Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Education Ministry Estimate for 1973 on 23 rd January 1973.
On Dec, 20 last year, the Minister of Education announced in this House the government’s refusal to accord recognition to Nantah, Formosan and Indian University degrees and qualifications.
This was a great disappointment to the over 10,000 Malaysians who hold these degrees and qualifications, and to their families and relatives who have suffered and sacrificed to give their children a chance for university education.
For the whole of last year, the country was led to believe that after over a decade of discrimination, the government was at last considering the recognition of these degrees and qualifications.
The House was even told that the Ministry of Education’s Standing Committee on the Evaluation and Assessment of Foreign Degrees and Qualifications was preparing a report to the Ministry and Cabinet.
The 10,000 Malaysians who have graduated from the Nantah, Formosan and Indian universities and colleges have a right to know on what academic basis the Alliance Government and Cabinet has refused to accord recognition to Nantah, Formosan and Indian degrees and qualifications when many of these degrees enjoy international repute and standing. In fact, many Malaysians who hold these qualifications and degrees have proceeded further to internationally renowned universities for post-graduate work and distinguished themselves in doctorate studies.
I call on the government to table before the House the report f the Foreign Degrees Evaluation and Assessment Standing Committee of the Ministry of Education on the question of recognition of Nantah, Formosan and Indian degrees and qualifications, so that the people and country will know on what academic basis the government has acted in continuing to discriminate against the over 10,000 Malaysians who hold these degrees.
It is quite clear that the Alliance Government is not treating the Nantah, Formosan and Indian degrees and qualifications solely on their academic merits, but as a political question.
The Minister of Education told the House last month that the government’s decision to continue to deny recognition was prompted by the national interest. What is this national interest? Is it the interest of UMNO not wanting to give these degrees recognition and the interest of MCA and MIC not to displease the Big Brother?
I submit that it is in the national interest to give immediate recognition to the Nantah, Formosan and Indian degrees and qualifications so that we can make full use of the talents and the skills of the 10,000 Malaysians who have received higher education training.
The Alliance Government should end its short-sighted policy of continuing to discriminate against the over 10,000 Malaysians holding Nantah, Formosan and Indian university degrees and qualifications and deny them their rightful role and place in Malaysian society.
This policy is all the more self-defeating when there is such a serious shortage of skilled qualified manpower in Malaysia to carry out the development programmes under the Second Five Year Malaysia Plan.
Thus, in Malaysian schools, there is an acute shortage of graduate teachers whether for arts or science. Instead of fully employing the over 10,000 Malaysians with these tertiary qualifications, the Ministry of Education received graduate from Indonesian universities for our schools.
I have nothing against recruiting and employing graduates from Indonesia, or for that matter, from any other country. But the first duty and responsibility of any Malaysian government must be to our local citizens.
To discriminate against the 10,000 Malaysians who hold tertiary qualifications and permitting them to squander their training and education and be unemployed, while recruiting foreigners is the height of anti-national interest.
I am aware that there are Malaysians holding Nantah, Formosan and Indian university degrees and qualifications who are employed in the teaching service, but they are a very small number, and they are not paid the salaries and given the status commensurate with their education and training.
In Malaysia, there is an acute problem of unemployed and educated unemployed. Instead of finding ways to solve and overcome this problem, the Alliance Government is in fact compounding it by choosing foreigners in preference of local citizens. This, they called it ‘National Interest’, which seem to carry the most illogical definition.
In a written reply to a question submitted in this session of Parliament, the Minister of Home Affairs said that the government was taking action to remove the citizenship of Malaysians who joined the police and armed forces in Singapore. The Minister said there are some 6,000 Malaysian youths who are in the Singapore police and armed services.
Why did 6,000 Malaysian youths go aboard, leave their families and loved ones to another country to work? Is it because they like to leave their home and families? It is simply because they have to find a livelihood which they could not find in Malaysia.
If Malaysia has full employment, where every youth can find a job, I am sure Malaysian youths will not be forced to go abroad to find work. In fact, it is estimated that over 100,000 Malaysian youths had to seek work outside the country, not only Singapore, but also in Indonesia.
But has the government any sympathy for their economic hardships? No. their crime, for which the government wants to remove their citizenship, is that they are not prepared to remain in Malaysia to be unemployed, be a greater burden on their family or starve?
In this connection, I am sure that if the Malaysian government can give an assurance that all the 6,000 Malaysians working in the Singapore armed and police forces will be given jobs in the Malaysian Police and Armed Forces, they will all gladly come back.
If the government cannot do this, then it should not punish them for the sins and economic failures of 17 years of Alliance rule.
