Friday, 3 July 2009

Educational Challenges Facing by Malaysian Chinese

Educational Challenges Facing by Malaysian Chinese - A propsal to Government 2004

Educational ChallengesFacing By Malaysian Chinese


8th April 2004





a. Relationship between government and Chinese community
b. Communication breakdown resulting in a distrustful society
c. Differences between National school and Chinese schoold.
d. Language is perceived as root of education problems


a. Policy Matters (Top Priority)
i. The ‘Ultimate Objective’ policy
ii. Resistance to vision school
iii. English as medium for Math and Science

b. Long pending issues
i. Teachers shortage problem
ii. Shortage of Chinese schools
iii. Insufficient fund allocation
iv. Equating STPM and Matriculationc.
v. Extra Initiatives


a. Two-ways communicationb.
Media and commentary circlec.
Education Think-Tankd.
Special Chinese officer for Education



The Chinese community has always been traditionally very concern and sensitive about preserving their mother tongue in education, that is Chinese-language schools. The manner the Government and the Minister of Education handle the education issues will determine to a large extend the support of the Chinese community. By virtue of its functions, the Ministry of Education can play a vital role directly in winning the support and collaboration of Chinese community for the government.

The Chinese NGOs are more emotionally involved in the controversial education issues. The fact is that education has always been a convenient source of political capital. In view of the reality that Chinese-based opposition is gaining more grounds as reflected in the General Election 2004, it shows that it is critical for the politician and the government to understand the issues of Chinese education.


Malaysian Chinese at large perceive that, as long as education is concerned, they are discriminated; what they have enjoyed so far are the outcomes of their own struggles. Out of that perception, it is generally believed that the community has to be watchful over government’s actions for education. As reinforced by some of the unfavorable encounters with the irresponsible politicians or officers, Malaysian Chinese incline to adopt a cautious attitude towards any new educational measures by the government, even though they may not be always doubtful about the government’s intention. This is the macro scenario.From the micro point of view, according to their stance of mother-tongue education, Malaysian Chinese can be categorized into four main groups:

1. Conservative group:
these are the strong believers of an educational system that built upon Chinese culture and tradition; because of their ideology, some of their leaders are sympathizers of opposition.

2. Chinese education enthusiasts:
mainly the middle-aged Chinese educated groups who have experienced the national policies that attempt to promote singular school and medium prior to 1990s. They are always sensitive to government’s new approach to Chinese schools; and, they are the most influential to the community as well as the mass media. Many confine themselves in the community for education discussion over Chinese media as they find the government’s door is always closed for discussion that result in communication breakdown with the government.

3. Mother tongue education supporters:
the emerging generation aged between 20 and 35 with the educational outlook that mostly determined by economic prospects and national benefits. They may be more rational and multi-racial in respond to Chinese education. They are more concern in the education system that able to provide a better career prospect for their children. They are increasingly playing important roles in the society but still fail to blend into the mainstream in representing the Chinese’s view over the education issues.

4. Group for the overall educational opportunities:
Their main concern is the overall opportunities of education for the Chinese as a whole; to them, language can be secondary, the primary factor for consideration is the employment prospects.


How to nurture the Chinese educational system as part of the strengths of our national educational system by eliminating the interference of political and racial elements, and enable it to contribute all it has to offer for a greater Malaysia, so as to help promote the PM’s philosophy that an education system that treasure multiracial and multicultural heritage is not an impediment but rather a rich asset for the nation building.


A study based on the interviews with a group of Chinese educationalists shows that there are 4 major challenges the new Ministry of Education may have to tackle:-

1. The Chinese community does not trust the government’s sincerity in solving the Chinese school’s problems, and the government does not trust the Chinese school’s role in promoting racial unity and nation building.

Turbulence experienced by the Chinese community in their efforts to safeguard their education has created a feeling of doubt and reservation towards government’s policy and measure for education. The ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE that attempts to carry out a singular educational system has reinforced the fear that Chinese Schools may lose its characteristics eventually.

The government, however, believes that bringing all children under one educational system with national language as the main medium of instruction is the most effective way in promoting racial integration and national unity. In addition, the government in the past has always adopting an approach of distrust in dealing with the Chinese on education issues. That deepens the conflict on education perception.

For instance, the “Vision School” is a good concept, but the Chinese do not trust the government, and they suspect that there is hidden agenda that most probably may endanger the usage of Chinese language and the schools’ committee will lose their sovereignty.

However, the government does not realize their apprehensions and never respond to the queries.

2. Malay and Chinese have failed to communicate to understand the problems of education and resulted in a distrustful society.

Malay thinks the Chinese are not sincere in promoting national unity. The Chinese thinks Malay is trying to eliminate the mother tongue education by establishing a singular society. The disagreement appeared as the political and racial factors take place in the decision process over the education issues. The pressure from respective ethnic groups affects the ministry to make a professional and correct decision. The fact is the Chinese education issues are mainly being discussed and report through Chinese media and cause differences on views from each ethnic group.

3. The current education system, particularly of the differences between national schools and Chinese primary schools are the main areas to study.

Reforming the system to reduce the differences between National schools and National-type schools can be an important task to the ministry. However, even the new Chinese generations believe the school system (intensive fed, long hours, heavy homework, etc. ) is unhealthy to their children’s development, they may choose to live by it as they fear that any changes will jeopardize the future of Chinese schools.

4. Language and medium of teaching has been perceived as the root of the educational problems

A strong force exists in defending the characteristics of Chinese schools have become a main challenge for education reformation. Chinese appear to be sensitive to any changes as it may cause mutation in the mother tongue education. Many believe that wisdom, culture and ethnic characteristic can only be taught and passed on by adopting Chinese as a medium of instruction.

To face these challenges, ones must be able to prepare to answer the followings that have always being discussed in the Chinese society.

· Does the Chinese school impinge on racial integration? Does it menace the national unity?
· For the nation’s interest, is singular education system better than multilingual schools?
· Are we able to review the “Ultimate Objective” stated in the “Report of the Education
Review Committee 1960”?
· Are we able to explain the objectives in promoting and pursuing NATIONAL EDUCATION
policy. The explanation ( national unity, racial integration, patriotism, strengthen national
language position) of the government is not persuasive and may only interpret as
advocating the singular linguistic society.


There are 3 critical areas that have been identified as confronting the Chinese Education that deserve the Ministry’s attention:-

1) Policy Matters ( Top priority )

To the disappointment of the Chinese Community, Chinese elected representatives have always been reluctant to tackle head on the following issues, which are reckoned as the outcomes of unchangeable political decisions. However, we believe that, with enough good faith, progressive perspectives as well as objective inputs, these issues can work out as a great asset to the BN government:

a) The “Ultimate Objective” of National Education Policy: It is a common perception that, the “Ultimate Objective” spelt out in the National Education Policy is the permanent threat to the very existence and survival of Chinese Schools in Malaysia. Whenever the government initiates new educational efforts, the shadow of fear and disbelief place a large number of Chinese in doubt. Disagreement over the concept of Vision Schools and the 2-4-3 formula are just the two recent instances.

b) Resistance to the Concept of Vision Schools: The resentment against the Vision Schools program has been overwhelmingly strong among the Chinese, especially the Chinese educationalists. They believe that:

· The program will eventually strip the Chinese Schools of their original characteristics;
· If it is to promote the national unity genuinely, the “Students’ Harmony and Unity Plan
1986” could be more effective;
· The Chinese Schools’ Committee (Board of Directors) will lose their sovereignty to protect, guard and supervise the schools. The Board is perceived to be the guardian to defend Chinese education. With the power being weakened, the Chinese School may lose its support and land in predicament;
· The usage of mother tongue will be lesser, so will the opportunity to learn the community’s culture and language;
· The administrative medium and autonomy may deteriorate;
· The Chinese schools statutory position may be jeopardized;
· This is an initiative to achieve the ‘Ultimate Objective’; as implied in “The report of Vision
School Project of 1995” which states that: ‘Dalam usaha mencapai matlamat perpaduan
Negara, pendidikan memainkan peranan yang amat penting. Dasar Pelajaran ebangsaan
yang berteraskan Penyata Razak 1956 jelas menegaskan tujuan dasar pendidikan sebagai
alat perpaduan bagi rakyat Negara ini, khususnya di kalangan kanak-kanak sekolah.
Bahasa Kebangsaan sebagai bahasa pengantar yang seragam bagi semua jenis sekolah
dilihat sebagai satu ciri yang paling penting dan perlu dilaksanakan sepenuhnya secara

c) English as Medium of Instruction for Maths and Science and the 2-4-3 Formula: The implementation of 2-4-3 formula brings back the adverse memory of the 3M program introduced in 1981, and, stimulates further the Chinese Community’s determination in defending the characteristics of Chinese Schools. The following questions need our deep reflections:
· Can it really improve both the standard of English as well as Math and Science effectively?
· Will it increase the pressure upon the school children to the extent of affecting their interest
in English, Math and Science?
· Will it eventually force the Chinese Schools to give up the mother tongue as a medium of
instruction and thus cause mutation in its characteristics?
· Can we trust the government’s pledges that all these changes are beneficial to the Chinese
Schools and the students?
· Is it properly planned with in-depth consideration given to all technical details?

II) Long Pending Issues:

Chinese Schools have long been entangled with the following unsolved issues:
· Inadequate administrative as well as developmental funding;
· Shortage of full-time qualified teachers;
· Insufficient numbers of schools in urban areas; and
· The outdated rote learning.

While the government is proud to tell the world that Chinese education is given freedom to exist in Malaysia, many perceive its development has never been an acceptable one. It is almost a general perception among the Chinese that whilst the government has no intention to abolish the Chinese Schools, neither does it help to prosper the Chinese Schools. More often than not, a great majority believe that it is the government’s plan to let the Chinese Schools never to prosper. For this reason, the Chinese lay the blame on Education ministry as they believe it is the Ministry’s duty to deliver.

Shortage of full-time qualified teachers: In 2003, there is a shortage of 5,278 teachers in Chinese primary schools (See Appendix 1).

The public expects the government to pay immediate attention on this urgency by :

--To increase the intakes for the Teachers Training Program by removing the irrelevant
conditions and requirements;-- Employing retired teachers can be an expedient measure;
--To recognize the degree awarded by Taiwanese Universities; or, to accept the Independent
Chinese Secondary Schools Certificate for the enrollment into the Teacher Training Program if
they have possess a ‘Credit in Bahasa’ or otherwise, if they attend a ‘Bahasa intensive course’
and passed the same. This can be a temporary measure that may be lifted as soon as the
problem is solved.

Shortage of Chinese Primary Schools in Urban residential areas:

This has frequently been an issue capitalized by the oppositions, including PAS. It is an emotional issue as many Chinese parents feel frustrated being forced to send their kids to schools miles away from homes. Statistic shown that National Schools increase by 2,637 schools from 1968 to year 2000, whereas the Chinese primary schools have not increased but decreased by 48 units in the same period of time. For instance, a study conducted by the Chinese Schools Committees show that based on the population ratio, Petaling District presently requires 57 Chinese schools. However, there are only 16 Chinese Schools in that area at the moment. This serious shortage of 41 schools has adversely affected the parents of school going children in the area.

Insufficient allocation for school development as a whole:

It is a known fact that there is no long term, systematic and reliable plan in the allocation of fund to Chinese Schools. The Seventh Malaysia Plan allocated RM1,064,039,000 of which 96.54% had been allocated to National schools and only 2.44% and 1.02% allocated to Chinese and Tamil schools respectively. The obvious difference can hardly appease the feeling of the Chinese community.

· Treating STPM and Matriculation as an equal enrolment standard: This practice has created uneasiness among the Chinese, and many Chinese organizations have repeatedly requested to abolish this system to ensure a fair intake system into local universities.

· Reformation of Rote Learning System: While most Chinese Schools are proud of their students’ examination results, the wrong emphasis and overuse of examinations, tuitions and homework, have caused a great anxiety to the younger generation of Chinese parents. Rote learning may be necessary to train up obedient factory workers during the industrial age of the past century; its philosophy and practicality need much reflections and debates in the Knowledge era, of which the real treasure is original thinking, creativity and innovations. When too much an expectation is unduly focused on rote learning and the examination results, extra learning materials and tuition sessions are manipulated by some irresponsible school administrators for personal financial gain, which make our PM’s vows for a transparent, clean and trustworthy civil service an open mockery like the emperor’s new clothe.

III) Extra Initiatives

These can be a bonus if the Ministry of Education can extend its attention to the following area with resolution:

· Financial assistance for Independent Chinese Secondary Schools
· Recognition of Unified Examination Certificate of the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools
· Greater opportunities and channels for the Chinese students to enroll in the higher education


The issues stated above are the key areas to take note before the following recommendations can be adopted with the aim to implement effective measures and policy in education :

·Two-ways communication:
between the government and the Chinese community is strongly recommended. A top down method has been practiced and it is now to include the bottom up method to create a better working relationship with the Chinese whom has always involve in this field with great sacrifices.

·Media and commentary circle:
Chinese media, features writers, current affair analysts and commentators have always been over reacting toward the education issues. Their backgrounds are important as they are the medium of all issues. A close communication with this particular group to enhance a better understanding helps to deliver accurate and positive messages. It provides a platform of two-way communication between the government and the people

· Education Think-Tank:
to be formed by educationist, community leaders and member of the public with the purpose of breaking the monopoly of issue on Chinese education by a small group of people. The Chinese community at large can present the problem or proposal in-group discussion in order to deliver a rational and accurate feedback to the ministry as well as to the public.

· Special Chinese Officer:
As an alternative to the existing system that rely heavily on the elected representatives who may be interrupted by various political considerations, a special officer may be appointed under the ministry to coordinate the direct communication between the minister and the Chinese community.


Allowing healthy competition is always the best way of getting quality education for our future generation. Malay likes to send their kids to Chinese school not because of learning additional language but in believing its teaching and quality of education. Perhaps, it is time to consider promoting the quality of Sekolah Kebangsaan through upgrading its learning pedagogy.

Secondly, education must be re-imaged as a professional field for human development and not a political turf for personal popularity and gain. This will enable the government to reform the education system more objectively in Malaysia.

We firmly believe that, under the sincere leadership of the most honorable Prime Minister and the new Minister of Education, Malaysian education will be heading toward an excellent, glorious and distinctive new horizon and future.

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