This is most unfortunate, for this issue has nothing whatsoever to do with the pernicious practice of segregating students according to race in the schools, which violate the very national and educational objective of creating an united Malaysian people.
In this context, the statement of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on Monday that the effectiveness of national schools will not be affected by the growing number of Malay pupils going to Chinese primary schools is most timely.
In fact, the more than 60,000 Malay students in the Chinese primary schools in the country, the biggest number in the nationís history, testifies to the changing character of the Chinese primary school as catering not only to the mother-tongue education needs of the Chinese school pupils but to the multi-lingual, multi-cultural and modern needs of Malay, Indian, Kadazan and Iban pupils as well.
Before the November 1999 general elections, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad led a chorus of Barisan Nasional leaders to express public appreciation and recognition of the great contribution to nation-building and manpower education made by Chinese schools, both Chinese primary schools and the 60 Chinese Independent secondary schools.
Mahathir praised the teachers and students of Chinese Independent secondary schools and Chinese primary schools as being more dedicated and committed, and that this was why some Malays preferred to send their children to Chinese-medium schools.
Government recognition and appreciation of the nation-building role of Chinese primary schools should not be seasonal before general elections or an important by-election like the forthcoming Indera Kayangan state assembly by-election in Perlis but an all-time phenomenon fully reflected in government policy and allocations, such as a New Deal for Mother-tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan to rectify the decades-old government neglect and unfair treatment as building 250 new Chinese primary schools from 2001-2005.
Mahathir should make use of the first Cabinet meeting in the new year next Wednesday to send out a clear message to the entire government machinery and to all Barisan Nasional component parties that government recognition and appreciation of the nation-building role of Chinese primary schools is not seasonal to be trotted out before general elections or important by-elections, but as an integral part of government policy and philosophy which should be reflected in day-to-day government administration and allocations.