the process every step of the way, starting with the determination of its terms of reference and nomination of members of the education review committee representing all sections of the Malaysian society, covering the  full spectrum of diverse political, educational and civil society opinion.


To set the ball rolling for the most democratic education review involving the fullest public participation and consultation, the Cabinet tomorrow should also make public the comprehensive education reform report which was commissioned by the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) in May this year.


The report, which was put together by a group of the country’s leading academics, professionals, senior civil servants, corporate captains and teachers was submitted to the UMNO Supreme Council instead of the Cabinet – and was the basis for the UMNO Supreme Council decision on Nov. 29.


It is a sad reflection of the increasing failure  of the Malaysian media to perform its most elementary function to keep Malaysians adequately  informed about  developments in the country that there has been no local press reports about the recommendations of this comprehensive education reform report for a single-stream education system to make national schools the choice of all Malaysian students.


Four months ago, there was already a report in the foreign press, the Singapore Straits Times, on its recommendations to make the student population at national schools to reflect “the racial demographics” in Malaysia – i.e. 55 per cent Malay, 30 per cent Chinese and about 10 per cent Indian.


According to this August report of The Singapore Straits Times, this NEAC-commissioned  report submitted  various specific recommendations to make  national schools attractive to non-Malay parents, which  include:


  • A government voucher scheme giving each national school student a monthly allowance for studying Bahasa Malaysia, mathematics, science and English. This can be drawn by a student for extra after-school classes so that parents would not need to pay for private tuition.  

  • Make Mandarin and  Tamil language classes compulsory for Chinese and Indian students and part of the syllabus in national schools. This may draw the many thousands who now attend vernacular schools to learn their mother tongue. 

  • Bus children from rubber estates and plantations to the nearest national schools.  

  • Setting up of premier schools across the country. These institutions would be semi-autonomous, run by boards of governors with the resources and freedom to pay higher salaries and hire better qualified teachers. These schools  would be the training ground for future professionals, diplomats, corporate figures and senior civil servants, in the way Christian mission schools  were many years ago.  These premier schools  would be required to have a student population which reflect the racial composition of the country.


The Cabinet should direct that this NEAC-commissioned report should be made public so that it could be a point of reference not only  for the second Mahathir  education review committee but the basis for a national discussion as to the far-reaching education reforms needed to provide quality education to meet the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology, achieve national unity as well as the Vision 2020 objectives of a fully developed nation.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman