Call for a “Love Malaysia, Save Malaysia” nation-wide campaign to uphold  the 45-year Merdeka Constitution of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation, purge the international perception of Malaysia as a terrorist centre and establish a world-class  education system of excellence

Jelutong DAP Dinner
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): In a week’s time on January 6, schools will re-open after some two months of year-end school holidays.  In the coming new school year, over half a million pupils will start formal schooling in Std. One in the national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools, and these will be the pupils who will suffer the most from the new educational experiment to teach mathematics and science in English in Std. One in the primary schools. 

Chinese primary school Std. One pupils, who will be the “guinea-pigs” of  the “2-4-3” formula to teach mathematics and science in English,  will  have to carry  heavier school bags as compared to Std. One pupils of previous years – which were already too heavy and should have been lightened.


Worse, they will have to study longer hours in school, not only when compared to Std. One pupils of previous years, but also when compared to their counterparts in national and Tamil primary schools. What is more unbelievable, they will  have even  longer school hours than older  pupils in Std. II to Std. VI in Chinese primary schools.


This is because starting next year, Chinese primary school pupils in Std. One will have 1,500 minutes or 50 class  periods of 30-minutes  each  per week,  as compared to 1,350 minutes or 45 periods a week previously and  which is longer than the 1,440 minutes or 48 periods a week for Std. VI pupils.


Why should Std. One pupils study longer school  hours  than Std. VI pupils? Every ordinary Malaysian, whether parent or teacher, knows that it does not make any educational sense for Std. I pupils to have longer school hours than Std. VI pupils – except for the  Education Ministry planners and administrators, the Education Minister himself  and  all the “big guns” in the Cabinet!


DAP opposes the “2-4-3” formula of Std. One pupils in Chinese primary schools, not because we oppose Std. One pupils learning English from Std. One – which we fully support and is long overdue – but because we do not believe that teaching mathematics and science in English from Std. One  under  our present education system is educationally sound or the best and most effective way to ensure higher proficiency  in all the three subjects, viz.  mathematics, science and English.  If we want to teach mathematics and science in English from Std. One and achieve real good results, then we should revert to the previous English-medium schools which is known as the “full immersion” system in  fully using English as the medium of instruction.  Will the government propose a restoration of the English medium schools in Malaysia?


China is currently  the country with the biggest English language learning fever in the world, spurred by three  events: China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation,  the hosting of  the Olympics Games in Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.


But there is another important reason for what has been described as the “insatiable appetite”  for learning  English  in China – as   a passport to a new world of employment, educational and entertainment opportunities.


Manila Times recently had an article comparing the Philippines,  with 80 million Filipinos, “majority of whom can manage some English”, with China which was training 100 million Chinese to learn English.


The “Learn English fever” in China concerns not just millions or tens of millions but 100 million – or equal to five nations the population size of Malaysia!


The “Learn English fever” in China has reached  such a pitch that it has produced the following:


  • Chinese Universities are beginning to use textbooks written in English to teach the English language, information technology, biology, finance and law with  the Chinese Education Ministry expecting  5 per cent to 10 per cent of the university courses to be taught in English in two years. 

  • Guangzhou authorities requiring their civil servants to read or speak English. 

  • English is almost a compulsory subject in Beijing’s kindergartens as a growing number of parents want their children better equipped for the future .


However, I am not aware of any suggestion or proposal in China that mathematics and science in the primary schools, whether  from the first year in school or in subsequent years,  should be taught in English to raise the standards of mathematics, science or English in China!


This is why the DAP has come out with  “Formua 1-2-3” – first,  to enhance English proficiency; second, maintain the traditional high standards of mathematics and science; and third, preserve the character of mother-tongue education.

Can the “2-4-3” plan of the Education Ministry fulfil the objectives of Formula 1-2-3?  If not, then the “2-4-3” plan must be modified.


The question that should be asked is why the government is rushing headlong to implement the “2-4-3” proposal although there is strong  criticism and opposition from Dong Jiao Zong, Chinese educational bodies and organizations and all thinking Malaysians, including Paul Chang, 84,  the former Chief Inspector of Schools, Malaysia,   retired Professor and Head of School of Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia and who was awarded  “Toko Guru”  by the Ministry of Education in 1987   in a recent article in Nanyang Siang Pau (25.12.02).


The answer is not to be found in education  but in politics -  the outcome  of the 1999 general election results, with  the DAP as the greatest casualty and the people losing a strong and respected voice in Parliament.


This is further evident in what is probably the most important development in education in  the 45-year history of the nation – the establishment of the most high-powered education review committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by the UMNO Supreme Council on November 29, completely by-passing the Cabinet which had not been able to discuss the matter in the  past one month.


On Thursday, in an exclusive interview with New Straits Times, Mahathir spoke of two “hijackings” of the national education system from its original objective to cater to all races in Malaysia and alienating non-Muslims, viz:


  • Sabotage of  the Pupil’s Own Language programme in denying the right of the Chinese and Indians to learn their own languages;

  • Introducing Islamic practices in the school system which “puts off the non-Malays”, with boys now forbidden from wearing shorts, even for playing games, and “even games are discouraged”, when “before, we had no problems with girls wearing skirts and boys wearing shorts, especially for games”.


What is most shocking is the total silence for the past month from  MCA and  Gerakan Ministers with not a single word from anyone of them  either on the second Mahathir education review committee whether with regard to its agenda, composition or modus of operandi or Mahathir’s startling admission of the failure of the national education system for the past two to three decades as a result of the “double hijackings”.  This conspiracy of silence of MCA and Gerakan Ministers is the latest demonstration of their having  become political “mutes” in Malaysia  on important issues affecting the people and nation.


These are not the only adverse outcomes of the 1999 general election results, others include:


  • The “929 Declaration” by Mahathir unilaterally and arbitrarily declaring at the Gerakan national delegates’ conference on Sept. 29 last year that Malaysia is an Islamic state -  in total violation of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract” and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement on the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS. 

  • Malaysia being regarded internationally as a “terrorist centre” - admitted publicly for the first time by Mahathir in his recent Hari Raya Address -  adversely affecting Malaysia’s economic prospects causing a  sharp drop in inflow of  Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and foreign tourists.

  • In Penang, the high-handed and undemocratic manner, lacking in accountability and transparency, in trying to force through the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project, when its viability, propriety and legitimacy remain in public doubt – culminating in the political scandal of Gerakan teaming up with UMNO with tacit support from MCA Team B  to publicly humiliate MCA’s Team A leadership over the abstention by two Penang MCA Assembly members Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat) in the PORR  motion by the DAP Assemblyman for Batu Lanchang, Law Heng Kiang in the recent Penang State Assembly.


All these years, DAP leaders have taken a clear-cut stand for justice, freedom, democracy, good governance, standing up for a Malaysian Malaysia, opposing communalism and extremism in any form, because of our sense of patriotism and love for the country. 


DAP leaders can stand up and declare any time that they are more nationalistic and patriotic than MCA, Gerakan and even UMNO leaders for DAP leaders are in politics to fight for a just Malaysia and are prepared to lose their personal freedoms and endure  other sacrifices for these ideals – unlike those in the Barisan Nasional who are in politics for position,  preferment, titles or wealth.


Malaysians who have supported and voted for the DAP have down the decades do so out of their love and patriotism for Malaysia, for wanting the best for the nation and the people.


The time has come for a nation-wide “Love Malaysia, Save Malaysia” campaign to uphold  the 45-year Merdeka Constitution of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation, purge the international perception of Malaysia as a terrorist centre and establish a world-class  education system of excellence which can serve the twin objectives of forging national unity of our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious population and prepare Malaysians  to meet the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology.


This “Love Malaysia, Save Malaysia” Campaign should be the greatest test and challenge for all patriotic Malaysians in the new year, 2003, and be the centerpiece of the battle in the next general election, whether held before or after the OIC Summit in Kuala Lumpur on  Oct. 24-25, 2003  – the date for the departure of Mahathir as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia after 22 years and 3 months in the highest office of the land.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman