Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the Negri Sembilan DAP Dinner held in Seremban DAP Dinner held in Seremban on Sunday, November 5, 1995.
DAP calls for the further modification of the Education Bill 1995 to ensure that the five worries of the Seven Chinese Organisations have been fully taken into account and its publication before presentation to Cabinet.
During the budget debate in Parliament last Monday, I had called on the Government to make public the Education Bill 1995 before presentation to Cabinet so that there could be public study, discussion and feedback before the Cabinet takes any decision on the Bill.
I had also suggested that a Consultative Council comprising the Education Ministry and Chinese educational representatives should be established to resolve all the reservations and objections to the new education Bill because of their adverse effect on the position, development and future of mother-tongue education, whether Chinese primary schools, Chinese independent secondary schools or post-secondary education such as the proposed New Era College.
I am very disappointed that no single Barisan Nasional MP who has spoken in the past four days had given any support to anyone of these two proposals.
This raises the question whether a five-sixth Barisan Nasional majority in Parliament is good for the people and country, or whether the Opposition should have been strengthened in the April general election so that the true voice of the people could have stronger representation in Parliament.
The budget debate continues next week, and I hope there will be MCA, Gerakan or SUPP MPs would dare to endorse my call in Parliament on Monday that the Education Bill 1995 should be made public to allow the Cabinet the benefit of public study, discussion and feedback before the Cabinet takes a final decision on the Bill and my proposal for a Consultative Council.
Although the Barisan Nasional Government has taken some 10 years to work on the Education Bill 1995, there is no doubt that there is urgent need for modification of the Bill before presentation to cabinet or Parliament so that the new instead of national division for multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia on the threshold on the 21st century.
DAP calls for the further modification of the Education Bill 1995 to ensure that the five worries of the seven Chinese Organisations which includes Dong Jiao Zong have been fully taken into account, i.e. :
That although Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act had been repealed, the ‘ultimate objective’ of the national Education Policy remains the guiding policy of the new Bill;
About half of the present boards of Managements of Chinese prmary schools could be dissolved;
Possible stoppage of the United Examination of the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools;
Chinese Independent Secondary Schools cannot use the curriculum and textbooks decided Dong Jiao Zong, as they would be required the Government’s ‘national curriculum’ and Chinese independent secondary Schools have to take part in the government’s “prescribed examinations”; and
Unless approved by Education Ministry, no person can set up higher education colleges or raise funds or donate for such colleges.
During the Sabah state general election in 1994 and the national general election this year, Barisan Nasional leaders were wall full of praise for the contribution of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools to nation-building and development of human resources.
In Sabah last year, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said that the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools were a “long-term national investment”.
If these are all genuine expressions of appreciation by Barisan Nasional leaders for the role of Chinese education in nation-building, then the Barisan Nasional should find on great difficulty to accept the legitimate concerns and objections of the Seven Chinese Organisations to the new Education Bill 1995, and make the necessary modifications to the Bill so as to meet their five-point reservations.
Chinese primary schools should be given freedom to increase school hours to raise the standards of English and Bahasa Malaysia.
In my speech in Parliament last Monday, I called on the Education Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak, to be sensitive to the suspicious and tears of the Chinese community about the future of Chinese education because of the 34-year history of the 1961 Education Act, particularly its Section 21(2).
This was why there was very “guarded reaction” and even opposition to the Education Ministry proposal to make Mandarin and Tamil languages as part of the primary school timetable in national primary schools, which would be taught to pupils of all races if there is demand.
I welcome this move by the Education Ministry for this is one of my many proposals in Parliament since the seventies and eighties in order to give proper place and recognition to Chinese language as one of the Malaysian languages in the country.
(Another proposal is that students in primary and secondary schools should be taught their religious subjects, whether Buddhism, Christianity or Hinduism.)
It is understandable that the proposal to make mandarin part of the primary school timetable had evoked suspicions and fears, that it would lead to the undermining and erosion of Chinese primary schools. Whether through the migration or teachers or students to the national primary schools.
These suspicions and fears cannot be ignored or ridiculed, but must be addressed seriously and sensitively, because of the 34-year history of Section 21 of the 1961 Education Act.
In some quarters, fears have been expressed that Chinese primary schools would become the second choice to national primary schools for parents to send their children, as pupils in the national primary schools would be able to offer Mandarin teaching apart from superior Bahasa Malaysia and English teaching.
This should be regarded as a challenge to Chinese primary schools, for there is no reason why they should allow such a situation to take place.
There is no reason why the Chinese primary schools could not continue to compete on a more than equal footing with national primary schools for students, by developing a reputation as schools where pupils can get the best teaching in mandarin and mathematics, as well as comparable teaching in Bahasa Malaysia and English.
To do this, Chinese primary schools should be given freedom to increase school hours to raise the standards of English and Bahasa Malaysia of pupils in Chinese primary schools, and adequate capital funding from the government to turn all Chinese primary schools into single-session schools to cope with increased school hours.
These are areas which the Education Ministry must be prepared to be more liberal if the objective is to develop a new education policy which could be an instrument of national unity as well as to develop human resources to propel Malaysia into a developed nation status.