- Police denied photo of Adam Adli being handcuffed was taken at the Jinjang police station
- ‘ Accept reality, Anwar’
- 66,000 ICs issued to Sabah immigrants
- Respect rule of law, Karpal urged
- Malaysia Airlines helps mum, child
- Mama proposes RM6,000 fee
- Mother and two-month-old baby died in after ramming into an electric pole
- Birthday outing takes tragic turn
- Epileptic woman who stayed alone found dead
- “I thought I knew him...”
- SUDIRMAN CUP: Kim Her stands by fading pair
- Water woes for KL, Selangor folk
- Police solved Pakistani murder
- Zahid: Probe into Lahad Datu intrusion completed
- Toddler drowns in pail of water More
END THE BLAME GAME: Let's find workable solutions that will benefit the nation
MUCH that is said and written about Chinese vernacular schools in Malaysia continues to be divided by entrenched political positions, but the fact is that Chinese education in Malaysia is here to stay.
With 1,295 Chinese primary schools, 60 independent secondary schools, 75 SMJK schools where Chinese is still taught and three Chinese institutions of higher learning, it bears remembering that Chinese education has become one of the pillars of the Chinese community here.
As such, we must ensure that it serves our national aspirations. The only way we can achieve this is to leverage on all the opportunities it presents while correcting the problems and shortcomings that have resulted from decades of what is tantamount to educational segregation.
What are the strengths? Malaysia is unique in all of Southeast Asia in possessing a vibrant network of Chinese schools that are a part of the national education system, and we are the only country with a parallel educational system incorporating national, vernacular and private schools.
From the economic perspective, the rise of China puts a global economic superpower in our immediate neighbourhood and we would be foolish not to harness Chinese schools to enhance cultural and linguistic capital for our national professional, commercial and diplomatic advantage.
Every Malaysian has the opportunity to benefit because our Chinese schools are not discriminatory. There are already more than 80,000 non-Chinese pupils currently enrolled in these schools and Malaysians can complete a tertiary degree in Chinese in their own country -- a feat that even Singapore has not achieved.
This showcases Malaysia's longstanding multilingual and multicultural wealth in a world that increasingly values nuanced approaches to trade and diplomacy. It also allows for the continuity and growth of traditional Asian norms and values via a popular mainstream Chinese press, which is itself strengthened by deep roots in education.
But while we enjoy and celebrate these strengths, we must be ever mindful of the weaknesses this system has created.
First, the schools are too dependent on private corporate and individual charity simply to keep things operating. They are also plagued by a perpetual shortage of teachers: the talent pool in Malaysia is small to begin with because language fluency is limited unlike, for example, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, where it is almost universal.
Furthermore, while many graduates from these schools find success in commercial and other fields, too few are returning to the schools to help future generations succeed as they have.
Added to this is the fact that 90 per cent of Chinese Malaysian parents (whether or not they are Chinese-literate) now send their children to Chinese primary schools, which alone is a recipe for self-segregation.
The overwhelming majority of Chinese pupils graduating from these schools are disconnected from the government-based mainstream despite the benefits of the parallel system, and a quarter of Chinese school pupils drop out before they turn 16 due to their lack of skill and interest in Bahasa Malaysia.
Indeed, for many of these pupils, problems with Bahasa proficiency have hampered their prospects for further education in public universities as well as public sector employment -- many do not qualify for entry to vocational colleges, where the subjects are taught in Bahasa Malaysia.
If their Bahasa Malaysia fluency is not good, they cannot enter either and have little choice but to accept low-skilled (and low-waged) work.
This has resulted in a great deal of blame from both sides of the debate while the debate itself remains highly charged and highly politicised.
While we bicker about entrenched ethnic interests and resort to occasionally inflammatory statements that rouse both indignation and outrage, we become obsessed far more with communal and linguistic biases than with providing workable and unified solutions that will benefit the entire nation and not just one small part of it.
Chinese education in Malaysia is not a zero-sum game in which one set of ethnic "educationists" can "win" only at the expense of someone else. It is not a question of pitting one set of Constitutional rights against another or of communal interests against national interests.
On the contrary, our Chinese schools provide our nation a latent ability that other nations are spending millions to cultivate. Shouldn't we start focusing on ways to make this system benefit the aspirations of our nation and all Malaysians?