Day before yesterday, The Sun informed us that Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim made a rather controversial statement.
He advised Chinese and Indians to give up use of mother-tongue language in education.
He gave his reason as "… Chinese and Indians, being minority races in the country, should give up the use of mother-tongue language as the medium of instruction in their schools to be out of the racial box and stay competitive.”
He said that one school education system will favour peace in the country.
Needless to say, his comments drew severe criticisms from the usual suspects, the praetorian guards of Chinese education in Malaysia, Jiao Zong (United Chinese School Teachers Association) and Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees Association).
No doubt Prof Khoo offered that advice following the brouhaha evoked by Mukhriz Mahathir’s comments in Parliament, that vernacular schools promote disunity and polarisation, and therefore the solution would be to integrate the vernacular and national schooling systems to eliminate polarisation and to promote unity among Malaysians – for more, read Malaysiakini Mukhriz was misquoted: Hisham
Alarm bells went off and sirens wailed in the Chinese educationist camp as what the MP from Jerlun had proposed would mean the disappearance of the vernacular system, currently considered by many Chinese Malaysians not only as the source of good quality education but the preserver of Chinese language and culture.
Poor Mukhriz was attacked left, right and centre by the DAP, MCA, Gerakan, MIC, NGOs, Chinese educationists and even/especially those in the blogging world, a few of whom frequently quoted Voltaire to defend, for example, the Kulim Wonder (hmmm, as if that thug had said anything intelligent other than to physically barge into the Bar Council forum).
Double standard? Or defending the rights of the Chinese and Indians to have mother tongue education.
Well, certainly in the case of those so-called Voltaireans, it had been the worst case of hypocrisy and unmitigated double standards.
Now to be fair to Mukhriz – leaving aside his completely incorrect identification of vernacular schools as the cause of why school children are so ethno-polarized; they would be the national schools and ethno-exclusive institutions like UiTM - he didn't propose that mother tongue education be done away with completely. In fact he said that Mandarin and Tamil be made available in the national type schools.
But the issue of vernacular education is particularly sensitive for both Chinese and Indian Malaysians.
As I had said in my Thursday’s post on sweetie Helen Ang's 'Di mana bumi ku pijak' (in Malaysiakini column) that at one time in the late 50’s, the Chinese medium schools were actually going out of ‘business’ because Chinese parents were abandoning them after assessing that their children would have better career prospects with an English education.
Of course there were a few Chinese philanthropists like multi-millionaire Lim Lean Theng in Penang who contributed enormous sums to make available vernacular education (Han Chiang in Penang) but those were the exceptions to the general educational preference within the Chinese community.
According to my uncle, Han Chiang catered to large population of foreign students from Asia particularly from Indonesia and Thailand – I’ll come back to this shortly.
But since Merdeka, thanks to the political ambitions of successive (UMNO) Education Ministers who used their ministerial portfolio to play nationalistic politics so much so that the once renowned quality of our national schools plummeted to such depths that the Chinese medium schools by comparison, began to assume the only reliable schooling with decent standards in Malaysia.
Thus it was UMNO (the various Education Ministers and their silly nationalistic politics) which eroded the once-glorious standards of Malaysian national schools and by default injected new life into the then moribund vernacular schools.
’Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The Chinese educationists then saw their golden opportunity to strengthen their position by working damn bloody hard and dedicatedly to win the confidence of the Chinese parents. And they did so.
As sweetie Helen Ang observed astutely: "[The Chinese education] boat has left the harbour and sailed too far to turn back now.”
And may I add, at super top notch speed too, and equipped with GPS (Global Positioning Satellites) to ensure their directional accuracy. Who then would want their children to board the comparative national sampan?
In other words, where once Chinese parents were prepared to abandon the Chinese language schools (as the Hokkien medium school in Penang which perished in the mid 60’s – uncle believes it was called Shang Teik???), today Chinese vernacular schools have their complete confidence as the only assured source of affordable quality education for their children ...
... in large part due to the dedication and to some extent, the educational fanaticism of both Jiao Zong (United Chinese School Teachers Association) and Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees Association), collectively known as Dong Jiao Zong.
Today, Malaysiakini publishes Minister dismisses education group's street protest threat which reported on the Education Ministers rejection of Dong Jiao Zong’s demand that the government’s directive for schools to teach Maths and Science in English be revoked.
Many Chinese believe that the policy has been officialdom’s underhanded and sinister intention to dilute the vernacular schools prowess in teaching those subjects (done through the vernacular languages), that the decision was made for the teaching of those two subjects to be switched to English under the ‘guise’ of improving students command of English.
Frankly I personally do not believe one can learn English effectively through Science and Maths where the vocabulary or linguistic expression used would be limited to technical terms – perhaps those suspicious of the government’s intention have assessed likewise.
Apart from English language lessons per se, the best subjects requiring wide linguistic expressions and extensive employment of vocabulary would be history, literature, morals, social sciences, economics, and even religious studies - but certainly not Maths and Science.
There is great unhappiness among the Chinese for what they perceive (correctly or incorrectly) as a deliberate sabotaging attempt to hamstring their renowned traditional prowess in the teaching of Maths and Science.
Uncle told me that many years ago, an UMNO MP had proposed to control the outflow of non-Malay students going overseas to foreign universities because that bloke was alarmed that the non-Malays were still increasing their numbers in professions such as doctors, engineers, etc.
His idea of affirmative action was two-prong, promote the Malays and suppress the advance of the nons.
Was that mean mentality unusual? Read on.
Just two years ago, an UMNO Minister went to Ukraine to visit the Crimea State Medical University where many Malaysian students were studying there. He was reported to have said (words to the effect) “So many blacks here”.
Next, before we can say “Aiyoyo, black is beautiful lah”, our MMC issued a de-recognition of the Crimea State Medical University, just barely 4 years after it recognized it. Furthermore Ministers (then) Samy Vellu and Chua Soi Lek were dragged into the controversial de-recognition.
Malaysiakini reported that: Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek cited rape and threat incidents as grounds for the de-recognition but failed to furnish any details till today.
Chua said the government will not entertain appeals from CSMU as the university had not bothered to reply MMC’s earlier queries.
The university has since denied all the allegations and provided malaysiakini copies of a series of correspondence with the MMC since last August (2006).
So? Who’s bullsh*tting?
But the MMC couldn't explain why the de-recognition was not across the board. Certain parties’ degrees from the medical university were recognized whilst others (who came latter) weren’t.
And what was the difference? Well, many suspected it was just pre and post “So many blacks here”.
For more, read Samy to meet CSMU students.
Can you see why very few non-Malay parents trust the government with their children’s education.
Now recall what I wrote earlier, that Han Chiang catered to large population of foreign students from Asia particularly from Indonesia and Thailand.
Those examples indicate that, where their children's education are involved and the government is oppressive and hostile to vernacular education (as Indonesia once was notorious for such draconian attitude), Chinese parents would be prepared to sacrifice much, including mortgaging their homes off to pay for their children's education abroad, by hook or by crook.
If large mobs of Chinese Indons and Thais could be sent here to study Chinese, so could equally large mobs of Chinese Malaysians to places like Taiwan or China. I would not be surprised when this eventually happens.
Next I’ll discuss the non-Malays' command of the Malay language …