Friday, September 29, 2006

Bogeyman Politics

A bogeyman is something or someone that is used to scare children when they are misbehaving. We have equivalent bogeymen when it comes to our education system. For UMNO and the radical Malay nationalists, it is the spectre of Chinese medium schools which represent the bogeyman. For the Chinese educationists, it is the looming presence of anything that threatens the 'character' of Chinese medium schools. Both sides need to open their eyes and dispel the myth of these bogeymen.

The latest salvo in this long standing debate was fired by Deputy Higher Education Minister, Ong Tee Keat and right on cue, Minister of Education, Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, fired right back. The issue in question was the misallocation of funds for the upgrading of two Chinese primary schools in Johor.

But let us take a step back from that particular issue. The larger issue in question is the long standing demand from the Chinese community for more Chinese primary schools. I don't have the numbers here but if I recall properly, the number of Chinese primary schools in Malaysia has not changed significantly since the 1960s. Some schools have been 'transferred' from low demand areas to higher demand areas. Some have been closed down for a variety of reasons - lack of demand, funding problems, poor infrastructure etc...

It's ludicrous that the number of Chinese schools have stayed more or less the same for the past 40 years when the Chinese community in Malaysia have grown by almost 3 times during that period. Average class sizes in Chinese primary schools in urban areas are approximately 55 a class.

But yet, the federal government has been adamant in not building additional Chinese primary schools (with the exception of Vision Schools, more on this later). For UMNO and for Malay nationalists, the existence of Chinese medium primary schools are an affront and a threat to Malay dominance and the dominance of the Malay language. Chinese primary schools have been blamed for many things including being the main reason for national disunity, why people of different races don't mix together and so on.

The spectre of Chinese medium schools as the bogeyman to Malay nationalists should be dispelled. The position of the Malay language is no longer in question. (If it is under attack, it is from the widespread use of English among certain quarters, rather than Chinese) The dominance of the Malays in the political system is also unquestionable. The 'defacto' outmigration of Chinese students from the national primary schools to the Chinese medium primary schools have not affected the character of the Malaysian state nor has it led to an increase in national disunity. It is hard to imagine that even with a 10% increase in the number of Chinese primary schools that the structure of our society would be changed in any significant way.

It just doesn't make much sense for the federal government to deny the demands of the Chinese community for more Chinese primary schools.

What is needed is a wholesale change in the way primary education funding is allocated. According to an entry in Wikipedia, "Between 1995 and 2000, the Seventh Malaysia Plan allocation for primary education development allocated 96.5% to national primary schools which had 75% of total enrolment. Chinese primary schools (21% enrolment) received 2.4% of the allocation while Tamil primary schools (3.6% enrolment) received 1% of the allocation."

The announcement by the Minister of Education, Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, that two new Chinese primary schools will be built in Johor under the 9MP is an appeasement strategy, not a long term solution. The 9MP, to my knowledge, does not state the exact number of new Chinese schools to be built, but sets out broad expenditure patterns which does not envision any substantial increase in the number of Chinese primary schools. The building of 2 new schools is akin to throwing bones to the dogs and hoping that they will stop barking, at least for now. It does not solve the long term problem of hunger, in this case the hunger for substantially more Chinese schools.

For the Chinese educationists, any move to alter the status quo of Chinese primary schools is interpreted as an attempt to change the 'character' of Chinese schools. Hence any attempts to introduce reform into Chinese primary schools have been met by fierce resistance on the part of these Chinese educationists, represented by the influential Dong Jiao Zhong (董教总). While the DJZ probably have good reasons not to trust the government, given that they have been betrayed in the past (notably in the 1961 Education Act), their close-mindedness have caused them to pass up on some opportunities to increase the number of Chinese primary schools.

One of the examples I have in mind is the issue of Vision Schools. I think that the underlying premise of Visions Schools is sound. You have a national school, a Chinese medium school and a Tamil medium school sharing the same facilities (school fields, canteen facilities) with the hope of facilitating greater inter-ethnic interaction but with each school keeping its own medium of instruction (BM, Chinese and Tamil). Many Chinese educationist interpreted the creation of these Vision Schools as an attempt to undermine the 'character' of Chinese primary schools. I fail to understand why this is the case.

