Monday, February 11, 2008

The Hijacking of Public Education

I've been reading a spew of reports on the building of new Tamil and Chinese schools and the upgrading and repair of existing Tamil and Chinese schools. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that these are election 'goodies' which are being announced on the even of a general election. The political scientist in me acknowledges that this is part and parcel of electoral politics in multi-ethnic Malaysia. But the liberal democrat in me thinks that politics should play as small as part as possible when it comes to educational policies and that education is too valuable to be used as an electoral tool.

Here are some recent newspaper reports regarding election 'goodies' in the form of Chinese and Tamil school - RM1.3 million for Kelantan Chinese schools, RM300,000 for Chinese schools in Sabah, the possibility of re-opening the Damansara Chinese school, RM20 million for 23 Tamil schools, the announcement for new and relocated Chinese schools.

While I understand the politics involved in the bargaining for more funding for Chinese and Tamil schools in the Malaysian context, I think that the debate on education should be on policy grounds, not on the allocation of money as a form of 'bribery', if you will. If the current government thinks that Chinese and Tamil schools are a good thing, then they should be willing to fund new Chinese and Tamil schools not just before an election but in between elections as well. It should be willing to increase the number of Chinese and Tamil schools and not just 'transfer' schools from one area to another.

Education is far too important of an issue to play 'politics' with and it is somewhat sad to see that this is being done on the eve of an election.


Fikri said...

It's easy to agree with what you mentioned about education. The same stroke of brush should also apply to other aspects of society like race and religion. Looking on the bright side, at least there is some money for the schools to improve and upgrade.

Perhaps one of the answers to ensure accountability and consistent support is to have elections more often :)

Loganimal said...

I don't know if there really is a bright side. It's doubtful how much of the promised money even reaches these schools, as no on follows up and the exact accounts of the relevant ministries are not open for scrutiny.

More than that, all these flash funds don't really help. The Malaysian Government is fantastic at building things, but horrible at maintaining, supplying, updating and using them.

Everytime a politician promises funds to build something, we should ask them
a) where is this money coming coming from? resources are finite, either the country is making a lot more money or this is being taken out of somewhere
b) how much will be used for maintenance, staffing and furnishing schools? perhaps a debate about policy can be created here.
c) when will the money come and if doesn't, will you resign?

Anonymous said...

I am a female Chinese Malaysian, living in the Washington DC area in the United States. I have read many of the letters that often talk about foreign countries when the writers have no real knowledge of actually living in those countries.

Many draw conclusions about what those countries are like after hearing it from someone else or by reading and hearing about them in the media or after four years in a college town in those countries.

I finished STPM with outstanding results from the prestigious St George's Girls School in Penang. Did I get a university place from the Malaysia government? Nothing. With near perfect scores, I had nothing, while my malay friends were getting offers to go overseas.

Even those with 2As got into university. I was so depressed. I was my parents last hope for getting the family out of poverty and at 18, I thought I had failed my parents. Today, I understand it was the Malaysia government that had failed me and my family because of its discriminatory policies.

Fortunately, I did not give up and immediately did research at the Malaysian American Commission on Education Exchange (MACEE) to find a university in the US that would accept me and provide all the finances. My family and friends thought I was crazy, being the youngest of nine children of a very poor carpenter. Anything that required a fee was out of our reach.

Based on merit and my extracurricular activities of community service in secondary school, I received full tuition scholarship, work study, and grants to cover the four years at a highly competitive US university.

Often, I took 21 credits each semester, 15 credits each term while working 20 hours each week and maintaining a 3.5 CGPA. A couple of semesters, I also received division scholarships and worked as a TA (teaching assistant) on top of everything else.

For the work study, I worked as a custodian (yes, cleaning toilets), carpet layer, grounds keeping, librarian, painter, tour guide, computer lab assistant, etc. If you understand the US credit system, you will understand this is a heavy load.

Why did I do it? This is because I learnt as a young child from my parents that hard work is an opportunity, to give my best in everything, and to take pride in the work I do. I walked away with a double major and a minor with honours but most of all a great lesson in humility and a great respect for those who are forced to labour in so-called 'blue collar' positions.

Those of you who think you know all about Australia, US, or the West, think again. Unless you have really lived in these countries, i.e. paid a mortgage, paid taxes, taken part in elections, you do not understand the level of commitment and hard work it takes to be successful in these countries, not just for immigrants but for people who have lived here for generations.

These people are where they are today because of hard work. (Of course, I am not saying everyone in the US is hardworking. There is always the lazy lot which lives off of someone else's hard work. Fortunately, they are the minority.)

Every single person, anywhere, should have the opportunity to succeed if they want to put in the effort and be accountable for their own actions. In the end, they should be able to reap what they sow.

It is bearable that opportunities are limited depending on how well-off financially one's family is but when higher education opportunities are race-based, like it is in Malaysia; it is downright cruel for those who see education as the only way out of poverty.

If you want to say discrimination is here in the US, yes, of course it is. Can you name a country where it doesn't happen? But let me tell you one thing - if you go looking for it, you will find it. But in Malaysia, you don't have to go look for it because it seeks you out, slaps you in your face every which way you turn, and is sanctioned by law!

Here in the US, my children have the same opportunity to go to school and learn just like their black, white, and immigrant friends. At school, they eat the same food, play the same games, are taught the same classes and when they are 18, they will still have the same opportunities.

Why would I want to bring my children back to Malaysia? So they can suffer the state-sanctioned discrimination as the non-malays have for over 30 years?

As for being a slave in the foreign country, I am a happy 'slave' earning a good income as an IT project manager. I work five days a week; can talk bad about the president when I want to; argue about politics, race and religion openly; gather with more than 50 friends and family when I want (no permit needed) and I don't worry about the police pulling me over because they say I ran the light when I didn't.

How about you.............?

Anonymous said...

What is 1.3 million when exclusively Malay institutions like the MRSM are allotted nine figure sums? Imagine the number of toll free highways that could be built! And then there are the forgotten peoples like the Indians. Malaysia is going to the dogs under Barisan.

Anonymous said...

Can't agree more with the comments posted. Social engineering policies of Dr M were used to make the Chinese and Indians poorer and to suppress their spirit. Dr M has left a legacy of distrust amongst the country's people and the one sided policies only serve to split the country which is I think what he wanted besides setting people up for incriminations which he is an expert. However, even with all his machinations you can witness the demise of Proton and many companies linked to the man. What Dr M proposes God disposes. His logic was to divide and rule as far as the eye can see and his dictatorship did great harm to the competitiveness of the country. He brought in expats to build monuments and cities to his inflated ego and his ambition to outlive and out manoever any politician in this country is obvious to all. His legacy is also to leave a ruling party that is divided and filled with controversy and irony. Not to serve the masses but the masses to serve them. It is truly a lopsided government only bent on getting selfish ways to serve individuals.

As the years pass we see many minority corporations and assets fall by the way side of expropriation and confiscation. It is sad that this has also discouraged foreign investors. The social engineering policies of bringing in migrants of a certain faith is also to offset the voice of the minority groups. A ploy more than seen in immigration policies where the ruling junta is insecure.

As for our education system. All I can say is it is going to the dogs but what do the public and private universities care? It is a monies game nothing else.

Anonymous said...

This message is to provoke your mind to think whether you want the status quo to be perpetuated. If you want to do your bit to effect a change for the better, think well before you vote at the next general election.

Chances are that the B N will still win but we need to send the proper signal to Pak Lah that enough is enough....

Below is the result of extreme discriminations and marginalization by the BN govt for too many years. Let's keep circulating this esp before the next election.

And today this is what happened in Malaysia racism.

