KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 – 1. When we became independent in 1957 we had a clear idea about education in Malaysia. We wanted every Malaysian child to go to national schools where the medium of teaching would be the National Language based on the Malay language, the language of indigenous people. They would know and be close to each other, get used to their different cultures and be distinctly Malaysian.
2. For a time the “English Schools” were to be allowed to go on. The students at these schools were from all the ethnic groups in Malaysia.
3. When Minister Aziz Ishak as acting Education Minister decided that all schools must be converted to national schools with the national language as the teaching medium, the Chinese raised a big row.
Cabinet then decided that the vernacular language schools would be allowed. They were re-designated “Jenis Kebangsaan” or National Type. The national type primary vernacular schools would receive Government aid but the national type secondary schools were not to be supported by Government. The decision was political. Nothing in the Constitution provided for this. Then another Education Minister in 1971 decided to abolish Government secondary schools which teach in English.
4. The net result was an exodus of Chinese students to private Chinese Secondary schools.
5. With this the children of different races lost all opportunities to grow up together; the Malays to national schools, the Chinese to Chinese primary and secondary schools and the Indians to Tamil primary schools. There were no Tamil secondary schools. So most Indians studied in National Secondary Schools.
6. International schools using English were however allowed to exist. Then local private schools using largely English as the medium were set up.
7. The Malaysian children were not supposed to go to these private schools. In any case the fees charged by private schools as usual were high.
8. Then the ministers’ children, against national policy started going to private schools and international schools which use largely English as the teaching medium. The ministers also send their children to public (actually private) school in the UK. So followed the children of the rich.
9. The result is that the rich go to private schools in Malaysia and U.K while the poor go to national schools at home.
10. Apart from racial separation because of the ethnic language based schools, we now see a separation of the rich children and the poor children. The rich now speak in English and the poor in Malay, Chinese or Tamil. Jobs favour the English speakers.
11. Strangely the language nationalists have not protested as they protest the use of English for Science and Mathematics. Incidentally the Malay language nationalists also help promote the use of the Chinese language in Chinese schools and in business. Even Malay parents like their children to go to Chinese schools. And in Sarawak the natives prefer Chinese schools.
12. All these will result in the separation of the races and the separation of rich high-class English speaking people from the poor less privileged national language speaking people. There will also be a loss of the knowledge of modern science and higher mathematics among national school students.
13. I must confess that although my children all went to national schools, my grandchildren all go to private schools in the country and abroad. They do speak the national language but their kind of schooling widens the gap between races as well as between the rich and the poor.
14. It seems that poor parents must accept poor education for their children so politicians can be popular.