Cabinet tomorrow should seriously consider the restoration of some 100  English medium secondary schools to cater for the 7,000 Malaysian students schooling in Johore which could also save foreign exchange

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday)New Straits Times Group editor-in-chief Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad yesterday suggested bringing back English schools as a solution to the current controversy over the teaching of English in schools to  give more options to parents in choosing the medium of instruction for their children.  

He stressed, however, that this suggestion was not meant for new schools, but only the old ones established by the British which were converted into national schools in the 1970s. 

He said these established schools could be reconverted to teach again in English, with Bahasa Malaysia and Malaysian literature as compulsory subjects, and Islamic studies for Muslims. Non-Malays could opt for an additional subject in their mother tongue.  

Abdullah has made a  proposal eminently worthy of serious consideration.  

Speaking at the official opening of the Open University of Malaysia (OUM) yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that the education industry could be further developed into a strong contributor to the national economy as the industry here, though not the cheapest, was more competitive than that in many other nations.  

He said that by merely reducing the number of our students going abroad, Malaysia can already reduce the outflow of foreign exchange and bolster our reserves.  

The Cabinet tomorrow should seriously consider the restoration of some 100  English medium secondary schools to cater for the 7,000 Malaysian students schooling in Johore as this  could save foreign exchange if Malaysian students going to Singapore to pursue English medium education could do it locally.  

The Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had said that  the  issue of 7,000 Malaysian students enrolling at schools across the Causeway should not be turned into a racial or ethnic one, as the government has no objection to Malaysians going to Singaporean schools. 

A front-page report in Utusan Malaysia last Friday had first quoted the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students president Suhaimi Ibrahim as  saying that there are  7,000 Malaysian Chinese students at secondary schools in Singapore where the medium of instruction is English.  

I do not know whether the 7,000 figure is correct as there is no confirmation by the Education Ministry although the Prime Minister had adopted it as an authoritative figure.  Suhaimi was in fact the first to suggest the restoration of English-medium schools when Mahathir spoke about the need to stop the decline of the English language and to enhance English proficiency in schools and universities sometime in May.  

However, in line with Mahathirís speech yesterday that creating more educational openings for Malaysians at school at home will be good for Malaysiaís economy in saving foreign exchange, the Cabinet tomorrow should decide whether to adopt Abdullahís proposal for the restoration of some 100 previous English medium schools to cater to the 7,000 Malaysians studying in Singapore under an English-medium education system.  

Furthermore, the development of English-medium education in Malaysia will also act as a magnet for foreign students, which can be a major step to transform Malaysia into an international educational centre of academic excellence as well as serving the nationís economic interests.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman