Acute shortage of SJKCs is not the
real crisis of Chinese Primary Education in the country
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew
that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has publicly denied
that he has perceived Chinese primary schools (SRJKC or SJKC) as a
disuniting factor, let us give him the benefit of doubt and proceed with the
demand of building more SJKCs wherever and whenever needed.
The demand for more SJKCs in
urban areas is not a new issue.
The Chinese community
has been publicly demanding the Government to build more SJKCs long before
the MCA made its call. And the DAP has given its support as mother tongue
education is vital in preserving culture and traditions. It’s also a human
right enshrined in the UN Charter of Human Rights 1948.
Incidentally, Chinese education
pioneer Loot Ting Yee and other community leaders have questioned why MCA
need to make such a proposal publicly, as the party is a major component of
the ruling Barisan Nasional Government.
Some suspect that the
MCA President is merely using the issue to garner support in the coming MCA
DAP has submitted a general
demand on mother tongue education to the Ministry of Education in February
2004 in conjunction with the 4th International Mother Language Day.
In the special memorandum, the
party argues that the
education has been neglected by the Government for the past 50 years, and we
specifically demanded that the government should build 50 SJKCs every year
to solve the acute shortage of Chinese primary schools in
The Party also proposed that in
tandem with the concept of ‘every community deserves a school it needs’,
there should be a new SJKC for every community with a population of 3,000 to
7,500 people (or a student population of 420 to 1,050). We also called for
the reopening of the original SJKC Damansara as a community school in the
said memorandum, among other long-standing issues.
But the biggest crisis of the
Chinese primary education system is not the acute shortage. It lies in the
switching of language/medium of teaching.
From 2003, All SJKCs were
forced to adopt the ill-conceived, politically-compromised Formula 2-4-3,
where English is used as the medium of teaching for both Maths and Science
subjects along with the Chinese language. If the Education Ministry further
decides to switch the language of teaching for more subjects, whether it is
from Chinese to English or Chinese to Malay, very soon there will be no more
Chinese primary schools in the country.
Or they would only exist in
name, just like the handful of so-called national-type Chinese secondary
schools (as coined by some government supporters).
When more subjects were taught
in English or Malay, leaving only one or two subjects still being taught in
would you still call it
I would even go one step
further to argue that unless and until the BN Government could guarantee
that there would not switch the language of teaching further for the SJKCs,
I see no point of building more Chinese primary schools.
In the case of SJKTs, they can
hardly be called Tamil primary schools. Tamil is no longer a language of
teaching for Maths and Science subjects. Short of a reverse of policy,
couple with the possibility of more subjects being switched from Tamil to
Malay or English, there will be no more Tamil primary education in the
country in the near future.
The switch of language of
teaching is a real and bigger threat than the Vision School concept simply
because there are not many places one can find the right proportion of
different races living in the same area (the pre-requisite of building a
Vision School). You would not be able to find enough Malay or Indian
students for intake if you build a Vision School in a Chinese new village.
The only way to safeguard the
Chinese primary education in the country is to maintain Chinese language as
the major language of teaching for all SJKCs. That is the reason why DAP
calls for the abolishment of the Formula 2-4-3, apart from the fact that the
formula is ill-conceived and unpractical.
* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew,
DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief