A fourth government  commitment on Chinese primary schools which the united front of the  MCA Ministers and Keng Yaik should raise in Cabinet tomorrow

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): Yesterday, I called on the four MCA Ministers, Datuk Seri  Dr. Ling Liong Sik, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, Datuk Ong Ka Ting and Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn to temporarily put aside their MCA “A” and “B” faction differences and,  together with the Gerakan Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik , to   establish an united front among themselves to demand three  government  commitments on Chinese primary schools when the Cabinet meets tomorrow, viz: 

  1. Fulfil the 1999 Barisan Nasional general election pledge to open  six new Chinese primary schools before the next general election;
  2. Build  50 new Chinese primary  schools a year; and
  3. Re-open the original  Damansara Chinese primary school in Petaling Jaya as a "community school" for the pupils in the immediate locality.

This follows a Jiao Zong survey showing that nationwide, there are over 336 Chinese primary schools with less than 100 pupils and at least 22 schools with  less than 22 pupils,  highlights one aspect of the protracted crisis faced by Chinese primary schools in the country.

As I said, if there is a healthy national education policy environment, there should be no problem with the closure of “mosquito” schools with less than 22 pupils. But in Malaysia, this has become a question of  survival of Chinese primary schools because of an unstated official policy not to build new Chinese primary schools to meet increased student population needs. 

Today, I wish to ask them to raise in Cabinet tomorrow to get a fourth government commitment on Chinese primary schools, namely that no Chinese primary school would have more than 800 to 1,000 students, and top priority would be given to immediately build new Chinese primary schools so that Chinese primary schools which have 1,000, 2,000, 3000 and even 4,000 pupils would not have an  average student population of more than 800 to 1,000  students in 24 months’ time. 

Following my statement yesterday which was posted on the DAP mailing list, a retired government doctor, one Dr. Nathan, gave a response, which raise many issues which deserve the consideration of all who are concerned about education. 

For this reason, I am reproducing below Dr. Nathan’s response: 

“There is yet another problem with Chinese schools.Some 6 or more Chinese schools in Selangor have student populations of more than 2,500 in each one of them. 

“I believe that there are schools with more than 3000 in enrolment.The famous Chinese primary school in Scudai Johore Kuo Kuang even had an enrolment of close to 4000 pupils!!...the largest in the country in terms of enrolment.  Surely this is not conducive to effective EDUCATION.

“It is equally as important to set an upper limit to sizes of primary schools and build more schools in these areas. Petaling district has several schools with enrolments of above 2000. 

“Many of these overcrowded schools have almost 50 pupils to a class, overflowing at the brim, which is again not conducive to effective teaching. 

“Nationwide in some areas there are large school buildings with excess unutilised classroom space, due to poor planning and forecasting.This problem is particularly felt in the old FELDA schemes where as a result of ageing population the primary school population has dwindled to a fraction of the peak population e.g. FELDA Air Hitam Johore. 

“You also have a similar situations in Chinese new village areas where there has been constant urban migration e.g the Chinese primary school in Jemaluang Johore,where the peak of 600+ is now left with a population of only 100+ pupils. 

“In Mersing, Johore, too a similar situation has developed in Pai Chee Chinese Primary school. 

“There needs to be more proactive planning at the top taking into consideration many more factors of population growth and decline, to enable valuable development funds to be utilised more EFFECTIVELY to promote more cost-effective improvements in Education. 

“Tamil schools have a different set of problems with poor infrastructure because the land belongs to the estate etc; the government not having taken steps to either move the school out of the private property, and/or acquire land to build proper school buildings. The community too poor to improve school facilities on their own.These schools too are faced with urban migration problems and declining populations. 

“Many of the rural primary schools in Sabah are also in a pathetic state too with the children grossly under-weight,and with the socio-economically poor unable to help themselves. Should we not consider them as OUR problem too? 

“So I hope that the DAP will take a broader view of the EDUCATION problems Nationwide while calling for Cabinet Commitments for ALL Primary schools.” 

Dr. Nathan is right. Malaysians should be concerned about the problems faced by all Malaysians – whether national, Chinese or Tamil primary schools; urban or rural.  All Malaysians are entitled to the best quality education, from primary, secondary to tertiary, which the country can give them.  There is an urgent need for educational reform for all schools.  

The  raising of the problems specifically faced by Chinese primary schools in Malaysia, however, does not mean that one is not concerned about the plight and quality  of national or Tamil primary schools; whether urban or rural.  In fact, it is from Dr. Nathan’s letter that I have culled  the fourth government commitment on Chinese primary schools which I hope a united front of MCA and Gerakan Ministers would secure in Cabinet tomorrow.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman