Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at Masjid Tanah, Malacca, at the first stop in tour of Chinese primary schools affected by promotion exercise of non-Chinese educated teachers conducting a three-day schools boycott, on Thursday, 15.10.1987 at 7.30 a.m.
DAP proposes amendment to the 1961 Education Act to give Board of Management the right to object to promotions and transfers of teachers which would affect the character of Chinese primary school as an effective solution to the present educational crisis.
The national educational crisis marked by a three0day school boycott of 46 Chinese primary schools in Malacca, Penang, Selangor and Federal Territory should be seriously dealt with by the Barisan Nasional Government, if the country’s economic recovery efforts are not to be derailed by insensitive government actions in the other fields of language, education, culture and religion.
There are thos in UMNO and even other component Barisan Nasional parties who claim that the present controversy is over an administrative detail, and has nothing to do with policy.
I strongly disagree. The whole Chinese primary schools promotion dispute is over policy question as to be continued existence of Chinese primary schools and preservation of its character and identity. The character and identity of Chinese primary schools can be altered not only by legislative, political but also by administrative measures.
Both the Minister Education and Deputy Education Minister have argued that the transfers and promotions of non-Chinese educated teachers to become assistant headmasters and senior assistants of Chinese primary schools were made administratively by the Promotions Board. Seen as an isolated act of transfer and promotions by the Promotion Board, it is an administrative action. But this administrative action cannot been seen in isolation, but as a part of a continuum of an educational policy aimed eventually to have only schools in one medium.
Before 1972, this problem and controversy of non-Chinese educated teachers promoted as assistant headmasters and senior assistants would never occur, for the School Boards of Management had the power of ‘hire and fire’. However, in 1972, accepting the Aziz Commission Report, the Government amended the 1961 Education Act to abolish the functions and powers of the School Boards of Management. The transfer and promotion of teachers become the sole authority of the government.
Even so, the Aziz Commission recommended that the ‘special character’ of Chinese primary schools should be respected, and recommended that “in exercising the powers of development and assignment of teachers, especially the head teachers, there should be maximum consultation between the deployment authority and the individual School Boards of the school so that character is maintained.”
There was nation-wide opposition to the abolition of the powers of the Boards of Management of Chinese primary school, precisely because there was fear that it would now enable the government to change the character of Chinese primary schools by purely administrative action.
There was firm government assurance at that time that the Chinese education circles and community have no cause to worry on this score, and that these powers of ‘hire and fire’ taken over from the old Boards of Management would not be used to change the character of Chinese primary schools through transfers and promotions.
These fears expressed 15 years ago have now come true, with the present controversy over the appointment and promotion of non-Chinese educated teachers as assistant headmasters and senior assistants of Chinese primary schools.
There was no ‘consultation’, let alone ‘Maximum consultation’ with the Boards of Management as recommended by the Aziz Commission Report, in the present mass promotions of non-Chinese educated teachers to senior posts in Chinese primary schools throughout the country.
In fact, to the Education Ministry officials, the Boards of Management do not exist, and are not given the respect they are entitled, especially considering the fact that it was these Boards of Management which had been responsible for the founding and development of Chinese primary schools since the inception.
As an effective solution to the present educational crisis, I suggest that the 1961 Education Act should be amended to give Boards of Management the right to object to any transfer or promotions which would affect the character of Chinese primary schools. If the Government is prepared to give an assurance that it would table such an amendment Bill to allay fears of the Chinese community that the character of Chinese primary schools could be altered by administrative actions, it would go a long way to resolve the present educational crisis.