Chin Tong: The dichotomy between vernacular education and national schools is outdated

Posted on 18 February 2012 – 04:46pm
Last updated on 19 February 2012 – 01:38pm

Pauline Wong

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 18, 2012): Studying in Chinese does not make one less loyal to the country, as we are all still Malaysians, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong today said.

Addressing some 600 participants at the MCA’s “Malaysian at Political Crossroads” conference here, Wee said that nobody should question the patriotism of those who attend vernacular schools.

“Studying in Chinese does not mean a pupil will love their country less. After all, we still eat the same nasi lemak and capati, and drink the same cendol.

“More importantly, we all sing the same song – the Negaraku,” he said.

He had said this during the “Vernacular education struggle – what are the implications for the Malaysian Chinese” discussion session at the conference.

The session among others, discussed whether vernacular education will widen the cultural gap between communities, and if it is strategic to promote national unity.

To this, Wee said the syllabus in Chinese schools are the same as national schools, and that we all still respect each other.

“Every parent in Malaysia wishes to see their child mix with children of other races,” he added.

The session also saw other panelist discuss issues faced by vernacular schools.

Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong said that the dichotomy between vernacular education and national schools is outdated.

“We need a new framework. This is because we no longer have the problem where we only speak one language. The reality is that we are sitting on a multi-lingual, multi-cultural goldmine where are able to speak many languages,” he said.

He said Malaysia is unique but instead of treating this as an asset, the education system is still trapped in outdated debates and lip service protecting Chinese or Indian rights through allocations for vernacular schools and handouts.

“Lip service, in a “I help you, you help me” way will not be the way forward. Where did we get the idea that school must be taught in one language? Why not two, three languages?” he argued, adding that he envisions a Malaysia where a Malay can converse in Mandarin and the Chinese can speak Tamil.

During the question and answer session, however, the crowd once more got riled up, resulting in one delegate being escorted out by the organisers.

Koh Kim Seng, from Perak, had shouted at Wee, who earlier in his speech creditted MCA for being instrumental in removing a clause in the Education Act which gives power to the minister of the day to convert Chinese schools to national schools.

Koh had asked how the clause was included in the Act in the first place, getting more and more emotional as he ranted in Mandarin.

Boos and shouts matched his tirade as those seated at the MCA side shouted at him to go away and shut up, as moderator Tan Sri Fong Chan Onn struggled to maintain order.

Koh continued shouting even as he was led out of the conference hall.

He was later seen re-registering himself for the following session.

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