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Thursday, September 30, 2010

How the government victimises vernacular schools


By Boo Cheng Hau

It looks like the government’s game plan is to have Chinese primary schools implode from overcrowding. Funds allocated for vernacular schools remain at the same level under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015) as previously under the 9th Malaysia Plan even though the number of pupils have increased tremendously over the past five years.

The 10th Plan does not disclose the ratio of government appropriation to national schools relative to vernacular schools. Nonetheless, if we were to examine the 9th Malaysia Plan (2005-2010), the figures are revealing.

Under the 9th Plan, primary schools as a whole were allocated a budget of RM4.83 billion for development. Enrolment in Chinese primary schools was 20.96% of the total number of primary school pupils. Going by fair proportionality, Chinese-medium schools should have gotten one-fifth of the funding, or roughly RM1 billion-plus out of the RM4.83 billion.

Instead the Chinese primary schools only received a meagre RM170 million.

There were 70,000 non-Chinese pupils in these Chinese primary schools during the 9th Malaysia Plan period. The majority of the non-Chinese pupils comprised Malays. Therefore, a good number of Bumiputeras ended up victimized by the government’s biased treatment of Chinese-medium schools.

In fact, if we were to look back at the 6th, 7th and 8th Malaysia Plans, we can see a trend where the funding for Chinese-medium schools had been progressively cut.

Appropriation of government funds to primary schools (1991-2005)

Type of primary schoolOverall student enrolmentOverall student enrolment (%)Actual state funds allocated 1991-2005 (RM/million)If the student enrolment ratio had been followed
(RM/million)
Actual fund received per student (RM)
National primary school (Malay)6,210,05574.86%6,869.00 (95.04%)5,448.801,106.10
Chinese national-type primary school1,794,35721.63%262.30 (3.66%)1,541.10146.10
Tamil
national- type primary school
291,5953.51%95.50 (1.32%)237.00327.50
Total:8,296,007100%7,226.807,226.80

Source: Sin Chew Jit Poh (Nov 24, 2005)

Earlier, in 2005, Chinese primary schools accounted for about 21% of total enrolment, including more than 60,000 non-Chinese (mainly Malay) pupils.

If we scrutinize the 15-year period covered by the 6th to 8th Malaysia Plans, we can see that Chinese primary schools received as little as 3.66% of the total government funding appropriated to primary schools.
Meanwhile Tamil primary school enrolment was 3.51% of primary school pupils but the SRJK (Tamil) only received 1.32% of the total government allocations for primary schools.

Still looking at this 15-year period covered by the three Plans, we can see that the national schools or SRK received public funding of RM1,106 per pupil (mostly Malays). The SRJK (C) received public funding of RM146 per pupil (mostly Chinese), and the SRJK (T), RM327.50 per pupil (Indians).

The disparity in treatment meted to children of different races is shocking! And heartbreaking.

Heads you win, tails we lose

Malay supremacists and diehard fans of the English language like to point their finger at Chinese and Tamil schools as the cause of racism and ‘disunity’.

But the fact is that more than 90% of Chinese parents and more than 50% of Indian parents send their children to Chinese and Tamil primary schools respectively. And about 80% of Chinese primary pupils and almost 100% of the Tamil proceed to Malay-medium secondary national schools.

Non-Malay parents elect for their children to have their early education in their mother tongue, and then switch to Malay and English-medium at secondary and tertiary levels.

The Malay supremacists have been actively campaigning for ‘Satu Sekolah untuk Semua’ with the slogan ‘Satu Bahasa, Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara’.

They want ‘one school’ for all pupils. The system will have ‘one language’ as the medium of instruction. This will ultimately see as its end result the creation of ‘one race’. Children of the ‘one race’ — Umno’s version of the ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ vision — studying in ‘one language’ will make for a ‘one united country’, or so the 1-Sekolah movement claims.

Just for the sake of speculation, let’s allow for a day when Chinese-medium and Tamil-medium primary schools are indeed abolished. Children of various races complete their primary education under the same roof. When all have finished Standard Six, where will they go for Form 1?

The bumiputeras will be given places at the ‘Sekolah Cemerlang’, the Malay-only residential schools and Mara Junior Science Colleges. The non-bumiputeras will continue to be denied places in these Malay-only secondary institutions.

It’s not that we’ve not had past experience to learn from. When Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim had wanted to open the door of UiTM — a predominantly one-race university — just a crack to allow the entry of non-Malays, there was a massive uproar and demonstrations by Malay ultra nationalists.

The Malay reaction reminded us of the white segregationists of the American south who demonstrated in the 1950s and 1960s demanding that ‘Coloureds’ be barred from their public schools and universities.

Affirmative action advocates protection of minority rights including those of language and culture. Our Malaysia Boleh brand of affirmative action, on the other hand, is discriminative and more deserving of the term apartheid. Over the last two decades, all the elite schools have been catering for one race only. If this is not apartheid, what is?

We have in black and white the last four Malaysia Plans which prove beyond doubt the great discrepancy in funding accorded the different language education streams.

Historians have concluded that it was not the physical segregation during the apartheid era that was horrifying. Physical seperation could be dismantled overnight when apartheid was over, but it was the conceptualised ‘separate development’ suppressing the development of coloured schools that had hurt the self-esteem, and social and educational advancement of the non-whites.

Apartheid was not all about physical segregation but more of separate and unequal social development.

Expansion impossible!


It is quite discernible that the government is applying a containment policy on Chinese-medium schools. In 1970, there were 1,346 Chinese primary schools. In 1990, there were 1,290 Chinese primary schools and in the year 2000, there were 1,287. In 2004, the number remained unchanged at 1,287.

As the stagnant numbers indicate, it’s near impossible for a new Chinese school to be established whereas the Malay-medium national schools are not impeded as the authorities will ensure that they are built wherever there are new housing estates.

On the other hand, to build a new Chinese or Tamil-medium school, the school would have to transfer its permit from another premises, meaning that this precious permit has to be recycled because fresh ones are never issued. On top of this restriction, the school would have to buy its own land and raise its own building fund.

Currently, a few thousand trained but unemployed school teachers are waiting to be posted to Malay-medium national schools. In sharp contrast, there is an acute shortage of 3,000 teachers for Chinese schools.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Starving vernacular education of new blood is just another method to contain Chinese and Tamil schools. The government has made not only their physical expansion impossible but their manpower constricted as well.

The sad and sorry fate of vernacular schools is reflective of the systematic and institutionalised discrimination against Chinese and Indian pupils, and Malay and other pupils in these schools.

Under the 10th Malaysian Plan, each Chinese primary school would get a monthly allowance of RM2,000 for water and electricity. According to Sin Chew Jit Poh (June 20, 2010), a total of RM70 million is allocated for the maintenance of 884 semi-government sponsored Chinese primary schools, or averagely RM80,000 per school.

As comparison, the web portal The Nut Graph – operating under private sector sponsorship — was incurring overheads of RM80,000 per month for its half-a-dozen reporters. The Nut Graph‘s monthly expenditure for a small staff was equivalent to an whole year’s government funding for a Chinese primary school.

Divided into 12 months, the annual 80k allocation works out to an entire school operating on RM6,670 per month.

Can you imagine a thousand pupils scraping by in a school on this tiny sum of money? It’s hardly surprising then that fundraising is a never-ending affair that pupils and their parents in Chinese-medium schools have to endure.

It has been said to be “the second income tax for Chinamen” by the ‘Malay administration’ of Mahathir’s favourite terminology. – CPI

(Dr Boo Cheng Hau is the Johor DAP chairman and the assemblyman for Skudai)

courtesy of Hornbill Unleashed

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