Sunday): The street edition of China Press tonight
front-paged a ferocious attack on the mass media by the Gerakan President, Datuk
Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, with the
headline “Keng Yaik scolds media”.
Speaking at the Gerakan Federal Territory annual general
meeting in Kuala Lumpur this morning, Keng Yaik blamed the mass media for
frequently distorting his statements and the Gerakan stand on the use of English
to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One, and gave as
an example his endorsement of the speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr.
Mahathir Mohamad warning “extremists” among Chinese educationists to stop
their opposition to the use of English to teach mathematics and science in
primary schools from Std. One or “face the music”.
Keng Yaik said he was made to appear as attacking the
Chinese community when he in fact, he was
not singling out the Chinese but all racial groups.
It is true that the media had many times distorted the statements of politicians, but this
must be one rare occasion where a politician is trying to distort the mass media
as there could be no doubt whatsoever that when Keng Yaik publicly endorsed
Mahathir’s warning statement, the Gerakan President was targeting the Chinese
In his statement when visiting the Universiti Pendidikan
Sultan Idris in Tanjong Malim the previous Saturday on August 10 Mahathir had
“issued a strong warning to certain ‘extremist’ groups to stop inciting
the Chinese over the proposed use of English in teaching mathematics and science
in Chinese primary schools”.
“extremists” had gone around trying to provoke the Chinese
community by saying that the proposal was a prelude to the government
closing down Chinese schools or turning them into national schools, Mahathir
said “they are playing with
fire” and declared that the
government would go ahead with the
plan as scheduled next year. (Star front-page headline story 11.8.02)
In his warning, Mahathir even openly named and attacked Jiao Zong adviser Sim Moh Yee as
“leading a previous generation of extremists trying to influence the
government’s plan to use English to teach mathematics and science by
casting the shadow of government intention to eliminate Chinese
education” and even categorized Sim in the group of people who had wanted to
create a “Little China” or a province of China
in the past. (Nanyang Siang Pau 11.8.02)
Mahathir warned that the government would act against
“certain newspapers” for “regularly
highlighting racial issues” and “fanning racial sentiments to the extent of
creating unrest”. (Star 11.8.02)
Yaik come forward to utter a word of justice for Sim Moh Yee,
the Chinese educationists and the Chinese press for being
wrongly accused by the Prime
Minister of being extremist, chauvinist, anti-national and disloyal, when before
the 1999 general election, Mahathir and other
UMNO leaders had praised
Chinese education and Chinese educationists for their great contribution to
nation-building and manpower education, and Sim was even honoured by the Yang di
Pertuan Agong for his contribution to education and nation building?
Keng Yaik not only did not come out to say a word of fair
play, but endorsed Mahathir’s warning as “the beginning of action against
cultural and education extremists” – making the people immediately think of
the Operation Lalang mass arrests in 1987 when both Sim and the then Dong Zong
Chairman Lim Fong Seng were among the 107 detained under the Internal Security
Act without trial!
Keng Yaik even praised Mahathir for his warning, “as with
his 21 years of experience in governing the country, he could foresee the hidden
crisis and know when is the right
time to take action to maintain the stability and peace of the country”! (Sin
Chew Jit Poh 12.8.02).
How can Keng Yaik now turn around to
“bite” the media of having distorted the meaning of
his endorsement of Mahathir’s warning, which were clearly aimed at the Chinese educationists, especially Sim Moh Yee and Dong
Zong Chairman Quek Suan Hiang who had been named and attacked by UMNO and UMNO
Youth leaders in the current controversy?
In any event, if Keng Yaik had been distorted or misquoted,
why did he take one whole week before making such a protest
and clarification – which is proof that he does not have a pair of
clean hands when protesting his innocence!
Be that as it may, DAP still welcome the Gerakan’s belated
stand opposing the move to teach mathematics and science in English from
Standard One for national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools from next year.
I had called
on the Chinese-based Barisan Nasional parties which had failed on
Friday, after three months and three meetings,
to hammer out a consensus on
the issue to make “a right,
rational and quick decision” to
reject the proposal to use English
to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools from Std. One,
because it is educationally unsound, and that the same principle extends to
national and Tamil primary schools as well.
The proposal to use English to teach mathematics and
science in primary schools from Std. One is not only disastrous for pupils of
national and Tamil primary schools, it is
doubly disastrous for pupils of Chinese primary schools which had
consistently achieved higher standards in these two
subjects as compared to the other medium streams, including English
primary schools before they were abolished in the mid-Seventies.
Now that Gerakan
has seen the “light” that there is no educational justification for the
proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from
Std. One, the MCA, MIC, SUPP, SAPP and other Barisan Nasional component parties
should convene emergency meetings to take a common position in the best
interests of the young school-going generation and that of the country.
The Cabinet on Wednesday should take the policy decision to suspend its July 19 decision to use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One in national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools and convene a national summit of political leaders and educationists to reach a national consensus on the best way to raise student proficiency in English, maths and science in primary and secondary schools and the public and private universities.
decision on July 19 to use English to teach mathematics and science for Form One
and Lower Sixth next year can remain, as it is only its introduction from Std.
One that is controversial as lacking in educational basis from studies and
research by educationists, whether international or local.
Keng Yaik said
yesterday that his party had spent a month studying the proposal to teach
mathematics and science in English, including referring to 12 books and working
papers presented by eminent local and foreign academicians on the topic and that
most studies had shown that a student should first have a strong command of his
mother tongue to learn science and mathematics effectively.
Keng Yaik should
send copies of these 12 books and expert working papers to the Education
Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad and all Cabinet Ministers before Wednesday.
In fact, DAP leaders had been making precisely these very same educational arguments in our opposition to the use of English to teach mathematics and science from Std. One. I had repeatedly in my media statement offered to give Musa and the Education Director-General Datuk Abdul Rafei Mamat educational studies world-wide showing that using a second language as a medium of instruction from too early stages can impede the development of thinking skills of students resulting in low achievements in mathematics, science and languages.
Keng Yaik should answer is why he
had been so irresponsible as to give support to the Cabinet decision on July 19
to start using English to teach mathematics and science for national primary
schools from Std. One from next year, and the tacit understanding that it would
also apply to Chinese and Tamil primary schools after the “political
problem” had been sorted out by Barisan Nasional non-Malay political parties,
without fully understanding its implications!
revelation has highlighted the unprofessional and most unsatisfactory manner
whereby important policy decisions
are made by the Cabinet – with
most Ministers acting as “yes-men” or “yes-women” supporting
new policy decisions without fully understanding the issues and the
implications involved, including endorsing
half-baked proposals which are educationally unsound!
has now realized the folly of using English to teach mathematics and science in
primary schools from Std. One, it has not addressed the urgent need to raise
English proficiency in the national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
At the Cabinet
meeting on Wednesday, Keng Yaik should present a working paper
to raise English proficiency in Chinese primary schools, which should
include the following four proposals:
The increase of the present teaching hours for English for the six years of Chinese primary schooling by two, three or even four times – 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.
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.
Chinese primary school pupils sitting for the same UPSR English paper as those from the national primary schools.
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.