These lists cover a period of about 49 years since Independence Day in Malaysia (1957):

(1) Out of all the 5 major banks in Malaysia, only one bank is own by multi-racial, the rest are controlled by Malays.

(2) 99% of Petronas (the only one petroleum company) directors are Malays, and the former Prime Minister work as Consultant in Petronas.

(3) 3% of Petronas employees are Chinese.

(4) 99% of 2000 Petronas gasoline stations are owned by Malays.

(5) 100% all contractors working under Petronas projects must be "bumi's status" (Malay).

(6) 0% of non-Malays staffs are legally required in Malay's companies. But there must be 30% Malays staffs in Chinese companies and shareholder. Which this mean non-Malays own company needs to give their property to Malays. And non-Malays citizen can't really own their business.

(7) 5% of all new intake for government police, nurses, army, is non-Malays.

(8) 2% is the present Chinese staff in Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), drop from 40% in 1960.

(9) 2% is the percentage of non-Malays government servants in Putrajaya (Malaysia main government office). But Malays make up 98%.

(10) 7% is the percentage of Chinese government servants in the whole government (in 2004), drop from 30% in 1960. Only 2 position for non-Malays in political status.

(11) 95% of government contracts are given to Malays; even it is an open tender. Non-Malays contractors tender the lower price and use better materials can't get the contract that government given.

(12) 100% all business licenses are controlled by Malay government e.g. Taxi permits, Approved permits, etc. and all the license are given to government officer families.

(13) 80% of the Chinese rice millers in Kedah (north of peninsular Malaysia had to be sold to Malay and controlled by Bernas (Government Org.) since 1980s. Otherwise, life is make difficult for Chinese rice millers.

(14) 100 big companies set up, owned and managed by Chinese Malaysians were taken over by government, and later managed by Malays since 1970's e.g. UTC, UMBC, MISC, etc. This company now is the sole company.

(15) At least 10 Chinese owned bus companies (throughout Malaysia,throughout 40 years) had to be sold to MARA or other Malay transport companies due to rejection by Malay authority to Chinese application for bus routes and rejection for their application for new buses.

(16) 2 Chinese taxi drivers were barred from driving in Johor (South of Peninsular Malaysia ) Larkin bus station. There are about 30 taxi drivers and 3 are Chinese in October 2004. Spoiling taxi club properties was the reason given.

(17) 0 non-Malays are allowed to get shop lots in the new Muar (city in south peninsular Malaysia ) bus station (November 2004).

(18) 8000 billions ringgit is the total amount the government channeled to Malays pockets through ASB, ASN, MARA, privatization of government agencies like Tabung Haji etc, through NEP over 34 years periods.

(19) 48 Chinese primary schools closed down since 1968 รข€" 2000

(20) 144 Tamil primary schools closed down since 1968 - 2000

(21) 2637 Malay primary schools built since 1968 - 2000

(22) 2.5% is government budget for Chinese primary schools. Tamil schools got only 1%, Malay schools got 96.5%

(23) While a Chinese parent with RM1000 salary (monthly) cannot get school-text-book-loan, and a Malay parent with RM2000 salary is eligible.

(24) 10 all public universities vice chancellors are Malays. And politics in universities are held by Malays. If non-Malays want to form a politics parties, there is no way to get approved. (25) 5% - the government universities lecturers of non-Malay origins had been reduced from about 70% in 1965 to only 5% in 2004 with the reason Malaysia Education Ministry give full support for Malays only.

(26) Only 5% is given to non-Malays for government scholarships over 40 years.

(27) 0 Chinese or Indians were sent to Japan and Korea under "Look East Policy".

(28) 128 STPM (High Study / A Level) Chinese top students could not get into the course that they aspired i.e. Medicine and doctors (in 2004). Malays with not qualify result can get into the course.

(29) 10% place for non-bumi students for MARA science schools beginning from year 2003, but only 7% are filled. Before that it was 100% Malays.

