DAP calls for open, rational and responsible public  debate and discussion on education including the building  new Chinese and Tamil primary schools under  the Ninth  Malaysia Plan befitting a maturing  democracy with a 46-year history and not to sweep the whole question under the carpet

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Tuesday):  DAP calls for open, rational and responsible public  debate and discussion  on education including the building  new Chinese and Tamil primary schools under  the Ninth  Malaysia Plan befitting a maturing democracy with a 46-year history  and not to sweep the whole issue under the carpet. 

In keeping with his declaration  when he became the fifth Prime Minister 17 months ago that he wanted to be told the truth reflecting the people’s views, Abdullah should not only allow but encourage a full public discussion on the important issue of education including the building of new Chinese and Tamil primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan  to meet increasing student enrolment needs, which respects the rights and sensitivities of all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion.


Abdullah’s statement yesterday  that there is no need for an “alternative education stream for certain groups” for instance raises many questions, and as Prime Minister, he must be prepared to maintain an open mind to dissenting views.


Firstly, Abdullah must ensure that the formulation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan will be a  truly consultative process, where differing views are allowed to be aired and discussed openly in a rational and responsible spirit without any sensationalism or emotionalism.   To openly reject a proposal and to stop further public discussion  by declaring that the matter will be dealt with behind closed-doors by the Barisan Nasional component parties is neither consultative nor democratic.


Secondly, it is a fallacy to argue that Malaysia has two different education systems, when there is only one national education system since the Razak Education Report 1956, which stressed:


“Once all schools are working to a common content syllabus, irrespective of the language medium of instruction, we consider the country will have taken the most important step towards establishing a national system of education which  will satisfy the needs of the people and promote their cultural, social, economic and political development as a nation.”


Thirdly, it is also a fallacy to regard national-type Chinese primary schools as nurseries of Chinese chauvinism when they have always been Malaysian-centred and Malaysian-oriented schools, using the same national syllabus as the  national primary schools, and with a multi-racial pupil population, with some 10 per cent of the Chinese primary school enrolment of over 600,000 who are non-Chinese – Malays, Indians, Ibans and Kadazans.


The two most senior MCA Cabinet Ministers, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting (MCA President) and Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy (MCA Deputy President) are both products of national-type Chinese primary schools. Are they anti-national and unpatriotic Malaysians?


Fourthly, the phenomenon of the overwhelming majority of  over 90 per cent of Chinese pupils enrolling in national-type Chinese primary schools is not a recent development, going back over three decades  to the seventies when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was the Education Minister as well when Abdullah was the Education Minister from 1984 to 1986.  This is not because the parents are unMalaysian or unpatriotic but because they want the best for their children as Malaysian citizens.


Fifthly, It is not right to blame racial polarization on the existence of Chinese primary schools, as in the ensuing five-year secondary education, the overwhelming majority of Malaysian students undergo the same schooling in the national secondary schools.  The 60 Chinese Independent Secondary Schools enroll only some 10 per cent of the Chinese primary school Std. VI pupils – which means that some 90 per cent of the Std. VI Chinese primary school students continue their studies in the national secondary schools.


Sixthly, while the strengthening of national schools to make it a first choice of the rakyat, regardless of race and religion, is commendable and supportable, something is very wrong  whether educationally or from perspective of nation-building if this has to be  achieved by depriving mother-tongue education, which is constitutionally guaranteed, of fair and just treatment as by squeezing 53 to 55 pupils into a class in urban Chinese primary schools when the ideal class size is 30 pupils.


Seventhly, whether Barisan Nasional 2004 general election pledge of “fair treatment for mother-tongue education”, which could  only mean the building of new Chinese primary schools to meet increasing enrolment student needs, are to be honoured and fulfilled or disregarded and violated.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman