National Chinese Education convention on low standard of Chinese language in Chinese primary schools

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at Malacca State Sub-Committee Meeting on Tuesday, 19th June 1973 at 6.30 p.m.

Call on Chinese School Board of Managements, educationists, principals, teachers and parents to convene a national Chinese Education convention to discuss the low standard of Chinese language in Chinese primary schools

Last year, the DAP, spearheaded by the DAP Chinese Education Sub- Committee, tried to arouse public concern and consciousness about the grave problem of low quality and standard of Chinese language in Chinese primary schools.

We also disclosed the shockingly high rate of mass failures in the Chinese language during the Std. V Assessment Examination of the previous year (1971), where apart from Malacca, all states had over 34% failures. In the case of Perak, the failure among Chinese primary students in the Chinese subject was as high as 51%.

Unfortunately, apart from the public concern of a few educationists and teachers, the majority appeared unconcerned or indifferent. In fact, a few Chinese school teachers even criticized me for publicly raising this matter, and when I checked their credentials, I find they are invariably with the MCA. On lesser matters, big meetings were held; but on this crucial issue, everybody kept a distance.

I have in the May session of Parliament asked the Minister of Education Dato Hussien Onn to provide me with the detailed results of last year’s Std. V. Assessment Examination, which I have just received.

It is indeed very sad to see further deterioration in the Chinese subject among Chinese school primary students, surpassing the previous year’s already shockingly high-rate of mass failures.

Apart from Negri Sembilan and Malacca, all other States reported even higher rates of mass failures.

Thus, I provide the comparative figures for 1972 and 1971 results:

Std. V. Assessment Examination
National Type (Chinese) Primary Schools:
Chinese Language (Percentage of Failures)

State 1971 1972
Perak 54% 54%
Pahang 50% 51%
Selangor 50% 52%
N. Sembilan 41% 40%
Trengganu 42% 43%
Penang 41% 48%
Johore 40% 44%
Kedah 37% 40%
Perlis 37% 41%
Kelantan 34% 51%
Malacca 29% 26%

The national average of percentage of failures in the Chinese language among Chinese school students is 14%. This is a most unsatisfactory and disgraceful state of affairs in Chinese primary schools.

Unless the Chinese community wake up and take urgent and positive action to remedy this blot on Chinese education, there will soon come a day where there is very little Chinese education to talk about, let alone fight for. This will be what the Chinese saying ’Without attacking, dissolving oneself’.

The performance of the Chinese primary schools in Bahasa Malaysia must be seen to be believed. I give the results as follow

Bahasa Malaysia (Percentage of Failures)

Selangor 87%
Penang 83%
Perak 82%
N. Sembilan 79%
Penang 72%
Trengganu 68%
Perlis 63%
Kedah 62%
Malacca 61%
Kelantan 57%
Johore 81%

Although one causes for this high rate of failures in Bahasa Malaysia by Chinese school students is because last year, for the first time, a common paper was given for all language-media schools, such a high rate of total failure must make all educationists and teachers sit up and do their duty.

As for the remaining subjects, there is a slight improvement in mathematics and Bahasa Inggeris I, but in science and geography-history there was general worsening of standards.

I give below the comparative percentage of failures for the remaining subjects for 1971 and 1972 Examinations:

Bahasa Inggeris I 1971 1972 Mathematics 1971 1972
Selangor 66% 59% Selangor 48% 40.5%
Pahang 61% 50% Pahang 42% 38.5%
Perak 61% 55% Perak 42% 41%
Johore 57% 49% N. Sembilan 35% 27%
Trengganu 56% 47% Trengganu 34% 37%
N. Sembilan 55% 42% Johore 34% 33%
Perlis 51% 47% Perlis 31% 29%
Penang 50% 48% Penang 29% 32%
Malacca 49% 32% Malacca 26% 16%
Kedah 44% 36% Kedah 27% 33.5%
Kelantan 40% 42% Kelantan 23% 22%

Geography-History 1971 1972 Science 1971 1972
Perak 50% 58% Selangor 36% 39%
Selangor 48% 57% Perak 36% 39%
Pahang 47% 54% Pahang 35% 37%
Penang 43% 51% Penang 31% 35%
Johore 41% 49% Trengganu 29% 31%
N. Sembilan 41% 44% Johore 27% 30%
Trengganu 37% 45% N. Sembilan 26% 23%
Perlis 36% 41% Perlis 25% 27%
Kedah 33% 36% Kedah 25% 26%
Kelantan 32% 48% Kelantan 16% 28%
Malacca 29% 26% Malacca 19.5% 14%

It can be seen from the above detailed results that as a whole, the standard of attainment of Chinese school pupils are far from the desired norm.

The Chinese educationists, principals, teachers, and educational organizations like Old Boys Associations, teachers, and others must step forward to regenerate Chinese education and the Chinese language in the Chinese primary schools, as this is the basis and root of whether there is going to be a sturdy development of the Chinese language or a weak and listless one.

We should not be afraid to openly admit our mistakes, defects and shortcomings, for its only by knowing our mistakes and defects that we can find ways and means to remedy them. If we want to hide our mistakes and defects from public gaze, as suggested by a few MCA-inspired teachers last year, then these mistakes will not only remain uncertified, but even more and bigger ones will emerge.

I hope that Chinese educationists and teachers will this time rise up to the challenge of their bounden duties and responsibilities, and in a national effort, raise the standard of Chinese language in Chinese schools, and the standard of all other subjects as well.

Before I conclude, I cannot but express my great pleasure that from the results, Malacca top the other states in all subjects, with fairly creditable percentage of passes. This is a credit to the education officers, teachers and students in Malacca and I urge them to keep up the good work.