Sunday, November 30, 2014

The government has a constitutional responsibility to accord fair treatment to vernacular schools

Press Statement by M. Kula Segaran DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat in Ipoh on 29th November, 2014
The government has a constitutional responsibility to accord fair treatment to vernacular schools

On November 26, I had via an oral question in parliament asked the Education Minister “to state the reason the Ministry practices a discriminatory policy that only reserve land for the construction of national primary and secondary schools".

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap in her reply on behalf of the Education Ministry said that land reserved for national schools can be used for the construction of Chinese and Tamil primary schools on a need basis. 

Though I welcomed the government’s practice of allowing the reserved land for national schools to be opened up for vernacular schools on a need basis, this is still not good enough.

What the government should do is to reserve lands for all schools according to needs. Why only reserve lands for national schools when vernacular schools are part of the nation’s education system?
Is this not a discriminatory and unfair policy? 

Presently there are 523 Tamil primary schools and 1291 Chinese primary schools in the country. With population increase as well as migration of people out of the rural areas over the years, there is a need for more Tamil and Chinese primary schools in the urban areas, via relocation of existing schools from rural areas or building new ones. 

However, this problem has not been fully addressed and resolved by the government.

The government has often talked about its commitment to be fair to the vernacular schools but its words are not matched by actions. 

The right to learn one’s mother tongue is enshrined in the Constitution and the government must therefore be prepared to accord fair treatment to all vernacular schools. 

The government should therefore not only “strengthen “national schools with all necessary resources, it has a responsibility to also strengthen all vernacular schools. 

It is common knowledge that over 60 % of Indians and 90% of Chinese send their children to Tamil and Chinese primary schools respectively. 

During his speech made at Great Debate on Malaysia’s Historical Heritage organised by the British High Commission in Penang recently, DAP parliamentarian Zairil Khir Johari has said that non-Malay parents tend to stop sending their children to government schools for lack of quality education, creeping Islamisation and religious agenda in those institutions.

He said that there were about 70 percent Malays and 30 percent non-Malays in government schools in the past but figures for the latter community have now dwindled to only two to three percent.

He sees the parents' decision to send their kids to national or vernacular schools as a matter of personal choice.

Zairil is spot on the issues which have inflicted the national schools.

While the government must address the issues which have thwarted its efforts to make national school the main choice of parents, it must be stressed that, firstly, it is the right of the parents to choose the schools for their children and secondly, the government has constitutional responsibility to accord fair treatment to vernacular schools.

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