At present, there are only 14 Chinese primary schools in the Petaling district although the total Chinese primary school enrolment is more than 25,000, with at least six of them having an enrolment of over 2,000 students. There is a pressing need not just for the building of a new Chinese primary school, but a powerful case to be made for the urgent building of a dozen Chinese primary schools in Petaling to meet increasing needs so that pupils do not have to get up at 5 a.m. to catch the schoolbus and get home from school some 12 hours later at 4 or 5 p.m.
The root cause of the Damansara school controversy is the long-standing unfair policy of the Barisan Nasional government which refused to give fair treatment to mother-tongue education as its refusal to build new and adequate Chinese primary schools to meet ever-increasing demands not only from Chinese pupils, but also from Malay, Indian, Kadazan and Iban students.
There are some 70,000 non-Chinese students in the Chinese primary schools in the country, which should have meant the building of some 120 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!
All political parties, whether government or opposition, mother-tongue educational bodies and concerned Malaysians should come together to develop a national consensus for a New Deal for Mother-tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan.
In the fifth decade of Malaysian nationhood, all Malaysians regardless
of race have accepted Bahasa Malaysia as the national and official language
as the common unifying bond. There is need, however, to strengthen
mother-tongue education, which will be in the spirit of the Constitutional
guarantee in Article 152 which stipulates that “ (a) no person shall be
prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes),
or from teaching or learning, any
other language; and (b) nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation”.
The fundamental right to mother-tongue education has been given international recognition in the United Nations Mother-Tongue Declaration 1992 where the United Nations General Assembly declared that the promotion and protection of mother tongues of minorities “contribute to the political and social stability of States in which they live” and reaffirmed “the constant promotion and realization” of mother-tongue rights as “an integral part of the development of society as a whole and within a democratic framework based on the rule of law”.
This is why the DAP has called for a New Deal for Mother-Tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan, as the claims for mother-tongue education status by all ethnic communites and groups symbolise Malaysia’s ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity which is the country’s greatest heritage and resources for the nation’s future in the era of IT and globalisation.
The DAP has made five proposals for the New Deal for Chinese Mother-Tongue
Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), namely:
I wish now to make a sixth proposal for the New Deal for Chinese Mother-Tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan - fair allocation of Eighth Malaysia Plan develoment expenditures to different streams of primary schools based on student enrolment.
The previous Parliament was told that the Seventh Malaysia Plan primary school development allocation was allocated most unfairly among the three different media primary school streams, where the national primary schools with 75% of the total primary school enrolment getting 96.5% of the allocations, while Chinese primary schools with 21% of the total primary school enrolment was allocated 2.4% while 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.
This injustice and neglect of the Chinese and primary schools for over four decades in development allocations should be rectified, and for the Eighth Malaysia Plan the development allocations to the different medium primary schools should be made based on the enrolment percentages.
For the next five years under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, total development allocation for primary education is RM2.75 billion, and if the allocation is based on the respective student enrolments, then the national primary schools would get RM2.1 billion or 75 per cent, Chinese primary schools RM577 million or 21% and Tamil primary schools RM99 million or 3.6%.
The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad should disclose in Parliament what is the government’s proposed distribution of the RM2.75 billion development allocation among the different medium primary schools under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, and why the government could not agree to a fair and equitable allocation based on the student enrolment for the different streams.