I'd like to state upfront that the following views are those of my own, and not necessarily that of the political party which I'm affiliated to. There are points raised in the report which I'm in full agreement with, while there are others, which I thought were unreasonable.
First, the points which I'm in general agreement with:
1. More funds for vernacular schools
DJZ president Yap Sin Tian said the blueprint “continues to ignore vernacular schools”As expressed extensively in my artictle "National vs Vernacular Schools", the BN government has persisted in ignoring the needs of vernacular schools in the country.
From 1970-2006, DJZ estimated that the country saw an increase of 2,900 national schools. A total of 193 vernacular schools - 58 Chinese schools and 134 Tamil - were closed for various reasons.
DJZ insisted that there is demand for 134 Chinese schools nationwide. Currently, there are 1,810 vernacular schools, 205 of which are run without government aid. DJZ alleged that the government has spent more money on national schools and has marginalised vernacular schools.
...despite the consistent claim by the government that it will build more vernacular schools in accordance to the needs of the people, the number of Chinese primary schools have declined from 1,333 in 1957 to 1,288 today while enrolment has more than doubled from 310,000 to 636,000. At the same time, the number of Tamil primary schools has been reduced from 526 in 2001 to 523 in 2006 despite a 12.7% increase in enrolment from 88,810 in 2001 to 100,142 in 2006.The perception of being marginalised cannot be help when The government's disbursement of RM1.4 million to 248 Chinese primary schools, or a meagre RM6,000 per school as hyped by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim in the vernacular press, pales in comparison to the RM709 million allocated to building 15 new Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSMs), and more for upgrades and repairs of existing MRSMs.
2. Greater Transparency & Accountability
DJZ also wants greater transparency in the disbursement of funds... [including] listing subsidies for all schools.By listing the relevant expenses and disbursements to all schools, both the interested parties as well as the rakyat can decide for themselves if the government has been equitable in their distribution.
3. A call for more dialogue with the Ministry of Education
...the United Chinese School Teachers Association (Jiao Zong) president Ong Chiew Chuen said that "the ministry should initiate open dialogues with associations."It is actually quite unfortunate that the National Education Blueprint 2006-2010 launched by the Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, had not taken into account the views of the various communities and associations representing the education sector, which falls under the purview of the Ministry.
As the Minister himself represented earlier, he has admitted in an exclusive interview with Nanyang Siangpau that “people should not regard the various types of schools in the country as a hurdle to be cleared. After all, this is not a zero-sum game because multi-culturalism is an added advantage and a strength for the country.”
Hence, we hope that he makes good his promise to receive feedback in good faith from all channels, including those via blogs.
On the point of disagreement with DJZ report, I find that the DJZ President, Yap Sin Tian's concern over the fact that Chinese and Tamil languages have been added as subjects in Malay- medium schools.
“It’s as though there is a move by the government to prioritise Malay-medium schools and phase out vernacular schools,” he said.Selecting a school for one's children is a matter of choice and certainly, "competition" in terms of offering options and improving the quality of education between different streams is a move which should be encouraged. I've written on my views which are supportive of offering mother tongue languages in national schools. Instead is the much delayed implementation of the programme, despite it being a key objective of the new Blueprint should be subject to criticism.
The availability of mother tongue education is only one of the factors affecting the parents decision to enrol students into national or vernacular schools. Two other overwhelming factors are the actual quality of education delivered as well as the perceived religiousification of the national schools.
If both streams of education seek to compete to provide better quality education in a 'secular' environment for non-Muslims, then the ultimate beneficiaries will be our future young Malaysians. Hence healthy competition should definitely not be obstructed. ;)