Call on the Ministry of Education to conduct a special survey on the basic learning skills of reading, writing and arithmetic of Chinese primary school students before formulating and implementing 3M system for Chinese schools

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, when officially declaring open the Perak State DAP Ordinary Convention 1981 in Ipoh on Sunday, 12th July 1981 at 10 a.m.

Call on the Ministry of Education to conduct a special survey on the basic learning skills of reading, writing and arithmetic of Chinese primary school students before formulating and implementing 3M system for Chinese schools

On 8th December 1980, the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, announced that the Education Ministry would introduce a complete new primary school curriculum that emphasises the 3Rs – Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic – beginning with Standard One in 1983.

The new government policy on 3M for primary schools was the result of a 10-month survey carried out by the Curriculum Development Centre of the Ministry of Education between June 1979 and 1980, covering 287 pre-selected schools and 16,806 pupils in all three medium – national, Chinese and Tamil.

The Education Ministry announced that the CDC’s Report on the Proficiency Levels of Primary School Children in Basic Skills showed:

• The proficiency levels in reading skills is only 55per cent for Std. Six pupils in all three types of schools;

• Less than 50 per cent have sufficient writing skills; and

• Only 48.3% of those in Chinese schools have sufficient arithmetic per cent in Tamil schools can do arithmetic.

The report of the Curriculum Development Centre was presented to the Education Minister on Dec. 2, who, six days later, announced major educational changes in the form of the 3M policy for primary schools.

The first thing to note is the haste with which the Education Minister announced the 3M Policy, considering he had the report for only six days.

It would have been better and more beneficial if the Curriculum Development Centre’s Report on “Taraf Pencapaian Murid-Murid Sekolah Rendah di Malaysia” had been made public to teachers, parents and educationists for a public discussion and views before the government on the 3M Policy.

This is because while the principle of ensuring that every student learn the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, is supported by everyone, there is no guarantee that just because a plan is named 3M plan; it would achieve these results.

After all, every education system is meant to ensure that every one of its product attain the basic skills of the 3Rs and if the present educational system has failed to achieve this, a more thorough investigation and involvement of parents and teachers are needed in order to find the root causes and the solutions.

This is particularly pertinent as the survey of the Curriculum Development Centre may be challenged on several grounds.

Firstly, there is the question as to whether the findings are a valid reflection of the achievemenr levels of our children in primary schools in the country.

There are more than 4,000 primary schools in the country but the survey covered only 287 schools. There were more than 2 million children in primary classes between June 1979 and April 1980 but the tests for the survey were conducted only on 16,806 pupils.

Secondly, the findings of the CDC conflict with the results of the 1978 Std. V assessment Examination which is aimed at assessing the attainment levels of primary school students after five years.

As the CDC survey of Std. VI students were carried out from June 1979 to April 1980, we will compare the CEC’s findings with the results of the 1978 Std. V Assessment Examination, as the Std. V students in 1987 would be the students in Std. VI to be surveyed by the CDC.

The comparison between the CDC survey and the 1987 Std. V Assessment Examination shows a big disparity as given below:

1978 Std. V Assessment Exam CDC Survey of Arithmetic Skills of
Percentage of Passes in Arithmetic Std. VI pupils in 1979: percentage of
Students with Proficiency
National Primary schools 48.7% 37.8%

Chinese Primary schools 69.3% 47.9%

Tamil Primary schools 40.9 % 30.5%

What is the reason for such a vast disparity in these two set of figures, as we can assume that students who passed the Assessment Examination would have attained minimum proficiency levels.

As it is, for national and Tamil primary schools, there is a drop of over 10% when students who passed the Std. V Assessment Examination were surveyed by the CDC. The drop of 21.4% for Chinese primary school students is even greater.

What is the reason for this. Something is wrong either with the Std. V Assessment Examination or the CDC survey.

However, the biggest objection to the CDC survey is that in assessing the Reading and Writing skills of primary school students, the students from all medium streams were tested on their reading and writing skills in Bahasa Malaysia, and not the medium of their instruction! e.g. Chinese school students tested in the writing and reading skills on Chinese, and Tamil schools in their proficiency in the Tamil language.

According to the CDC Survey, the Proficiency Levels of Reading and Writing Skills in Bahasa Malaysia for the various medium schools at Std. V is as follows:

Reading Writing
National pr. schools 93% 50.1%
Chinese pr. schools 59.8% 22%
Tamil pr. schools 59.8% 25%

The above figures are not really comparable as students in national primary schools use Bahasa Malaysia as medium of instruction while students in Chinese and Tamil primary schools study Bahasa Malaysia as a subject.

This is not to deny that the attainment levels of Chinese and Tamil primary schools in Bahasa Malaysia must be raised, when we note that in the Std. V Assessment Examination in 1987, only 15.2% of Tamil school students and 18-7% of Chinese school students passed the Bahasa Malaysia paper. However, it is mot unrealistic and educational nonsense to expect.

Chinese and Tamil school students studying Bahasa Malaysia as a subject to sit the same paper as national primary schools whose medium of instruction is in Bahasa Malaysia.

Educationally unsound to formulate and implement 3M system for Chinese and Tamil primary schools on the basic of survey of a different media stream

The Education Ministry has not conducted any survey whatsoever on the basic learning skills of writing, reading in the medium of instruction of the Chinese and Tamil school students.

Even a student will know it is educationally unsound to formulate and Implement a 3M system for Chinese and Tamil primary schools on the basis of survey of a different medium stream, and in the writing and reading skills of a language which is taught as a subject and not as a medium of instruction.

This is why the proposed 3M plan has raised fears among Chinese educational circles and the Chinese community that it would lead to a change in the character of Chinese primary schools. These fears had been further intensified when the Conference on 3M at the University Kebangsaan in March adopted a resolution proposing that in the implementation and Tamil primary schools.

I call on the Ministry of Education to conducted a special survey on the basic learning skills of reading, writing of Chinese school students in their mother tongue before formulating and implementing a 3M system for Chinese primary schools. Such a survey should involve the Chinese school teachers, educationists, boards of managements and parents so as to achieve the best possible results. A similar survey should be conducted for Tamil primary schools.

The MCA has a national leader who is the Deputy Education Minister, and I am surprised that he could not realise that is it is educational nonsense to implement an educational system based on a survey for a different medium of instruction. I am also surprised that the other MCA, Gerakan SUPP, and MIC Ministers in the Cabinet are blind to this important matter, especially as the Primary Minister-to-be, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, said in an interview in the Chinese press a few days ago that there is not a policy or government measure which did not have the support of all the component parties in the Barisan, as policies and measures which had the support of only one party could not succeed.

What has MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC Ministers done to ensure that Chinese and Tamil primary schools get their due share of development funds under the Fourth Malaysia Plan

When he opened the Conference on 3M organised by the Chinese Teachers’ Unions Federation in Kuala Lumpur on June 14, the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Chan Siang Sum, sounded very proud when he announced that under the Fourth Malaysia Plan there had been an increase in allocation of c funds for Chinese primary schools, which will total $18 million.

This is indeed a paltry figure, and no one has anything to be proud about. Under the Fourth Malaysia plan, $518 million has been allocated for primary schools. This means that Chinese primary schools, which in the Sixties and Seventies had been excluded from the mainstream of primary school development, whether in terms of classes, renovations, extensions of facilities, is getting a paltry 3.3% of the allocation.

Instead of appearing to be proud of such a allocation, Datuk Chan Siang Sun, and even the other MCA Ministers should resign to apologise to the people for the failure to secure for Chinese primary schools their proper development funds.

In fact, we may ask the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC Ministers in the Cabinet what they have done all these years to ensure that Chinese and Tamil primary schools get their due share of development funds.

Perak DAP to gear itself for next general elections in 10-12 months

The Perak State Ordinary Convention today will elect a new Perak State Committee, which has the heavy and challenging task f seeing the DAP Perak through the next general elections which may be held in 10-12 months’ time.

In the last general elections, the Perak DAP suffered the set-back of losing te Parliamentary seat of Kinta and the State seats of Jalong and Pangkor held previously by us in 1974.

We must learn from the lessons of our setbacks, and fear ourselves for the next general elections.

Despite the setbacks in 1978, the Perak DAP in the last general elections secured the highest percentage of votes in each state, apart from Federal Territory. In 1978, Perak DAP polled 36.6% of the votes in the general elections.

There are many who want DAP to falter and fall. In fact, four to eight months ago, the DAP foiled the biggest attempt by the Barisan Nasional parties to break and destroy the DAP, by a combination of subversion from inside and destruction from outside.

There were those who thought that what the late Tun Dr. Ismail, then Deputy Prime Minister, predicted in 1972 that the DAP was ‘one foot in the grave’ because of internal problems was probably coming true, although some nine years later.

There were those who hoped that the DAP would disintegrate and disappear so that they could enter the political scene and occupy the vacuum.

But the resilience, stamina and dedication of loyal and selfless DAP leaders, members and supporters have again proved that the DAP may undergo storms and hurricanes, it would emerge from it stronger, healthier and more committed to the political goal of a democratic socialist, Malaysian Malaysia.

Let Perak DAP prove to all those who wish the DAP ill that we have yet to achieve our finest hour, and that with unity, dedication and preparedness to sacrifice, we will make the next general elections another important milestone for the DAP on our onward political crusade.