(30) 50 cases whereby Chinese and Indian Malaysians, are beaten up in the National Service program since 2003.

(31) 25% is Malaysian Chinese population in 2004, drop from 45% since 1957 because government are not support non-Malays like government support Malays.

(32) 7% is the present Malaysian Indians population (2004), a drop from 12% since 1957.

(33) 2 millions Chinese Malaysians had emigrated to overseas since 40 years ago due to unfair politics.

(34) 0.5 million Indians Malaysians had emigrated to overseas.

(35) 3 millions Indonesians had migrated into Malaysia and became malaysian citizens with bumi's status.

(36) 600000 are the Chinese and Indians Malaysians with "red I/C" (a temporary identity card) and were rejected repeatedly when applying for citizenship for 40 years. Perhaps 60% of them had already passed away due to old age. This shows racism of how easily Indonesians got their citizenships compare with the Chinese and Indians

(37) 5% - 15% discount for a Malay to buy a house, regardless whether the Malay is rich or poor

(38) 2% is what Chinese new villages get compare with 98% of what Malays villages got for rural development budget..

(39) 50 road names (at least) had been change from Chinese names to other names.

(40) 1 Dewan Gan Boon Leong (in Malacca) was altered to other name ( e.g.Dewan Serbaguna or sort) when it was being officially used for a few days. Government tries to shun Chinese names. This racism happened in around year 2000 or sort.

(41) 0 temples/churches were built for each housing estate. But every housing estate MUST got at least one mosque/surau built.

(42) 3000 mosques/surau were built in all housing estates throughout Malaysia since 1970 with full government support. No temples, no churches are built in housing estates that supported by government.

(43) 1 Catholic Church in Shah Alam took 20 years to apply to be constructed. But told by Malay authority that it must look like a factory and can't look like a church. Still not yet approved since 2004.

(44) 1 publishing of Bible in Iban language banned (in 2002)

(45) 0 of the government TV stations (RTM1, RTM2, and TV3) have directors of non-Malays origin.

(46) 30 government produced TV dramas and films always showed that the bad guys had Chinese face, and the good guys had Malay face. You can check it out since 1970s. Recent years, this tendency becomes less.

(47) 10 times, at least, Malays (especially Umno) had threatened to massacre the Chinese Malaysians using May 13 since 1969.

(48) 20 constituencies won by DAP would not get funds from the government to develop. Or these Chinese majority constituencies would be the last to be developed

(49) 100 constituencies (parliaments and states) had been racist re-delineated so Chinese voters were diluted that Chinese candidates, particularly DAP candidates lost in election since 1970s

(50) Only 3 out of 12 human rights items are ratified by Malaysia government since 1960

(51) 0 elimination of, all forms of racial discrimination (UN Human Rights)is not ratified by Malaysia government since 1960s

(52) 20 reported cases whereby Malay ambulance attendance treated Chinese patients inhumanely, and Malay government hospital staffs purposely delay attending to Chinese patients in 2003. Unreported cases may be 200

(53) 50 cases each year whereby Chinese, especially Chinese youths being beaten up by Malay youths in public places. We may check at police reports provided the police took the report, otherwise there will be no record

(54) 20 cases every year whereby Chinese drivers who accidentally knocked down Malays were seriously assaulted or killed by Malays

(55) 12% is what ASB/ASN (Malays Own banks) got per annum while banks fixed deposit is only about 3.5% per annum.

And more cases haven't been discovered.

So, if any Malaysian read this mail and got extra opinion please add into this mail and forward to everyone who feel this is unfair to other race in Malaysia .

Anonymous said...

You know, I hope we have election every year, then our politicians will 'work harder'. Chinese and mission schools in Sarawak were allocated RM15 million. Sounds a lot? Try dividing it to 222 schools all together? That's probably just enough for some repairs.

