KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 (Bernama) — When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak recently announced efforts to resolve the long-standing issue of the shortage of Chinese schoolteachers, what significance does it hold?
It simply means that the government is serious about resolving the issue.
Earlier, a special committee headed by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong was formed to speak to Chinese educators and other stakeholders to tackle problems affecting Chinese schools. This resulted in an eight-point plan which the government accepted in principle.
Two of the steps in the plan — empowering headmasters to hire temporary teachers directly and replacing non-Mandarin speaking teachers and counsellors in Chinese vernacular schools with those who are fluent in Mandarin — had already been announced by Najib during a talk show at a radio station.
As pointed out by Dr Chin Yew Seng, head of the Oriental Strategy Research Centre and deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia (Huazong), correct and corrective steps are being taken by Najib to address the long-standing issue. This is particularly noticeable through the unprecedented establishment of the special committee.
“After two roundtable discussions, the government has accepted [the eight-point plan] without any amendments. This shows the sincerity of the government in resolving this long-standing issue,” said Dr Chin, who also represented Huazong at the talks.
Dr Chin explained that the eight points also included efforts to increase the enrolment of Mandarin-speaking lecturers to teach the Chinese language at teacher training institutes.
Under the plan, from standards one to four, it was decided that teachers sent to teach at vernacular schools must be bilingual in either Bahasa Malaysia-Chinese or English-Chinese. After “Tahap 2” (standards four to six) only, will this bilingual requirement become unnecessary.
“For the past 36 years, we have been facing these problems, which have remained unresolved until recently.
“With the roundtable discussions, the government has recognised these issues, and now, it is taking steps to resolve them. This is very important, because the Chinese hold education in high regard. You need a fair-minded leader (like Najib) to resolve these issues once and for all,” he said.
As pointed out by issues commentator Rita Sim in her column in the New Straits Times on March 29, many people still did not understand the issues concerned and had gone to the extent of questioning why the Chinese community was angry about the matter or “asking for so much” when Chinese education had already been given plenty of leeway in the country.
She explained that the Chinese community was not asking for more but was merely asking for what been stated in the Razak Report of 1956 for vernacular schools to become part of the national education system and to receive government assistance similar to national schools, including funds and land for development, as well as trained teachers.
Chinese educators claimed that national-type Chinese primary schools were plagued by problems of insufficient funding, qualified staff and places for students.
In addition, rural Chinese schools suffer from under-enrolment and lack of proper infrastructure while urban Chinese schools are overcrowded.
On top of that, the Chinese community often has to raise funds on its own for the development of the schools.
Sim said the lack of trained teachers for Chinese schools had necessitated the recruitment of temporary teachers to fill the gap, with more than 1,000 employed each year, but these stop-gap measure was not effective anymore since a critical point had been reached where long-term measures needed to be implemented immediately.
“I am optimistic that the plan reflects the government’s efforts to view the teacher shortage problem holistically and systematically. Politics and emotions have to be taken out of the equation. Providing fair treatment for Chinese schools will neither reduce the integrity of the national language nor hinder integration among the races.
“Chinese (and Tamil) schools are simply asking not to be left behind in terms of resource allocation and development under the national education system.
“If the government shows sincerity in going forward with the eight-point plan, there could potentially be a 10 per cent swing in Chinese votes back to the Barisan Nasional,” Sim noted.
Despite the magnitude and complexity of the problems, Gerakan Education Bureau Chairman Lau Chin Hoon, described the eight-point plan as a “new opening or breakthrough” to resolve them.
“I can understand that there is still some scepticism surrounding the eight-point plan, but we should also recognise that it is still a breakthrough and can be improved from here.
“Let’s give this plan a chance to be implemented in full. We can’t have these issues dragging on forever,” he said, adding that it was important for the Education Ministry and Chinese educators to have regular dialogue.
Despite the hostile reception Dr Wee had from a demonstration by the Chinese education movement in Kajang a fortnight ago and scepticism in some quarters, he remains unfazed as he plods on to demonstrate the government’s determination to find solutions.
“I was briefed by the MOE (Ministry of Education) on March 28 of the plan for overcoming the problem of the shortage of teachers in SJKC.
“I have also instructed officers to issue a circular seeking additional interim teachers and the transfer of teachers as announced previously.
“I told them to prepare data for the next roundtable meeting on April 2. Let’s move on now,” Dr Wee said.
Source : Bernama