Proposal for a National Conference on problems and future of Chinese Education in Malaysia

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the official opening of the Malacca State DAP Headquarters at 33A Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Malacca on Friday, 1st October 1971 at 6.30 p.m. The function is also an anniversary celebration of the release of Lim Kit Siang from political detention.

Proposal for a National Conference on problems and future of Chinese Education in Malaysia

The DAP has formed an Education Bureau to make in depth study of education problems and issues in Malaysia.

The DAP Education Bureau, headed by Dr. Chen Man Hin, M.P. for Seremban Timor, has as members:

Vice Chairman : D.P. Xavier
Secretary : Chian Heng Kai
Asst. Secretary : Haji Mohamed Shariff
Members : Dr. A. Soorian M. P.
: Taib Siron
: K. Ramesan (Selangor Assemblyman)
: Chan Kok Kit
: Hor Cheok Foon M. P.

The Bureau, which will hold its inaugural meeting in Kuala Lumpur next week, will study the many complex education problems which beset our nation.

In primary schools, there are the problems of school dropouts, students who do not continue to secondary education after six-year primary education. This had been a grave problem for the last 10 years, but the government had not taken any positive action to solve it, although now and then, when attention was drawn to it, the Ministry of Education would make some pleasing noises, which are later forgotten.

There is also the problem of teachers in formerly National-type English primary schools who are now compelled to teach in the Bahasa Malaysia media, but who are not proficient and competent enough to do so, as they had been educated and trained to teach in the English media. As a result, the primary students of such schools suffer, with grave effects on their future educational standards and attainments.

There is the problems of poor educational standards and facilities in the rural schools, where rural school children are not given the education they are entitled to, where their poor nutrition and health are grave factors in stunting their educational attainments.

There is the problem of lop-sidedness in university education, where the country needs most are engineers, doctors, scientists and technologists, but the country’s higher education system continues to be geared to produce a majority of graduates in arts and religious studies.
There are then the problem of teachers’ pay and conditions of service, and their training.

There is then the very grave and explosive problem of educated unemployed, Malaysians who are educated to be unemployed, their schooling and even university education completely unsuited in training them to acquire skills and attitudes needed by society.

These and many other problems need deeper study. It is unfortunate but true that the Ministry of Education has failed to get to grips with many of these educational problems.

The DAP Education Bureau will take each education problem in turn and come out with recommendations for their solution.

There is one education problem in Malaysia which looms very large in public consciousness. This is the problem of the future of Chinese education in Malaysia.

Recently, there had been a proposal for the revival of the Senior Middle Three Examination by the government. I shall press for this myself in Parliament, and I hope that the MCA, which claims to support such a revival, will support me, and if necessary, take a strong and tough stand in
Parliament against those who are opposed to it.

The question of Senior Middle Three examination however will not by itself go to the root of the problem of Chinese education in Malaysia.

A most akin problem is the question of recognition of Nanyang and Formosan qualifications possessed by many Malaysian Chinese. The government had promised in the past to give this favourable consideration, but invariably such promises are made just before the approach of general elections and immediately forgotten after them.

The MCA is a partner in the Alliance government. If over the past decade, it could not achieve such a small thing as recognition of Nanyang and Formosan qualifications and degrees by the government, one wonders what it can actually do.

I therefore call on the government to immediately take steps to recognize Nanyang and Formosan degrees and qualifications, and call on MCA, as partner of government, to show that it is a true partner in government.

The entire problem of the future of Chinese education in Malaysia however, is a bigger problem. There is no doubt that there is urgency to make a comprehensive assessment of this problem, and not allow the present uncertainty and lack of direction to drift on and continue.

I therefore propose that Chinese educational bodies, Chinese school teachers’ unions and associations, and all other organisations and individuals who have the interest of Chinese education at heart should hold a national conference to thrash out the problem of the future of Chinese education in Malaysia.

Such a conference should be convened by the Chinese educational bodies and the Chinese school teachers’ unions. There should not be any more procrastination in coming to grips with the fundamental problem of future of Chinese education, if it is not going to be too late.