The Status And Position Of Chinese Primary Schools Can Only Be Guaranteed When BN Sees Mother-Tongue Education As A Source Of Unity Rather Than A Weapon For Disunity

Press Statement
Lim Guan Eng

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday):  DAP expresses concern at former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s remarks on 22.3.2005 that MCA's request to the government to build more Chinese primary schools is not related to getting good education. Both the former and present Prime Minister appears to have adopted the similar position against the building of more Chinese primary schools. 

Prime Minister Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s political secretary clarification to the Chinese press that the Chinese press had misunderstood Datuk Abdullah because he did not refer to Chinese primary schools as not in the national interests or assist in national integration of the various races. What is surprising is that the same clarification was not made to the English and Malay papers even though they carried the same reports.  

For instance the headline news in the Malay papers on 15 March 2005 were as follows:-

  • Utusan Malaysia, “Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi menegaskan sebarang tindakan untuk menambah SRJK© atau SRJK(T) hanya akan mengujudkan pelbagai sistem dalam pendidikan dan ia tidak baik kepada negara.”

  • Berita Harian, “Kerajaan tidak akan menambah SRJK© dan Tamil kerana ia menjurus kepada kemunculan dua aliran berasingan dalam sistem pendidikan negara yang tidak membantu menyatupadukan rakyat pelbagai kaum, kata Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.”

Clearly, the reports in the Malay papers were no different from that in the Chinese press. Such selective clarification to the Chinese papers but not to the non-Chinese papers gives rise to suspicions of a two-faced political spin-doctoring of telling both the Chinese and non-Chinese community different stories.  

By blaming only the Chinese press for not being able to correctly understand what the Prime Minister said, is also unfair to the Chinese reporters when the Malay and English press were not blamed for making the same reports. Once again the Chinese press is being made the scapegoat for the Prime Minister’s political and policy mistakes. 

The present controversy over the building of new Chinese primary schools highlights the precarious position and use of Mandarin, even though it is enshrined under Article 152 of the Federal Constitution. We must not forget that such laws can be changed and the Federal Constitution be amended with a 2/3 majority.  

With a declining Chinese population in Malaysia of only 25.4%, Chinese form less than 1/3 of the population. Reliance on the Federal Constitution in the light of a declining Chinese population is no guarantee of the continued use and study mother-tongue education. 

The position of Mandarin can best be guaranteed when BN finally sees and concedes that mother-tongue education as an important role to play in nation-building as a source of unity rather than a weapon for disunity. DAP regrets that the BN government still refuses to wholly accept that Malaysians with Chinese education background are patriotic and make important contributions towards the country’s economic development. 

Education is not just a window of opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged to raise themself up to a higher standard of living but also miss an opportunity to unite Malaysians. The Chinese have a famous phrase that “we should not let our children suffer neither should we allow their education to be poorer”. Unfortunately, by not allowing educational democracy but preferring to use it as a political weapon, education has served to divide rather than unite Malaysians.   

There is cause for optimism for the future of mother-tongue education when the BN government demonstrates its recognition of mother-tongue education as a source of unity and its contribution towards nation-building based on three principles:

  • Allowing the establishment of universities which uses mother-tongue;

  • Adopting a national and not a racial approach towards education by deleting all references to racial supremacy and “ketuanan  Melayu” in secondary school textbooks; and

  • Allocation of development funds fairly to 1,288 SRJK© based on student enrolment.


1.         Establishing Universities

Only a university which uses mother tongue education as the medium of instruction can ensure the development and preservation of the language. The time has come for the government to allow Dong Ziao Zong to build a university.


2.         Need For A National And Not A Racial Perspective Towards Education.

DAP fails to see how the government can succeed in its Vision 2020 objective of creating a Malaysian race when the new Form V history textbook, under Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah, contained words of “Ketuanan Malayu”, which had never been used for history textbooks for students in the past 47 years.  

Instead of focusing on common values amongst our young that unite all regardless of race and religion, the government is highlighting differences that divide by stressing on the inherent racial dominance and superiority. Where is fairness and justice when the history book highlights only the constitutional rights of one race without mentioning  the constitutional rights of citizenship and mother education of non-Malays.


3.         Recognition Of The Role Played By Mother-Tongue And Religious Education

BN government has refused to fully recognize the role and contribution made by mother-tonguie and religious education. Independent Chinese schools and then Sekolah Agama Rakyat were denied government assistance. Such discriminatory policies is most evident in the development allocation for fully and partially aided 1,288 Chinese and 576 Tamil primary schools. 

There are some 60,000 non-Chinese students in the Chinese primary schools in the country, which should have meant the building of some 60 new Chinese primary schools just to cater to this demand - but Chinese primary school enrolment have doubled from 310,000 students in 1957 to over 620,000 students in 2,000, yet the number of Chinese primary schools in the past 43 years has seen a decline of 49 schools!

Under the Seventh Malaysia Plan 1995-2000, national primary schools with 75% of the total primary school enrolment received 96.5% of the allocations, while Chinese primary schools with 21% of the total primary school enrolment was allocated 2.4% and Tamil primary schools with 3.6% of the enrolment allocated one per cent of the total development funds for primary schools for the five-year period. Such discrimination and injustice to Chinese and Tamil primary schools  should be rectified, and allocation be made on the basis of enrolment, i.e. 75% to national primary schools, 21% to Chinese primary schools and 3.6% to Tamil primary schools.

As the total development allocation for  primary schools  for the next five years from 2000-5 under Eighth Malaysia Plan is RM 6.6 billion, an equitable distribution of the  allocation would mean the  national primary schools would get RM 5 billion or 75%, Chinese primary schools RM 1.4  billion or 21% and Tamil primary schools RM 240 million or 3.6%.

The time has come for BN not to look at education from a racial perspective but from a national outlook. Only then can Malaysia concentrate on utilizing education as a tool that is beneficial to the country’s development, and not as a weapon to divide Malaysians. BN should adopt a three-prong approach of democracy, equal opportunity and optimal commercial application to make education:-

  • a unifying force for a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia with an informed and educated population;

  • an opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged to raise themselves to a higher standard of living; and

  • create a well-trained, knowledgeable and versatile work force that allows Malaysia to enhance our international competitiveness.


* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General