Johnny Ong said...

found it unfair for a caretaker goverment to announce all sorts of promises during election campaigning period.

tantamount to using govt resources to draw votes to the ruling party

really unfair!

Anonymous said...

It is likely that the federal government will give opposition a hard time obtaining funds for state development especially the schools. And come on - while malay schools may have had plenty of funding, what really needs to be done is make sure ALL schools actually get and use the money FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE KIDS' EDUCATION (not jamuan PIBG and new office furniture). Sure the chinese/indian schools got nothing much, but the malay schools also got nothing in substance - it all went into personal pockets or got grossly misused because no governance. So many malay schools (where many indian and chinese kids have no choice about attending) still look shabby and many teachers are a rotten bunch. My point - develop the education system in the state, not physical buildings. Govern the money given, not just allocate fairly. Regardless of race, ALL our kids deserve better minds for a better future in our country. Otherwise we are back to square one of 'divide and conquer'. We need educational integration. Barisan Rakyat - that's your true challenge.

The election has shown that KNOWLEDGE is our sword. Informing people made all the difference. Please Barisan Rakyat - keep the people informed via blogs and open talks scheduled a few times a year or monthly maybe. Its your state now right? Get people to sign petitions if necessary. Time to try out new approaches right? Isn't that why we voted you? Please be bold. Tell us Malaysians what is really going on if the federal government is playing hardball.So many years Malaysians kept quiet and each man thought only he felt that way or that it was mere conjecture and no one dared do anything for he felt an island. We no longer need to be afraid. We rocked the boat once, we can do it again. Our future is worth it.

The age of the internet is here. No excuses for keeping rakyat you are caring for in the dark. PEOPLE POWER. Federal government cannot keep bullying opposition IF opposition stays smart and empowers the people with useful info.

You have 5 states. Start implementing from today onwards (why wait? strike while the iron is hot) how your people, not only in schools, but ALL you people are educated/informed - to sustain victory and forge ahead.

Pink Leo said...

How true is this..'education is too valuable to be used as an electoral tool.'

And I agree with Molisa. I am a typical Malaysian Chinese that is being 'forced' to go to overseas (Singapore and University) for further education and career opportunity. And now I am in Texas, U.S.A., hoping that someday I can return to Malaysia without risking my career and of course, the most fundamental thing, fair opportunity.

I am not sure how other overseas Malaysian feel, as far as I know, most of my friends (who are living at overseas too) are willing to return to our beloved Malaysia and contribute to our own country. Then, why are we not in Malaysia? I guess you can fill in the blanks easily.

With the results of most recent election, I (as well as my whole bunch of Malaysian friends) look forward to the day where we can return to Malaysia.

xenobiologista said...

As my younger sister observed, "Malaysian politics runs on gimmicks". What we need is a sustained plan to invest money in and improve the quality of public education over a course of DECADES, not short-term cash infusions. We need education officials who will realize that the goal is to think about what's best for the kids, not what's most convenient for the administrators.

Have you all noticed that in stories in the mass media about education, quotes and interviews are always from some talking heads sitting in an office, occasionally from teachers and parents, but almost never from the students? Respecting one's elders is important, but bureaucrats forget that true respect - as opposed to intimidation and control - has to be mutual. None of our education policy is informed by feedback from the students.

xenobiologista said...

By the way, I'm a Malaysian "expat" who's lived in the USA for 8 years, a full one-third of my young life...and I seriously CANNOT TAHAN living here any longer. I can't stand how insular and boring US culture is despite all their politically correct babble of "diversity".

I'm realistic about the current poor state of my field (biology) in Malaysia and will probably use Singapore as a stepping stone and wait for things across the Causeway to progress a bit, but I've been planning to go back since day 1. My American boyfriend knows the survival of our relationship is contingent on him being ok to come with me.

I am not condemning those of you who have chosen to stay overseas, but just please don't assume that everybody who doesn't make the same choice as you is naive or stupid.