Four proposals to raise English proficiency in Chinese and Tamil primary schools 每 increase teaching time and number of English teachers, same UPSR English paper as national primary schools and single-session schools for all

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Thursday):  DAP welcomes the announcement by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad yesterday that the decision to teach mathematics and science in English in Chinese and Tamil primary schools will only be made after obtaining feedback from the communities 每 a decision which had it been taken right from the beginning and  made crystal clear to all quarters  would have saved the country considerable heartaches and the strain to the fabric of Malaysian nation-building process by reckless statements and unnecessary threats. 

The statement by the UMNO Youth leader, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday  attacking the Dong Zhong Chairman Quek Suan Hiang for allegedly ※inflaming the sentiments of the Chinese§ with  ※extremist and narrow-minded§ statements is the type of outbursts by political leaders and Cabinet Ministers  the country can do without 每 as Hishammuddin was  ※inflaming the sentiments of the Malays§!  

With  three weeks to go before the country celebrates the 45th National Day, Hishammuddin should show that he had learnt from the disgraceful UMNO Youth episode over the Suqiu just before the 43rd National Day two years ago and lead UMNO Youth to transform itself into a national political youth movement not just for the Malays but for all Malaysians looking  at all problems through the Malaysian prism  and not through the narrow vision of any one community! 

It is a blot on the record of the 45 years of Malaysian nation-building that certain mass media had recently  been conducting a tactless, thoughtless and baseless campaign to demonise dissent and opposition to the use of English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools as chauvinists, antediluvian, anti-national, disloyal and even traitors which cannot bear up to any public scrutiny in any open and rational debate or discussion. 

If Musa*s announcement that adequate time will be given to the various communities to discuss and deliberate  the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools is sincerely adhered to, the ※hot-house§ atmosphere created by certain quarters to ride roughshod over legitimate dissent and to demonise them as disloyal and anti-national elements could cease and the people allowed cool, civil  and rational discussion as to what are the best ways to raise the proficiency of Malaysian students in English, mathematics and science, whether in national, Chinese or Tamil primary schools to equip the country to meet the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology.  

It was because the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said on Tuesday morning that the Cabinet might make a decision at its weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday on the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools, that I quickly penned an email to him at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to advise caution. 

In my email, I detailed six steps for the Cabinet to defuse the controversy over the use of English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese and Tamil primary schools to ensure that it will not be the cause for the repeat of the 43rd National Day discord and division for this year*s National Day, viz:  


The MCA is holding a major seminar on the 10-year Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010  at Wisma MCA on Saturday, which is quite a joke as it  should more appropriately be  dubbed  ※The *Unconscious, Unknowing* or &Last to be Conscious, Last to Know* MCA Education Seminar§ for two reasons:  


If the MCA Education Seminar on Saturday is not to be even more behind-times, it should come out with a consensus on how best to enhance English proficiency in Chinese primary schools.  

There  are at least four proposals on how this could be done, and I commend them for consideration and better still, adoption by the MCA Education Seminar on Saturday, viz;  

  1. The increase of the present teaching hours for English for the six years of Chinese primary schooling  by two, three or even four times 每 which is still less than the quantum of time allocated to the teaching of English for the six years of primary education in national primary schools.   

  2. Training of 5,000 qualified English teachers for the 1,288 Chinese primary schools.  According to the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010, for the year 2000, the teacher-pupil ratio in national primary schools  was 18:1 while for Chinese primary schools  the ratio was 23:1.  There were 2,193,584 pupils in national primary schools with 121,021 teachers  in 2000 compared to 622,712 pupils with 27,021 teachers  in Chinese primary schools  ( Jadual 2.1 and 2.2). If Chinese primary schools had the same teacher-pupil ratio of 18:1 as national primary schools, there would be 34,595 teachers  or another  7,574 teachers from the actual number of 27,021 teachers. 

  3. Chinese primary school pupils sitting for the same UPSR English paper as those from the national primary schools.  

  4. Single-session schools for all Chinese primary school pupils.  As the 600 single-session school building programme last year did not include a single Chinese primary school, a Cabinet policy must be made immediately to include Chinese primary schools in the single-session school programme to reduce the monstrous class-size in Chinese primary schools topping 55 pupils per class to 30 per class, to enable the restructuring of the school time-table.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman