As have been written numerous times before, there’re two things that the Chinese community cherish the most – economy and education. Take any one of these two items away and you’re looking for trouble. So when the British colonial government proposed a national education system in both English and Malay for primary schools and in English for secondary schools back in 1951, as per Barnes Report, the Chinese community in Malaya (later Malaysia) felt their education status and position were threaten.
Hence the birth of Jiao Zong or “The United Chinese Schools Teachers’ Association” in 1951. Later Dong Zong or “United Chinese School Committees’ Association” was established in 1954. While Jiao Zong was setup with objectives to uphold Chinese culture and education and to cooperate with the government in improving Chinese education, Dong Zong was setup to represent school managers and committee members. Jiao Zong and Dong Zong is also known as Dong Jiao Zong due to their close alliance.
From day one the British colonial government didn’t really fancy Dong Jiao Zong as can be witnessed from their salary scheme – Chinese school teachers were paid between $65 – $120 monthly while English school teachers commanded $240 – $400 monthly. Then came along Rahman Talib Report 1960 which suggested that the aspirations of various communities to continue with mother-tongue education were “incompatible” with nation building with Bahasa Melayu as the official language.
Hence the Talib Committee put two options on the table for all Chinese secondary schools – either change medium of instruction to receive government aid or become self-financing private schools. MCA then went on a campaign nationwide to persuade (or rather convert) Chinese secondary schools to drop Mandarin as teaching medium. Needless to say, some 55 Chinese secondary schools who were vulnerable to financial pressure accepted the terms and converted into national schools, while 16 others chose to become independent schools.
Interestingly many well-known and famous Chinese schools were among the 16 that opted out. Later, 21 out of the earlier 55 Chinese secondary schools which agreed to become national schools pulled out to become independent schools instead, with help from Dong Jiao Zong. Till today, there’re 60 Chinese Independent High Schools in Malaysia – 37 in Peninsular, 9 in Sabah and 14 in Sarawak. These schools not only survive without government funding but also flourish as can be seen with the largest secondary school in the country, Foon Yew High School, which attracts over 7,000 students and even have a branch in Kulai.
How do these Chinese schools survive all these decades are no bed-time stories, mind you. Students were deployed to ask (or rather beg) for donations from the public, rain or shine. If there’s one thing that the Chinese are not stingy at, that has to be donations for education. It could be due to these success stories that the Education Ministry wasn’t happy so much so that Chinese Independent High School’s Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) isn’t recognised till today despite the fact it is recognized as a qualification for entrance into universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and others.
Do you know that UEC is recognised by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and students with the UEC are taken in as first year students even without the STPM? And do you know that an applicant will need to have good results to enrol into these schools especially in Kuala Lumpur and Johor? In fact, thousands of applicants were rejected because of the entrance exam introduced due to overwhelming response. And when you can only enter with a minimum score of 4As and 3BS in the UPSR exam, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out why the rush to such schools.
In 1987, the vocal Dong Jiao Zong got into trouble when it rallied support nationwide in opposing government’s move in sending some 100 non-Mandarin speaking Chinese to Chinese schools as administrative staff. The then prime minister Mahathir took the opportunity to arrest Jiao Zong and Dong Zong presidents together with opposition leaders in the infamous “Operation Lallang”, but not before labelling both groups “communist” and “extremist”. Interestingly, the current Prime Minister Najib Razak (then UMNO Youth Chief) threatened to bathe a keris (dagger) in Chinese blood shortly before the same crackdown.
Today, we read how Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong cried wolf as he was chased out by Chinese community during a rally which was organized by Dong Zong. Heck, the MCA Youth Chief was not only booed, heckled and jeered by a crowd of 7,000 (some claimed 10,000) people but also narrowly missed a punch from an angry “Uncle” as the minister was leaving the event. Thanks to about 20 uniformed police and Rela personnel who formed a human wall around him, Wee Ka Siong only suffered “lightly hit on the face”.
Obviously Wee Ka Siong was “shocked” and “saddened” by the jeers and scuffles, not to mention the embarrassment. It was absolutely correct for Wee to say hooliganism is not part of a civilised society. So was the “Uncle” who tried to punch him a hooligan or merely a burst of anger after reaching a boiling point of over 40 years of unresolved problems? The fact that the shortage of Chinese schools teachers started as far back as 1968 and the Education Ministry despite aware of the issue chose to ignore it goes to show how a last minute drama by Wee would not do the trick (anymore).