I've heard some say that canteens in these Vision Schools would not be allowed to serve pork. But since when is the ability to consume pork an inherent 'character' of Chinese primrary schools? Since when is mixing with students of other races who speak other languages bad for the 'character' of Chinese schools? Perhaps, it's because I'm not fully aware of the other arguments presented by DJZ on this issue but it seems to me that they've let this opportunity slip by.

To date, only 5 vision schools have been built and the momentum to build more seems to have died, perhaps partly due to the strenous objections of groups like DJZ. It seemed to me that it would have been an excellent way to lobby for more Chinese primary schools by arguing that one is for national unity and at the same time, one is also for teaching and learning in one own's 'mother' tongue.

For the Chinese educationists, dispelling the myth of the inherent unchangebility of the 'character' of Chinese schools would have lead to more opportunities to expand Chinese primary education.

I'm not sure what if there was anything new offered at the recent Chinese Education Form publisized by Tony here but I suspect that the Chinese educationists are probably offering up more of the same - complaining against the federal government without proposing any alternatives or putting forth a reform agenda to change the current state of primary education in Chinese medium schools. I suspect that some of the younger leaders / members in DJZ might have some more interesting ideas and alternatives but have not been given sufficient space to air their views to the larger public.

In the meantime, let's try to minimize the practice of Bogeyman politics when it comes to discussing education matters.


Anonymous said...

I dig out some of the histories....

From Jeff Ooi's forum,

Call to boycott

In response to this, Chinese education lobby groups issued a press statement today calling for parents to boycott the vision school.

In a joint statement, the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia and the United Chinese School Teachers Association of Malaysia, collectively known as Dong Jiao Zong, urged local residents not to enrol their children as the school cannot operate autonomously.

“It is instead the product of a transitional period,” said the statement in reference to the Chinese education lobby group’s view that the government’s aim in introducing the vision school concept is to bring about the termination of vernacular education in the country.

“We maintain our stand that the vision school concept is aimed at assimilation of all schools of different teaching media into a monolingual education system which uses Bahasa Malaysia as its medium of instruction,” said Dong Jiao Zong.

According to Dong Jiao Zong, the Chinese community is opposed to the vision school proposal as it masks the government’s intention, as declared in the 1956 Razak Report, to eliminate mother tongue education eventually from the national education system.

“It does not help if the Barisan Nasional parties continue to overlook this fact and try to avoid the real problem (of the communities’ concerns). It is public knowledge that the government has long ignored the request by the Chinese community to build more Chinese schools,” said the statement.

The rationale rejecting vision schools by DAP...

Mahathir, berhenti memanggil ahli pendidikan Cina sebagai ekstrimis!
DAP meluahkan kekecewaannya terhadap pernyataan Perdana Menteri semalam. Menurut suatu laporan Bernama, Mahathir melabelkan lagi ahli pendidikan Cina sebagai ekstrimis. Beliau juga menuduh mereka yang menentang konsep Sekolah Wawasan "menghalang proses perpaduan pelbagai kaum di Malaysia".

Perdana Menteri berkata bahawa kerajaan akan meneruskan Sekolah Wawasan dengan tujuan menyatupadukan rakyat Malaysia, mula dari peringkat sekolah.

Nampaknya Mahathir belum mempelajari ajaran daripada pilihan raya kecil Lunas di mana Barisan Nasional (BN) kalah dengan margin yang sedikit, walaupun beliau mengakui bahawa isu Sekolah Wawasan merupakan isu terpenting yang menyebabkan kekalahan BN.

Mahathir adalah bersalah dengan menuntut bahawa Dong Jiao Zong tidak mempertahan bahasa Cina atau pembelajaran bahasa Cina kerana kerajaan telah memberi jaminan.

Walaupun kerajaan BN telah meminda Akta Pendidikan 1961 untuk menarik balik kuasa Menteri Pendidikan menukar kedudukan sekolah Cina kepada sekolah kebangsaan selepas bantahan DAP dan Dong Jiao Zong pada 1996, tetapi matlamat menggunakan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa pengantar pengajaran masih tidak berubah.

Sekolah Wawasan ialah suatu konsep yang mengumpulkan sekolah kebangsaan, sekolah jenis kebangsaan Cina dan Tamil di satu kawasan dengan murid-murid mengkongsikan kemudahan sekolah yang sama, dan setiap sekolah terus menggunakan bahasa pengantar masing-masing - sekolah kebangsaan (bahasa Melayu), sekolah Cina (bahasa Cina) dan sekolah Tamil (bahasa Tamil).

Akan tetapi, ini tidak menjamin identiti setiap sekolah tidak terjejas kerana konsep itu hanya dipandu oleh kononnya Garis Panduan. Garis Panduan tidak termaktub kepada perundangan dan boleh dimanipulasi atau dipinda dengan mudah oleh pegawai-pegawai kementerian pada masa depan.

DAP ingin menyatakan bahawa pada tahun 1962, banyak sekolah Cina telah dipujuk oleh kerajaan untuk bertukar kepada sekolah menengah jenis kebangsaan dengan asas subjek satu per tiga diajar dalam bahasa Cina. Kerajaan tidak menunaikan janji dan kini kebanyakan sekolah menengah hanya ada satu subjek Cina.

Hari ini, sekolah-sekolah menengah hanya dibenar untuk mengadakan kelas bahasa Cina jika terdapat tuntutan daripada sekurang-kurangnya 15 orang ibu bapa.

Jika Perdana Menteri mengambil berat terhadap pepaduan kaum di negara ini, beliau harus mengarahkan Kementerian Pendidikan supaya menjalankan Rancangan Integrasi Murid-Murid Untuk Perpaduan, yang disediakan oleh Kementerian Pendidikan pada tahun 1986 selepas berunding dengan Dong Jiao Zong. Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Ahmad Badawi ialah Menteri Pendidikan pada masa itu manakala timbalannya ialah Ling Liong Sik.

Tuduhan Mahathir bahawa Dong Jiao Zong dan mereka yang menolak konsep Sekolah Wawasan "tidak mengaku mereka adalah rakyat Malaysia dan perlu berdamping dengan rakyat Malaysia daripada keturunan lain" adalah amat tidak adil.

Tuduhan Mahathir bahawa ahli-ahli pendidikan Cina "ingin segala-galanya diasingkan. Sekolah Cina diasingkan daripada sekolah-sekolah lain sehingga sekolah Cina menjadi sekolah asing, bukan sekolah dalam Malaysia" juga adalah amat tidak adil.

DAP inginkan Mahathir dan Kabinetnya mendengar seruan rakyat menggugurkan projek Sekolah Wawasan di mesyuarat Kabinet esok. Tiada apa-apa pernyataan yang boleh mengubahkan fikiran ahli pendidikan dan ibu bapa Cina yang ingin mengekalkan identiti sekolah Cina. DAP percaya bahawa rakyat Malaysia akan memberi sokongan untuk mempertahan pendidikan bahasa ibunda di negara ini.

I think there is a lot of fears amongst the chinese educationist that eventually all schools will be transformed into national schools with Bahasa Malaysia as the main language while others are secondary or optional.

I also read in another article the government mentioned the teachers of all schools should have a good mixtures of teachers from all races. Meaning there is also a fear eventually, majority of the teachers will be you know from what race, since the ministry is in control.

On the pork question, at the moment for all schools including vernacular schools, the canteen catering is controlled by the ministry, so it is not possible even for the chinese schools to sell pork, there are malay and muslim students study there as well.

Anonymous said...

Nice topic.

Anonymous said...

I am a Chinese-Malaysian which was educated in national schools.

I still feel that vernacular schools are detrimental to racial unity in this country. True, it might not be the ONLY factor, however, it is undeniable that it is one of the factors.

It's a lot to ask of little kids, who after spending 6 years in a totally Chinese environment, to just suddenly 'mingle' and make friends with students of other races in secondary school. People tend to stick to what they're familiar with, and Chinese-ed kids are not familiar with other race's cultures and religions.

I happen to attend a secondary school which is situated in an urban Chinese environment. Many of my Chinese classmates there come from Chinese vernacular schools. This might just be an isolated case, but those Chinese-ed students in my school have their own little circle. They predominently speak Mandarin, and stereotype students of other races. Their social circles almost always consist of only Chinese-Malaysians.

This is a stark contrast from my experiences in my national primary school. I had friends from all races (not superficial ones, but true friendships), I could speak fluent Malay, and I think I can say that I didn't suffer badly at the academic front of things.

However, a few clarifications must be made first in my case. I noticed that my primary school was more 'mixed' compared to the majority of other national schools. And not ALL Chinese-ed students are like what I've described above, but MOST are.

I have totally no problems with the mothertongue education. However, I do not agree with the current way this is implemented. I feel that Singapore's blueprint to do this is the best way. Integrate mothertongue education into national schools. But Mandarin/Tamil classes must not be relegated to Saturday classes and such. They must be stressed to be as equally important as all the other subjects taught at national schools.

My view on this issue anyway.

Anonymous said...

zero, agree with you on some of the points, especially on the unity part.

Howerver, histories have shown that the government did not keep to their promises. We can't blame chinese educationists for the strong rejection. But the government need to do more to convince, not by talking, but put it in black and white, in the policies, to clear the doubts of the chinese educationists. I think that's the only way if they want the chinese educationists to support the vision.

I believe they would support it if the future is guaranteed.

Say you run a company, it's like someone is offering you a merger giving you various promises but never put it in black and white. Get what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Unity cannot be forced in or hijacked. Unity will only develop out of mutual respect and trusts. As long the above are not followed, no matter how long it takes, the unity might only be superficial and not in grained.
Politicians and academicians should try to see unity from the point of above.
After many years after Merdeka, the Bogeyman is still intolerance resulting in generation of hatred and mistrusts in racial, religious and educational issues.
UMNO and other political parties should stop exploiting these issues. Its hurting to every race. Until when will UMNO stop saying " perjuangan kita belum habis"?
Tell me what is the perjuangan about specifically? Dont say in general and in vague notions

Anonymous said...

Intolerance and lack of integration is not a one way street if one insists on seeing vernacluar schools as obstacles in themselves to such ...

After all, Malays are just as guilty of intolerance, stereotype and lack of integration. I'm not only talknig about students here but also of the teachers as well.

I'm one hundred percent Malay/English ed. I don't speak Mandarin. But I fail to see how vernacular education is not conducive to integration. Do Chinese schools promote Mainland China as the focal point of loyalty and affection? Do Chinese schools ignore informed exposure of other cultures? Do students of Chinese schools inter-act with other races at public libraries, shopping places, etc.?

I would be the first to admit that the Chinese-ed (in most cases) and I do not have the same "wavelength", granted ... but this does not justify me imposing what I think is the benchmark for integration. It's scary when education is still a very much politicised arena by Umno that there are those who would bother to clamour for the removal of what is essentially the preservation of one's cultural and linguistic rights.

Rest assured, your noble standing up for only national schools will not be *reciprocated* in kind by Umno - with their ketuanan melayu agenda. In other words, not only there's no same wavelength here of significant political proportion between the Chinese pro-national schools only and umno, but the interpretation by the latter would have serious long-standing ramifications.

Anonymous said...

"Do students of Chinese schools inter-act with other races at public libraries, shopping places, etc.?"

I meant DON'T ...

Anonymous said...

I personally believe that all schools belonging to one ethnic denomination should be dismantled immediately and replaced with something similar to vision schools. However, I'm not entirely sure of vision schools either. Why would you want to have 3 different school systems in the same compound sharing the facilities. Why don't you have one single school and teaching in the language of mother tongue for all individual ethnicities. Also, I think that the idea of Chinese medium schools is one of the reasons that we're in this whole racial mess to begin with. The Chinese wish to protect theses schools with they're lives. They give no leeway for manouvre as they feel that this is a threat on they're culture and heritage. I can see where they're coming from, as the Malays have they're own religious schools (which i think should be abolished as well!). So at the end of the day what I'm trying to say is, I think both sides are completely wrong and arguing a moot point, in terms of racial harmony. All Chinese medium schools, Tamil schools (and lets face it, who really goes to tamil schools?) and religious Malay schools should be scrapped and replaced with Vision schools and something even more secular than that!
Good day.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Malaysian Chinese with my primary & secondary education in National schools. And I fully agree with zero.

Coming from a national school, it was a total culture shock when I stepped into local uni, where racial polarization is sharp. And each race's mentality (mostly) is to look our for each others well-being, each other being the same race of course. And I too notice how most of the races are ignorant of other's races (like I've pointed out in YB Lim's blog)- most malays thought the various chinese dialects are mere 'slangs', or even most chinese doesn't know the difference between syawal & ramadan, or that puasa last for 1 month.

