Cabinet should officially recognize the International Mother Langue Day
next Wednesday and allow parents the full freedom of choice between the best
national primary schools and the best national-type primary schools for
their children without stunting or obstructing the full development of
Chinese and Tamil primary schools
by Lim Kit Siang
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday reiterated
that the government would not close down or stop financial support for
national-type primary schools in keeping with its pledge to the Chinese and
Speaking in a question-and-answer session for the 165 UMNO division heads
and other leaders on Sekolah Agama Rakyat (SAR) in Kuala Lumpur, Mahathir
announced that the government has set up a committee headed by former
Education director-general Tan Sri Murad Mohd Noor to restructure the
national school system to make it attractive to all the races in the
He said that if sufficient time was allocated for religious studies in
national schools, the Malays would not go to privately-run People's
He added: "We also do not want Chinese and Indian families rejecting
national schools and sending their children to national-type schools,
thinking that national schools are only for Malays and are emphasizing
Mahathir said the Murad committee had submitted its preliminary report to
him yesterday morning and that they would be looking at various models for
the new education system.
Mahathir's statement on Chinese and Tamil primary schools warrants several
observations and comments.
For the past year, the DAP has been calling for a New Deal for Mother-tongue
education, such as the building of 250 new Chinese primary schools under the
Eighth Malaysia Plan to meet the increased enrolment needs of pupils, the
re-opening of the original Damansara Chinese primary school in Petaling Jaya
as a "community school" for the pupils in the immediate locality, fair
government allocation of development expenditures to national-type primary
schools based on student enrolment and making Pupil's Own Language (POL) a
compulsory subject for all pupils in national primary and secondary schools.
It should be a matter of grave concern that in the past month,
one UMNO Minister after another had been blaming the existence of Chinese
primary schools as the cause of racial polarization and national unity, as
illustrated by the following instances:
The speech by UMNO Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister,
Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the inaugural Penang UMNO Education
Convention on 25th January 2003 based on the fallacy that the existence of
Chinese primary schools is the cause of racial polarization in the country.
The statement by UMNO Vice President and Minister for Domestic
Trade and Consumer Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin, after attending
the MCA Pagoh Chinese New Year Open House reiterating the fallacy that race
relations would continue to worsen if the overwhelming majority of the
Chinese pupils enrol in Chinese primary schools (Berita Harian 6.2.03). This
ignores the fact that the phenomenon of some 90 per cent of Chinese pupils
attending Chinese primary schools did not develop only in the past few years
but went back over three decades, as in 1977, when Mahathir was then the
Education Minister, 87 per cent of the Chinese pupils were already attending
the Chinese primary schools.
The statement by Aziz Shamsuddin 7th February reiterating that
the existence of Chinese and Tamil primary schools are factors of racial
polarization in the country.
It is a great fallacy to regard the existence of Chinese
primary schools as one of the major causes of racial polarization and
national disunity in Malaysia.
Have the Chinese primary schools, with the enrolment of some 90
per cent of the Chinese pupils, produced chauvinistic, anti-national and
unpatriotic Malaysians? This was never the case, for in the past 30 years,
Chinese primary schools had produced Malaysians citizens whose loyalty and
patriotism are second to none and who had contributed more than their share
to the present economic and national development of the country.
Mahathir had said more than once, inside and outside the
country, that he regards as his greatest achievement the peaceful
development of the country contributed by all Malaysians, regardless of race
or stream of education.
In fact, at every general election, UMNO leaders competed to praise Chinese
education, both Chinese primary schools and the 60 Chinese Independent
Secondary schools, for their educational excellence, school discipline,
teacher commitment and national contribution - but which are quickly
forgotten after each election.
DAP calls on the government to allow parents the full freedom
of choice between the best national primary schools and the best
national-type primary schools for their children - without stunting or
obstructing the full development of Chinese and Tamil primary schools,
whether from lack of new school buildings to meet increased enrolment needs,
fair allocation of school development funds or adequacy of trained
Mahathir's announcement of the establishment of the Murad committee to
restructure the national school system, and that it had submitted its
preliminary report, together with the disclosure by the Deputy Education
Minister, Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin, last Friday that the second Mahathir
education review committee had met three times in the past two months, are
evidence of the advanced stage in the comprehensive overhaul of the national
It should be a matter of grave national concern that the highest-powered and
most important review of the national education system in the nation's
history, chaired for the first time by the Prime Minister, is based solely
on the decision of the UMNO Supreme Council on Nov. 29 last year and had
never been referred to the Cabinet for approval and direction in the past 10
This is most improper and unhealthy, firstly because the Cabinet is the
pertinent authority to approve the establishment, terms of reference,
composition and modus operandi of the most important and highest-powered
education review committee in the 45-year history of the nation; and
secondly, the unprecedented marginalization of the MCA, Gerakan, MIC and
SUPP Ministers in being totally excluded from the education review, with
UMNO Ministers and Deputy Ministers the only members of the second Mahathir
education review committee.
This should be rectified and regularized by the Cabinet at its next meeting
on Wednesday. There is one other matter which deserves urgent Cabinet
attention and DAP calls on the Cabinet to officially recognize the
International Mother Langue Day (IMLD) on Wednesday, i.e. two days before
February 21, the fourth International Mother Language Day.
It would be too late for the government to organize nation-wide
events to commemorate the IMLD this year, but its official recognition by
the Cabinet on Wednesday could be regarded as a celebration of sorts,
especially as Malaysia was one of the 28 countries which seconded the
proposal adopted by UNESCO in 1999 to declare Feb. 21 as the IMLD.
Such a Cabinet recognition is important for our national
education system as one of the UNESCO objectives of declaring the
International Mother Language Day is to "promote, through multilingual
education, democratic access to knowledge for all citizens, whatever their
mother tongue, and build linguistic pluralism".
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National