If not for the coming general election and the dwindling Chinese support, Wee Ka Siong would rather spend his precious time at the Formula-1 race track. The fact that Wee was evasive when pressed as to whether the government would give a commitment to resolve the problems as demanded by Dong Zong goes to show that the 40 years problem will still persists thus Wee can’t actually blame the hostile crowd as they already knew the outcome. Maybe he had no choice but to attend the rally under the instruction of the prime minister, hopeful to cool off the pressure cooker.
But you can only lie and cheat for so long before the people start converting their anger into jeers, heckles and even punches. In fact the community had demonstrate extreme tolerance (or rather stupidity, *grin*) for living in 40 years of lies. It’s pretty simple to understand why the community is fighting tooth and nail on the issue. Most of Chinese parents send their children to Chinese schools hoping their children would retain their Chinese identity, ethnic pride, with love and awareness of the nation, love of their own culture and traditions, and most importantly being aware of their ethnic “roots”. Of course there’re Chinese bananas who don’t really mind.
Actually, the Chinese schools may not flourish after all if government do a good job in ensuring quality education in all its Malay-medium national-type schools. Best still, it would be marvellous to maintain British colonial government’s legacy of teaching both English and Malay for primary schools and English for secondary schools. It would certainly give Singapore education system a run for their money, never mind that Lee Kuan Yew actually regrets ignoring the importance of Chinese education.
The composition of students by race takes a turn for the worse from 1970s to 1990s, with the perception that national-type schools quality taking a nose dive. This was primarily due to government policy in mixing education with politics. When politics take precedence over academics and politicians dictate education system without consulting qualified educators, schools began churning out frightening quality of students. Worse, the assembly lines produce unemployable graduates. The chain reaction kicks in and in turn produces inferior teachers who are then deployed to national-type schools.
The sight of ethnic-Malay, ethnic-Indian and most of all ethnic-Chinese parents scrambling to register their children into Chinese schools every year would make the American great Gold Rush more than 150 years ago look like a toy story. Schools such as Chong Hwa, Kuen Cheng and Tsun Jin are hot commodities. Chong Hwa is so popular that it has classes with 60 students. Deteriorating discipline in national-type schools also doesn’t help the situation and you would be amuse with story from Malay parents of how some national-type schools teachers went MIA (missing in action) during classes or blatantly sleep in the class without fear (*grin*). Of course there’re still many good teachers in the national-type schools but the number is sadly declining.
The emergence of internet and China as the new economic powerhouse makes Chinese education even more appealing. If national-type schools are of high quality with option to study Chinese sufficiently, who would care about driving hours to Kajang for the 3 hours Dong Zong thrill, especially on Sunday? The fact is the mass emotional display of frustration by the Chinese community at the Kajang rally was not something that happened overnight. So, Wee Ka Siong should stop play God and trumpet about forgiving the “Uncle” as if he’s really innocent in the whole issue.
It was also laughable when Wee Ka Siong said the problem would not be solved even if he resigns. It was like saying Mongolian Altantuya would not come back to life even if PM Najib were to resign. And it was like saying Paris Hilton would not get back her virginity even if she stop partying now. If this Wee-almost-get-punched incident is any indicator, MCA primarily and UMNO generally are in deep shit as far as Chinese votes are concerned for the coming general election. When MCA who is supposed to represent the Chinese was being chased out by the same community, that speaks volume about the trouble.
To accuse opposition for not condemning the unruly behaviour of the crowd is simply childish and stupid. It’s childish because you’re trying to blame someone else for your own screw-up and it’s stupid because you can’t differentiate between an opposition rally and an educationalist rally. The opposition figures were at the rally to lend their moral support and the organizer made it a point no political parties were allowed to give any speech to prevent the rally from being hijacked. In reality, such accusation has already backfired from netizens simply because it insult their intelligence.
If Wee Ka Siong still thinks he deserves a better treatment from the crowd, he should thank his lucky star as the people didn’t show their disgust over his link in the PKFZ’s RM12 billion scandal. And when the people start rallying about PKFZ, no amount of tears from baby Wee’s cry would pacify them. No wonder opposition parties are smiling from ear to ear – they’re getting free votes for doing nothing.
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