Mandarin and Tamil in all government schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Apr 28 16:05:46 UTC 2005

Thank you, Anthea, for this; interesting, but who knows how far it will
go? It reminds me of a strategy in the US in the 19th century: in order to
try to shut down privately-operated German-medium schools in various
cities in the midwest, some cities (Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis...)
decided to offer bilingual German-English programs, to lure students away
to "free" schools where the parents wouldn't have to pay tuition. It
worked in some cases; then when the private schools had to shut down for
lack of students, the "free" ones then discontinued the German!  Kloss
reports on this in his various writings about the German language in the


On Wed, 27 Apr 2005, Anthea Fraser Gupta wrote:

> 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
> referred to).
> Anthea
> -------------------
> April 27, 2005
> 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
> values'.
> 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
> Islamic'.
> '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
> *     *     *     *     *

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