Hornbill Unleashed

October 4, 2014

Chinese education is not the enemy

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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Teacher Lau Chooi Lan leading Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Chong Hwa pupils back into their class in Setapak, January 2, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow FengErna

Vernacular education gets a bad rap in this country. Some think that the only way to foster true unity is to get rid of vernacular schools and force all our children to attend national schools.

One school, one stream, one medium of instruction. Some would call it the fast track to unity. My cynical mind thinks it sounds like the perfect hotbed for indoctrination.

Let’s have a reality check, shall we? Parents clamour to get their children into the best Chinese schools these days and not just Chinese parents. Malays as well as the other races are also vying to get places for their children.

I am not here to extol the virtues of Chinese education. To be honest, while Chinese schools have more rigorous instruction, I am not a fan of the insular culture they encourage in a way by encouraging children to go to school only with people who look and speak like them.

The simple fact, no matter what the powers may be claim, is that our national schools offer substandard education.

Of course people like pointing out to me that I too am a product of the system, having attended national schools and public university. I seem to be doing all right, aren’t I?

First off, the standard of education was higher in my time. But it was much higher when my parents were in school. Our current English textbooks and workbooks are insipid, oversimplified and duller than the average civil servant’s speech.

Everything is dumbed down, just so schools can boast high assessment scores.

This is the reality — our education system is geared towards creating obedient citizens, not a competent workforce. Our children are taught never to challenge, never to question, never to dare shake up the status quo.

The status quo is made to be challenged. The car, the plane, the train — they were all created by people who believed we could and should travel further than our domiciles.

Private schools are flourishing, despite their high tuition fees. Like I have said before, perhaps the only way we would see radical changes in our education system is if we force our politicians to send their children only to national schools and public universities.

Our education system is broken from top to bottom. Our teachers are burdened with a lot of paperwork and needless, mindless bureaucratic nonsense. Our education materials and syllabuses are substandard. Talking about standards, we make it far too easy for people to join the teaching profession. In the US, you need a license to teach school  and the process is difficult and expensive in order to ensure only the serious and the qualified succeed.

As a child, I remember bored, listless teachers who took teaching jobs only because they were the easiest to get. It was really easy to get a teaching gig then. Have a degree? Just take a diploma in education and you were all set to take long breaks in the staffroom, occasionally bully students whose faces you don’t like or daydream between classes about the next long school holiday.

If you want the best from your children, you must expect the best. I was lucky enough that my parents were ambitious and educated enough to be able to tutor their children in the basics in primary school. My father was making me read the likes of Kipling, Tolstoy, Bulgakov and Dickens before I was even 10 years old. If I didn’t understand a word, I was handed a dictionary. In a time where there was no Internet, we had the entire set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to go through as well as the Oxford Companion to English Literature.

No book was ever considered too hard for us to read… though my parents did keep pulp fiction out of the house. Mad Magazine? Sure. Sidney Sheldon? No. My father expected his children to be literate and articulate. My mother often dropped hints that she would rather I travel the world and come home with a Ph.D than a husband and children.

It is not enough for parents to have dreams for their children. We need to all dream of better things for all our children. The first step, it seems clear, is to kick out the politicians from the education process and stop making the education sector (and the ministry) such a cash cow and magnet for pork barrel politics.

We should probably just remove moral and religious education from school as those are things that need to be left to parents or guardians. School is where you learn what you need to fend for yourself; the home should be where a child learns to become a proper human being. No amount of schooling is going to turn a spoiled brat into a paragon of virtue, for instance.

Education is serious business but it needs to stop becoming a business in this country more than it is a public service and basic right.It shouldn’t be fair that money can buy you a better education and thus a headstart in life.

Money shouldn’t have to come between a child and a good education.



  1. Umno’s racism again reared its ugly head when it came to university admissions as a large number of Malays with poor academic results were taken in while an equally large number of non-Malays with very much better results were denied admission.

    With vernacular schools, the chinese could pursue university education in Taiwan, China or Singapore as they cannot enter local universitiess however good their results are due to unfair policy by Umno.

    These students like Fahmi are to be Malaysia’s future political and corporate leaders? That’s sad for Malaysia.

    Comment by larry — October 6, 2014 @ 10:16 AM | Reply

  2. Umno’s racism again reared its ugly head when it came to university admissions as a large number of Malays with poor academic results were taken in while an equally large number of non-Malays with very much better results were denied admission.

    We now have a situation whereby a large number of low quality teachers teach a large number of low quality students who should not be in the university.


    These students like Fahmi are to be Malaysia’s future political and corporate leaders? That’s sad for Malaysia.

    Comment by lazlo — October 6, 2014 @ 10:12 AM | Reply

  3. Most Indians and Chinese parents do not send their kids to national school because of their strong Islamisation program and practices that do not tolerate other religions.

    Comment by Velu — October 5, 2014 @ 11:32 AM | Reply

  4. Don’t complain, be grateful .

    Comment by sipaigong — October 4, 2014 @ 12:16 PM | Reply

    • Why are you so grateful for BR1M?

      Comment by Vinoo — October 6, 2014 @ 5:51 PM | Reply

  5. UMNO Baru wants to control the minds of all Malaysians including the Malays and the NEP and education policy among all other ” tools ” were merely to cover up their real political agenda to divide and rule.

    Comment by Awaken Dayak — October 4, 2014 @ 10:23 AM | Reply

    • Like it or not, without strong command of English language, we are just Kampong folks. Go and read the science book using in our national school, any difference with English ??? only the SPELLING. Some Big UngrateFOOL AssHoles, including that malayu wanna be Chinese PIG tee ( pui, to mention this PIG name ), say national unity is with single language, FXXK their mama, look at Middle eastern countries ??? teaching in chinese language kah ? tiu her lou moo.

      Comment by tiuniamah — October 4, 2014 @ 10:03 PM | Reply

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