By Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, on Tuesday, Sept. 20:
DAP calls for an assurance that the Education Ministry would not send English-medium trained teachers as head of Tamil or Chinese primary schools
The existence of Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act which gives power to the Minister of Education to convert Tamil of Chinese primary schools into national primary schools when the Minister deems appropriate is the source of great worry among Malaysian Indian and Chinese education circles.
In fact, Clause 21(2) is contrary to the spirit and letter of Clause 152 of the Malaysian Constitution which guarantees that there will be no prohibition or prevention (apart from for official purposes) in the use, study and teaching of the various language in the country.
This means that Tamil and Chinese have been guaranteed by the Malaysian Constitution to be used as media of instruction in educational institutions, whether at the primary, secondary or even university level.
The DAP has right from the beginning opposed Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act, which gives the Government considerable opportunity to convert Tamil and Chinese primary schools into national primary schools, whether in the form of alteration of media instruction in various subjects, or in the staffing or appointment of headmasters.
In Perak, recently the Education Department appointed three English-medium trained teachers as heads of Tamil schools, superseding Tamil-medium trained teachers.
This is shocking, and although following representations by the National Union of Teaching profession, Perak Branch, the appointment has been suspended temporarily, the matter has not yet been resolved by the rescinding of the appointments.
It is most unsatisfactory that Tamil and Chinese primary schools should face so many attempts to change the character of Tamil and Chinese primary schools – without the direct use of Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act.
I call on the Minister of Education, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, to allay these anxieties which have been aroused by the series of actions taken by the Ministry of Education, and to give a categorical assurance that no English or Malay-medium trained teachers would be sent to become headmasters of Tamil or Chinese primary schools. This assurance must be in the form of a Ministerial guarantee so that what happened in Perak would be sent to become headmasters of Tamil or Chinese primary schools. This assurance must be in the form of a Ministerial guarantee so that what happened in Perak would never happen again.
Finally, there is no other way to effectively allay the legitimate anxieties of Tamil and Chinese educational circles with regard to the future of Tamil and Chinese primary schools than the repeal of Clause 21(2) of 1961 Education Act. In Oct. 1974 I moved a motion in Parliament to repeal Clause 21(2) but was opposed by MCA, Gerakan, MIC, UMNO Members of Parliament.