NEIGH­BOURS AS­SIM­I­LATED

New Straits Times - - Letters -

and in­ter­min­gled so well that it is dif­fi­cult to­day to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the Thais and the Chi­nese. Presently in Thai­land, Chi­nese medium schools ac­count for less than 0.1 per cent of all schools.

The same sce­nario ex­ists in most of the other South­east Asian coun­tries. In­done­sia, how­ever, solved the prob­lem in a very harsh and de­ci­sive way. There, in the early 1960s, the Chi­nese were forced to adopt In­done­sian names; Chi­nese schools were closed down and use of the Chi­nese lan­guage and cus­toms were banned. These were cruel mea­sures but they have pro­duced amaz­ing re­sults.

To­day, a ma­jor­ity of the eth­nic Chi­nese, es­pe­cially the younger gen­er­a­tion, have ex­cel­lent com­mand of Ba­hasa In­done­sia.

This, of course is not the so­lu­tion for our coun­try. We have to re­spect and take into ac­count the pro­vi­sions of our Con­sti­tu­tion and the ed­u­ca­tion acts, but the ques­tion of seg­re­ga­tion still begs an an­swer. Given these con­straints, the best op­tion would be to al­low vernacular schools to re­tain the sta­tus quo from preschool to the end of pri­mary school — a span of al­most eight years of ed­u­ca­tion in the mother tongue — and then shift to a sin­gle na­tional school sys­tem for se­condary schools.

All se­condary schools should then fol­low the na­tional cur­ricu­lum with Ba­hasa Malaysia as the medium of in­struc­tion. There should not be any prob­lems as pupils of these schools have been learn­ing it since preschool. This type of de­seg­re­ga­tion of schools, if car­ried out, can only be done through the nec­es­sary amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion and en­force­ment of the law. In par­tic­u­lar these na­tional schools must have a pro­vi­sion for an ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber of pe­ri­ods in the timetable for classes in the mother tongue and cul­ture — be it Chi­nese or Tamil — to be taught by qual­i­fied vernacular ed­u­ca­tors. These ad­di­tional pe­ri­ods should be taken from the present al­lo­ca­tion of English and Ba­hasa Malaysia prime-time pe­ri­ods.

How­ever, all these would only be fea­si­ble if is­sues per­tain­ing to the im­ple­men­ta­tion and fate of vernacular schools and the thou­sands of teach­ers who teach only in their mother tongue be fairly ad­dressed. These ed­u­ca­tors must, in all fair­ness be ab­sorbed into the new sys­tem, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion paid to the po­si­tions of the head­mas­ters and head­mistresses.

The racial com­po­si­tion of teach­ers, stu­dents and ad­min­is­tra­tors in these na­tional schools should be bal­anced, with all­round sup­port for in­ter­ra­cial mix­ing.

A.L. KUT,

Kota Baru, Kelantan

Al­low vernacular schools to re­tain the sta­tus quo from preschool to the end of pri­mary school and then shift to a sin­gle na­tional school sys­tem for the se­condary schools.

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