Tanjungpetir: Maybe you're confusing loyalty with racial integration. It's not about the vernacular school promoting loyalty to Mainland China, but they don't provide a conducive environment for racial integration. Sure there are the Malays or other races, but they're just a few. The examples you give bout interaction in classes and library etc only shows racial tolerance. Tolerance as in we put up with each other. Therefore I emphasize on racial integration, where mingling with each other is second nature.

But of course, it should be 2-ways. The first time the race card rears its ugly head is when I noticed most of my Malay classmates being transferred to boarding schools after Form 3. As I oppose the idea of vernacular schools, I too oppose the idea of matriculation or full-boarding schools. Primary and secondary education should be a single system. But the other languages eg Mandarin and Tamil must of course, be made available.

Let's make racial integration something that our childern grow up, their second nature. Not something they learned about in schools and they tolerate with when they enter unis.

Anonymous said...

How about calling on Umno to open its doors to the non-bumis for starters? How about calling for abolition of the distinction between bumi and non-bumi? I am pretty sure there'll be a scramble to fill in those application forms and Badawi's popularity amongst the Chinese will shoot up like nothing!

Let's start from there first shall we?

Anonymous said...


Your point is well taken. Your point is entirely valid.

I still think that we shouldn't generalise too much concerning vernacular education. After all, Umno let alone the ordinary Malay has a different idea ofwhat constitutes integration. Your idea of integration and mine might not only match that of a Chinese-ed, but the Malay as well who's been to the same national as you and I. Integration in this respect is difficult to quantify or qualify - hence it's quite a subjective value.

I believe as long as the objective value of national loyalty as embodied by the Rukunegara is incorporated into all education streams, we shouldn't worry too much about polarisation which is a result of racial politics as practiced by Umno.

As long as Umno is the united MALAYS national organisation, removing national type, i.e Chinese and Tamil, schools would only serve to erode our cultural and lingistic rights, thus weakening integration as we would want it instead of strengthening it. There is no middle way on this.

It's precisely that we the non-Malays are also a diverse lot that we have to accommodate the wishes of our fellow Chinese who come from a different perspective. BUT at the end of the day, we are NOT Malays, and are up against a ruling party bent on their ketuanan Melayu agenda.

The DAP is right all these while; they know what they are up to. The vernacular education system is but one aspect of the wider struggle for a truly Malaysian Malaysia where genuine integration takes place but not assimilation.

Anonymous said...

"Your idea of integration and mine might not only match that of a Chinese-ed" ...

Sorry, I meant might not only NOT match ...

Anonymous said...

...and inthe end, the Malays and the Chinese integrate and both live happily ever after.

End of fairy tale.

Anonymous said...

To me, the best solution: Demolish all other schools including sekolah agama and have only national schools. Teach Chinese and Tamil as mandatory subjects just like English and BM. (Since we longed for national integrity, what's wrong with learning other races' mother tounge?)

Science and Maths subjects including Information Technology related subjects teach in English. The others stick back to Malay. And throw away those useless subjects like EST. (What's the use of having a subject called English for Science and Technology when their Maths and Science subjects are taught in English?). Throw away the grade A syndrome and the "pure Science students = norm, arts students and sub-Science students = hopeless students" mentality.

By the way, why do those UMNO people always think that Chinese medium schools are sole factor to our national disintegrity? What about those Sekolah Agama, matriculation, and those so called quota? Can't their people begin to put effort and work hard if they want something (ie scholarship)? Why do they need the quota system which includes a 60 or 70% guaranteed for bumi while the remaining to be fought over by Chinese, Indians, Ibans, and even Malays?

The point here: Be transparent. Just award those scholarship to whoever who do well, and off course to those poor students who did reasonably well. Don't use race as a criteria. The more the government use to race factor to determine something especially awards or place in public u, the more non-Muslims will feel disadvantage. Have a fair and square fight.

Ps: Can we all treat all Malaysians as just Malaysians and not Malaysian Muslim, Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indian, etc?

Anonymous said...

Jayabalan a/l Kandiah, GPK1 from SJKT Gemas is a bloody snake! He is dishonest,insincere and a good actor! Don't trust this fellow! He is like a double edged sword! He is a good backstabber!

Anonymous said...

wei, i know dis fellow... i'm kinda biz part wit him.... so far i didn't encounter anything wif him. do advise me coz i dun wanna loose anything....

Anonymous said...

Wat U hav talkd bout Jayabalan a/l Kandiah is absolutely correct.. He is an useless person.. Dun trust him!! Bloody!!