How do you debunk myths about Chinese primary schools in Malaysia?

It is not easy to fight lies told about the vernacular schools of Malaysia. A recent availability of a string of revealing facts help to debunk these myths. Read more & comment!

I have always wanted to write something to debunk the myths propagated by people with ulterior motives about Malaysia’s Chinese primary schools (to a lesser extent, Malaysia’s Tamil primary schools as well). I have tried without success in getting data from the Ministry of  Education’s website. Without these data, we cannot do much to nullify these myths.

It took the availability of key statistics by the Chinese press in Malaysia to give me the facts and figures I needed in early November 2014 to write this article.

It is extremely difficult to demystify the lies and untruths told over and over again by successive has-been and dead-wood politicians, but I try my best and hopefully provide at least some good points for supporters of the vernacular school system to keep the struggle going and gain the upper hand. A lie told many times unchallenged will eventually be misconstrued as the truth. There are many, many lies told about Malaysia’s vernacular schools and a great deal more will be concocted by politicians with limited mental capability. It is the duty of all who are concern with the rights of Chinese and Indian Malaysians to learn their mother tongues to fight these lies and liars.

Subsequent to the publication of this article on November 14, 2014 in Focusweek, there have been some startling facts further revealed by a Sabahan UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) member, the dominant partner of the coalition that rules Malaysia since independence in 1957 (from the British). Datuk Taufiq Abu Bakar Titingan revealed on November 29, 2014 that, out of 35,162 students studying in Chinese vernacular schools in Sabah last year (2013), 15,120 were bumiputra (and hence not Chinese Malaysians).  In fact in his constituency, 85% of the bumiputra students study in Chinese primary schools! Datuk Taufiq told the annual assembly of UMNO that, “….so there is no need to close down these schools“.  I would have liked very much to see the political rotten eggs on the faces of those who have been calling for the closure of vernacular schools in that grand meeting in the end of November 2014.

Despite the reiteration of the position of the Malaysian government that the vernacular schools are part and parcel of the national education system and their existence guaranteed under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia by the Prime Minister, the vernacular schools, especially Chinese primary schools are still the favourite punching bags of those with ulterior motives. The Mahathir administration was brilliant in coming out with the Wawasan School concept to provide a solution to tackle this problem. I personally was involved in helping to ensure that the first Chinese primary school established by the Malaysian government (in 2002) in 45 years of administration, SJK(C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock was nothing but a true Chinese vernacular school, except it is housed with and shares​ facilities with one Tamil vernacular school and one national primary school in the same school complex. Although there were many detractors (especially the “right-wingers” of the Chinese school movements) to the Wawasan School Concept, SJK(C) TTCL is today one of the most difficult to get your children registered!

Perhaps the Najib administration should relook at the Wawasan School Concept and relaunch it whenever there is an opportunity to do so?


By Dr Chow Yong Neng

1/1/2015 9:00:00 AM

SJKCs and SJKTs are no different from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK), the national schools, because all these schools follow the same administrative systems as prescribed by the Ministry of Education

For many has-been politicians and those who are vying for attention, attacking the existence of Chinese primary schools, the Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) (SJKC), seems to be a sure way to get attention.

And why not? Those who run Chinese primary schools are government servants; they are not likely to fight back. Their ultra-rightism may bring these mediocre politicians some press attention and hence signify their political relevance to their target audience. Thus, whenever there is a need to divert the people’s attention, the SJKCs have been the politicians’ bogeyman.

Let us get some facts straight. SJKCs and SJKTs (Tamil primary schools) are, for all intents and purposes, no different from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK), the national schools, because all these schools follow the same administrative systems as prescribed by the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The schools follow the same curriculum with the exception that the vernacular schools have greater emphasis on the use of the respective mother tongues in the delivery of the lessons and have an additional subject, that is Chinese or Tamil language.

There are 1,294 SJKCs, 523 SJKTs and 5,863 SKs, with student enrolments of 560,788, 89,007 and 2,029,658 respectively. SJKCs and SJKTs account for 20.78% and 3.30% of the entire primary school student population respectively. Collectively, they are educating close to a quarter of Malaysian primary students.

Outside of Greater China (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau), Malaysia is the only country where the government funds and operates Chinese primary schools

Successive prime ministers have made it clear that vernacular schools are part and parcel of our education system and the Federal Constitution guarantees their continued existence.

There are over 60,000 pupils in Chinese primary schools who are not Chinese Malaysians. This group of mainly bumiputera pupils constitutes about 10.7% of SJKCs’ student population. Has it occurred to these opportunistic politicians to wonder why the parents of these 60,000-plus students send their children to SJKCs rather than SKs?

Some politicians say that SJKCs only have Chinese Malaysians as teachers but they do not back this claim with facts. While I do not have access to proper data, my observation of my children’s school reveals that during my daughter’s time (she completed Year Six in 2011) there were two Malay teachers, one of whom I have known personally since she started in the early days of the school’s establishment. When I was a pupil of a SJKC, I was taught Bahasa Malaysia mainly by Malay teachers. So the statement that SJKCs have only Chinese Malaysians as teachers is untrue, concocted by politicians without substance to gain political advantage.

The recent leak of Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination papers supports my point. All UPSR classes of 2014 had to resit the Science, English and Mathematics papers. The only reason why candidates from SKs, SJKCs and SJKTs have to resit these same papers was because they studied the same curriculum in the same medium of instruction.

This pokes a big hole in the credibility of those who charge that vernacular schools are not part of the Malaysian education system. The philosophy of teaching at SJKCs that dates back over 80 years is the only difference. This philosophy is passed on by senior teachers and headmasters to younger teachers. I believe this philosophy alone accounts for the higher scholastic achievements of SJKC students, something which ill-informed politicians have chosen to dispute.

Outside of Greater China (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau), Malaysia is the only country where the government funds and operates Chinese primary schools. Malaysians are reputed to have the best command of Mandarin outside Greater China. The standard of Chinese at SJKCs easily outclasses that of our southern neighbour, Singapore.

But with the incessant attacks on Chinese schools and deliberate hurdles placed by some officials at the MoE (the case of not sending Chinese language teachers trained for secondary schools is one example), this advantage is eroding. Already many secondary schools pupils have been either actively discouraged or coerced into dropping Chinese at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) level. This comes at a time when other countries are encouraging the learning of Chinese.

Incidentally, my friend’s son who is studying at a high school in Australia is required to take Chinese as a subject due to his ethnicity. With so many China nationals having settled in Australia, there is no shortage of good Chinese teachers to guide students in Australia. Perhaps Australians outclassing Malaysian in their command of Chinese within the next 20 years may be a reality that we will face.

 [the feature picture for this post was source from The Heat Online]

One thought on “How do you debunk myths about Chinese primary schools in Malaysia?”

  1. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this information to him.

    Fairly certain he’s going to have a great read.
    I appreciate you for sharing!

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