Provision of pre-university, technical and university education for all Malaysian youths academically qualified
For years now, many students who are academically qualified cannot find places in pre-university or technical colleges or universities to further their studies.
In fact, wherever we go, in every town and states, we find Malaysian youths who secured Grade I in S.P.M. who could not find places to proceed to Form Six despite their academic qualifications.
These must now have run into tens of thousands. In the same way, large numbers of academically qualified students cannot find places for either technical or university education.
It is my party’s stand that every Malaysian student who is academically qualified should be given opportunities and places to proceed to higher education, whether it be pre-university, technical or university education to develop to the fullest the potential and capabilities for all Malaysians, and only then can a ‘Masharakat Adil’ – a Just Society – be built.
The DAP therefore calls on the Government to re-orient and re-adjust its entire education system to ensure that no Malaysian youth is denied a chance for higher education if he is academically qualified because of academically irrelevant factors or reasons.
Otherwise, the intelligence and capability of a youth will become in Malaysia a life-long curse instead of a blessing or advantage. For he would be reminded for the rest of his life that he could reach higher attainments in life but for the fact that the education system denied him an equal opportunity for higher education and advancement – not because he is academically a dud, but because of the defects of the education system.
I therefore call on the Ministry of Education to review its higher education policy to ensure that every academically qualified Malaysian youth is provided opportunities for further educations either in pre-university, technical or university courses.
In this connection, I must warn the Alliance Government against heeding the extremist voices which are calling for controls to be imposed on the freedom of Malaysian students, particularly non-Malay students, from continuing their further studies abroad even at their own expenses on the ground that this violates the government’s policy to rectify the imbalances in educated personnel among the races.
Abolish the system of sale of textbooks to school children
Textbooks pose one of the biggest economic problems for the poor families in sending their children to school. The books in Malaysia must range as one of the most expensive in the developing countries.
To reduce the economic burden of textbooks on the poor, I call on the Ministry of Education to abolish the system of sale of text-books to school children, and substitute it by a nation-wide scheme of loan of text-books to all students. This will end the problem of high text-book prices, which is one of the chief causes of educational backwardness for children from poor homes.
This measure will of course be opposed by the text-book publishers and the Alliance, UMNO and MCA tycoons who have a vested interest in textbook industry, but the government should serve the interest of the masses and not a pocket of capitalists.
Rukunegara – the government must set an example
In today’s press, we read about the sit-out protest strike of 800 students of the Ungku Omar Polytechnic in Ipoh against the irresponsible attitude of some lecturers who did not bother to help two students who were involved in a road accident in front of the Polytechnic. One of the students, Zainal Abidin bin Mat Tee, died an hour later in hospital while the other, Zainal Badri is in serious condition.
I fully support the action taken by the Polytechnic students as the irresponsible and heartless behaviour of the lecturers is most shocking and deplorable.
There is no use producing in our schools heart-less and unfeeling members for the next generation, without a sense of social values and social responsibility. There is equally no purpose in having lecturers who are so devoid of a sense of social responsibility to help the maimed, injured and weak, that they are prepared to see their own students bleed to death in an accident without lifting a finger.
The Ministry of Education should institute an inquiry and punish those teachers who have set such a bad example.
We must never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of education is to produce useful citizens for the country.
This, I presume, is also the reason why in primary schools the students are taught to learn by heart the five principles of the Rukunegara although they have great difficulty in pronouncing the big words, let alone understanding their meaning.
But it is no use making our school children reciting Rukunegara if all around them, they see the leaders of society and government openly and unashamedly flouting the principles enshrined in the Rukunegara.
Thus yesterday, I brought up the case of how, in order to get votes, the Alliance election machinery in Kuala Kedah by-election stooped so low as to fake letters purported to be signed by the Independent candidate, Cik Siti Nor Binti Hamid Tuah, and her father, Hamid Tuah, urging the voters to vote for the Alliance.
This surely is contravention of the Rukunegara principle of Morality and Good Behaviour.
If the Government leaders can so openly flout the Rukunegara principles, while endlessly through radio and television paying lip-service to them, it is probably no wonder that you have lecturers who would not help the injured and wounded.
This is why I fully support and even commend the 8000 students of the Ungku Omar Polytechnic for taking a firm stand to protest against such inhuman and irresponsible attitudes. Let the students in all other institutions and colleges and schools do the same, in similar circumstances, if the sense of decency, humanity and civility is to survive in Malaysia.
Emplacement of temporary teacher onto permanency
Finally, the problem of temporary teachers, particularly those of Chinese schools, has remained a long outstanding problem. The government should stop procrastinating on this matter, and should place all the temporary teachers onto permanency.