Musa’s statement that the government does not discount the possibility that vernacular schools will be affected by the current review on the education system a most honest, important and significant statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad’s statement yesterday that the government does not discount the possibility that vernacular schools will be affected by the current review on the education system is a most honest, important and significant statement.
This is completely different from the statement by the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Hon Choon Kam who said two weeks ago (reported in the Chinese press on 5.12.02) that the second Mahathir education review committee to review the entire national education system would not affect the Chinese primary schools although he admitted he knew nothing about it.
The logical implication of Musa’s statement yesterday that “it is not impossible” that the vernacular schools would be the subject of the second Mahathir education review is that there is no way that the position, development and future of Chinese and Tamil primary schools will not be affected in a review into the entire national education system.
This is my eighth media statement on the second Mahathir education review committee, but MCA, Gerakan and SUPP leaders are all still completely in the dark about this most important and high-powered education review committee in the 45-year history of the nation, as never before had there been any education committee which was headed by the Prime Minister.
Gerakan Deputy President, Kerk Choo Ting, for instance, said in today’s Sin Chew Daily that the Chinese-based parties in Barisan Nasional were “prepared” to take part in the review of the entire national education system but admitted that Gerakan and the other Chinese-based Barisan Nasional parties had not yet been invited to join the second Mahathir education review committee.
This is most shocking for two reasons:
It highlights the increasing irrelevance and marginalization of Gerakan, MCA and SUPP in important decisions affecting the nation, in this case, the most high-powered and far-reaching review of the entire national education system, as the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi confirmed last Thursday that the second Mahathir education review committee had its inaugural meeting in Putrajaya the previous day (Wednesday, 11th December 2002), and among those who attended the meeting chaired by Mahathir were Abdullah, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin and Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.
Failure of MCA, Gerakan and SUPP to insist that it is the Cabinet and not the UMNO Supreme Council which must decide on the second Mahathir education review committee, and that the decision of the UMNO Supreme Council on Nov. 29 on the issue can only be regarded as a recommendation to the government with the Cabinet taking the final decision, including its composition and terms of reference.
The increasing irrelevance and marginalization of the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers and leaders in many important national developments and issues are most unbelievable, as for instance, no MCA, Gerakan or SUPP Minister or leader seems to know that the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) had been commissioned and completed a report to promote the single-stream education system, making national schools the choice of all Malaysian students. This NEAC-commissioned report is the basic guiding document for the second Mahathir education review committee.
Yesterday, the Singapore Straits Times reported that among the proposals being studied by the second Mahathir education review committee to make national schools the No. 1 choice of parents include:
A government voucher scheme giving each national school student a monthly allowance. This can be drawn by a student for extra after-school classes so that parents would not need to pay for private tuition.
Making Mandarin, Tamil and Arabic language classes available in national schools to attract the many who now attend vernacular and religious schools.
Setting up premier schools across the country, which would be the training ground for future professionals, diplomats, corporate figures and senior civil servants, in the way Christian mission schools were many years ago.
Malaysians should now be having an active, vigorous and vibrant debate nation-wide on these issues and proposals – but instead, there is a total blank in public discussion and awareness, as if education concerns only Mahathir and a few handful of top UMNO leaders and no business of MCA, Gerakan and SUPP let alone the Opposition parties, the civil society and the Malaysian people as a whole.
The second Mahathir education review committee should not exist in a vacuum but operate in the midst of a flourishing and no-holds-barred national debate to identify the causes for the fundamental educational ills in the country and to search for the best national education system for Malaysia to face the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman