Mandarin and Tamil in all government schools
Anthea Fraser Gupta
A.F.Gupta at leeds.ac.uk
Wed Apr 27 17:09:43 UTC 2005
The following is from the *Straits Times* (Singapore), quoting the *New
Straits Times* (Malaysia).
For your information: 'National Schools' are state schools providing the
national curriculum through the main medium of Malay with English as a
subject and secondary medium.
I have to add that I don't see how this proposal is practical (this is
April 27, 2005
SPURRING RACIAL INTERACTION IN MALAYSIA
Mandarin and Tamil at all national schools
Bid to attract non-Malay pupils, but parents say it's moral values that
they go for
By Reme Ahmad
Malaysia Bureau Chief
KUALA LUMPUR - MANDARIN and Tamil will be taught in all Malaysian
national primary schools in a bid to attract more non-Malay students.
RACIAL MIX: The government hopes more non-Malays will enrol their
children in national primary schools which teach Mandarin and Tamil. At
present, such schools are Malay-dominated. -- NEW STRAITS TIMES
The plan reflects the government's concern about declining racial
interaction in schools.
But educationists and parents say it is not just a matter of language.
Many Chinese and Indian parents pick schools where they believe their
children will be taught key traditional values. The Malay-dominated
national schools cannot compete with the Chinese and Tamil schools in
this area, they say.
'My children learn about Chinese moral and traditional values such as
respecting elders in school,' said business consultant W.F. Ho, whose
two children attend Chinese schools. 'These are important for their
bearing and cannot be found elsewhere.'
Said Tamil primary school principal Alemah Hanipah: 'Education is more
than just the teaching of the mother tongue. The support found in Tamil
schools and the traditions are different.'
Some educationists also wonder where the government will get more
Chinese-language teachers, as there is a long-standing shortage of such
teachers in Chinese primary schools.
Acknowledging this, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said yesterday that
the plan would have to be implemented slowly as more teachers would have
to be trained.
He did not mention any plan to import teachers, but an official with
Dong Zhong, the United Chinese School Committees Association, said it
would be quicker to get them from China and Taiwan.
He conceded, though, that this could be politically sensitive as
overseas educationists might be seen as liable to promote 'non-Malaysian
Apart from trying to draw more non-Malays to national schools, Datuk
Seri Abdullah sees language skills as a boon for business.
He said proficiency in Chinese and Tamil 'is becoming more and more
important in a globalised economy which is seeing the emergence of China
and India as super-economies'.
Only 495 out of 7,595 national primary schools - or 6.5 per cent of the
total - currently offer Chinese and Tamil languages in their curriculum.
This is because there must be a minimum of 15 students per class before
the subject is offered - a rule that will be scrapped.
There are 1,287 Chinese primary schools and about 520 Tamil schools in
the country, along with dozens of madrasahs (Islamic schools).
Non-Malays tend to avoid the national primary school system because of
its emphasis on Bahasa Malaysia. Some even see the schools as 'too
'In national schools, having some Islamic rules, like specific dressing
for Muslim girls, makes some people uncomfortable,' said Dr Kia Kua
Soong, a leading Chinese-language advocate and principal of New Era
College, an institution funded by Chinese educationists.
* * * * *
Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at leeds.ac.uk
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