PRESS STATEMENT: Chinese schools are destructive to nation building, unconstitutional, and must be abolished for the good of the nation

5th February 2017

It was with interest, if also grave concern, that the Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) read the news-report published by Free Malaysia Today (FMT) dated February 4th, 2017, quoting one Farah Halijah Halim, that Chinese schools in the nation allegedly promotes unity. [1]

Not only does the ‘personal experience’ example given by the said Farah susceptible to the fallacy of hasty-generalisation (when one example is taken to paint a beautiful, albeit not necessarily true, picture of the whole vernacular school system in Malaysia), it is also not backed by any solid data or statistics.

Instead, as would be clearly shown hereinbelow, there are compelling evidence pointing to the fact that the current education system, allowing for the continuance of such racial-lingual schools to run parallel along a separate national school system, is actually destructive and damaging to nation-building, unconstitutional, and therefore must be abolished for the good of the nation.

In a report prepared by the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) entitled Human Rights in Malaysia (2016), it was observed that the existence of vernacular schools such as the Chinese school system in Malaysia contributes to the poor grasp of, and in many cases apathetic attitude towards, the national language among the youths of the nation. To quote the report:-

“In February 2015 … the now defunct online portal, The Malaysian Insider, reported a survey on the lackadaisical attitude that the Chinese Malaysian youths have towards the national language.[2] A year before that, Professor Dr Sharon Carstens of the PSU Institute for Asian Studies presented her findings at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) as to how the Chinese Malaysians have “negative feelings towards using” national language, despite acknowledging Article 152 of the Federal Constitution, as agreed upon by the nation’s forefathers.[3] On October 25th of the same year, another academic, Professor Dr. Teo Kok Seong revealed his findings that out of 14,000 trainees of the Malaysian National Service Training Programme in the year 2010, a staggering 604 trainees could not speak the national language at all.[4]

“These are intensified by the segregation in the education system, where children of different ethnic groups are being segregated along their ethnic tongues”

Such lackadaisical attitude towards the language of the nation runs contrary to the very spirit of the Federation that the forefathers of our nation had had the wisdom to impart into the Federal Constitution as the highest law of the land, some 60 years ago.

In which regard, CLJ is guided by the strong words of the Federal Court in the landmark case of Merdeka University Berhad v The Government of Malaysia, wherein it was reminded that “the framers of the Constitution deliberately chose to use the expression “national language” because they intended that bahasa should be used not only for official purposes but also as an instrument for bringing together the diverse and polyglot races that live here and thus promote national unity … [T]he use of bahasa could and should be used as an instrument for unifying the whole nation.”[5]

In yet another landmark case, PP v Mark Koding, the Court pronounced it very clearly that there is nothing in the Federal Constitution to justify the operation of schools “where the medium of instruction is Chinese….”[6] In fact, Constitutional experts such as Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi [7] and former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah [8] too had a couple of years ago stated that the Constitution does not provide for the existence of vernacular schools.

Further, apart from being seriously detrimental to national integration and clearly unconstitutional, there is also evidence to suggest that the continued existence of Chinese schools is damaging to the students’ future and livelihood as well. The Director of Research at the Khazanah Research Institute, Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid noted that “a report from the Ministry of Education showed that between 2006 and 2010, the drop-out rates from Chinese national-type schools is the highest compared to Tamil national-type schools or national schools. A report by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) also noted that an estimated one of four students dropped out of Chinese schools by age 18, translating to a dropout rate of 25 per cent.” [9]

Therefore, CLJ calls for immediate steps to be taken to correct the unconstitutionalities in our education system that have been allowed to run for so long with impunity. While CLJ is mindful that the proviso of Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution allows for the teaching and learning of vernacular languages, such allowance however has been held by our Courts in the cases cited above, as to cover only for the teaching and learning of those languages as subjects, and not the existence of a whole segregating system where the medium of instructions are in those languages.

Indeed, diversity is a virtue that must be celebrated, especially in the light of the richly plural and diversified society of Malaysia. But such celebration must be held within strict compliance with the constitutional framework of the nation. Mutual respect and tolerance of the different cultures among diverse religious and ethnic groups can only be achieved when serious and immediate steps are taken to foster national unity and strengthen national identity through the use of the national language as the common unifying force. This is especially so, because while being different in religious beliefs and cultural practices, the appreciation and use of one common language that is understood across the nation, and which is reflective of the nation’s cultural identity and worldview, would be paramount in fostering real and true unity.

Aidil Khalid

Campaign-Coordinator, Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ)

Reference:

[1] ‘Chinese schools promote unity, says Malay UEC grad’, Free Malaysia Today, February 4th, 2017, retrieved from http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/02/04/chinese-schools-promote-unity-says-malay-uec-grad/

[2] ‘Local Chinese Youth Divided on Importance of Speaking in BM in Malaysia’, The Malaysian Insider, 2015, defunct http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/youths-divided-on-importance-of-speaking-bm-in-malaysia

[3] ‘Research Found Malaysian Chinese Do Not Give Due Attention to bahasa Malaysia (sic) Usage’, UKM Portal, May 27th, 2014, retrieved from http://www.ukm.my/news/archive/tahun-2014/mei-2014/research-found-malaysian-chinese-do-not-give-due-attention-to-bahasa-malaysia-usage/

[4] ‘604 Pelatih PLKN tidak boleh bercakap bahasa Melayu’, Utusan Malaysia, October 25th, 2014, retireived from http://www.utusan.com.my/berita/nasional/604-pelatih-plkn-tidak-boleh-bercakap-bahasa-melayu-1.16607

[5] Merdeka University Berhad v Government of Malaysia [1982] 2 MLJ 243 at page 249

[6] Public Prosecutor v Mark Koding [1983] 1 MLJ 111 at page 115

[7] ‘Constitution does not protect vernacular schools, says academic’, The Malaysian Insider, September 17th, 2015 (defunct), retrieved from Yahoo News https://sg.news.yahoo.com/constitution-does-not-protect-vernacular-045411761.html

[8] ‘Ex-Judge claims vernacular schools not protected by Federal Constitution’, The Malay Mail Online, October 9th, 2014, retrieved from http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/ex-judge-claims-vernacular-schools-not-protected-by-federal-constitution

[9] Muhammed Abdul Khalid, ‘The Colour of Inequality’, MPH Publishing, Kuala Lumpur, 2014 pp 41

*Featured image taken from www.loyarburok.com

Also published by Free Malaysia Today here.

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