Thursday, 29 March 2012

Angry with the Malaysian education system in a mess

Be civil even when angry


The ‘325 Rally’ organised by Dong Zong was touted as a peaceful gathering but it turned into an ugly show of anger.

IF civil dialogue is the life blood of demo­cracy, the fits of rage seen at the “325 Rally” organised by the United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) are indeed unfortunate.

What was touted as a peaceful gathering to highlight the serious shortage of Chinese vernacular school teachers turned into a show of anger, hardly reflective of the community’s cherished Confucian values.

Among the resolutions passed at the rally was a call to remove all newly-assigned non-Chinese-speaking teachers and those who did not have Chinese language qualifications – including Bahasa Malaysia and English teachers – from Chinese schools.

Dong Zong also wants teachers with the right qualifications, who had earlier been transferred out, to return to these schools.

The other demands include a review of the Education Act to ensure plurality in the country’s education policy, fair treatment for vernacular schools and safeguarding their existence and development.

The Chinese educationists also want the ministry to conduct training for teachers with Chinese language qualifications who had been teaching Malay and English at Chinese primary schools for at least three years.

But of course, the resolutions have now been obscured by the verbal abuse and near-assault of Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong.

Although the deputy minister has been accused of “gate crashing” the event, the organisers of the rally had indeed issued an open invitation to him to attend.

Through advertisements in the Chinese newspapers, they had also listed 13 prohibitions for those coming to the rally – behaving violently or acting against the principles of peace, being abusive, provocation or making any indecent moves, carrying weapons and such.

But with the loss of almost all civility in our political discourse, we can only expect frenzied partisan views, especially in cyberspace where emotions are stoked daily into seething froth.

The reality is there are no quick fix solutions for the teacher shortage problem facing Chinese as well as Tamil schools.

Dong Zong president Yap Sin Tian said at the rally that the problem had remained unresolved for tens of decades, accusing the Govern­ment of having a lack of will to resolve it.

Here’s a sense of déjà vu. It’s been 25 years but nothing seems to have changed on the problems facing Chinese schools – except for the main players changing roles and shifting allegiances.

Just like the “325 Rally” in Kajang, a huge gathering took place at the Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur in 1987 to protest against the Education Ministry.

The Dong Zong is now said to be aligned with DAP and its Pakatan Rakyat allies of PKR and PAS but in 1987, Barisan Nasional’s Chinese-based parties – MCA and Gerakan – as well as DAP joined the Chinese educationists in calling for a boycott of the schools involved.

Guess who was the much-despised Education Minister accused of “deliberately” attempting to undermine the educational standards of Chinese schools? The fast-rising Umno leader then was none other than the current leader of Pakatan.

There is no denying that our education system is in a mess, no thanks to the flaws in implementation. We need to rectify the shortcomings both in national and vernacular schools as well as institutions of higher learning.

But not much can be done if sentiments are always tied to political posturing or show of power, with complete absence of civility in discussions.

Before the rally, discussions were already being held between Dong Zong, Jiaozong (the United Chinese School Teachers Association of Malaysia), Huazong (the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia), NUTP (the National Union of the Teaching Profession) and SJKC Headmasters Union and a special committee on shortage of teachers in Chinese schools, chaired by Dr Wee.

The deputy minister also announced eight long- and short-term measures to address the problem, including transferring out the non-qualified teachers, enabling Chinese school headmasters to hire temporary teachers and training of more teachers with Chinese qualification.

During his live interview over 98.8FM, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak confirmed that the steps had been accepted in principle by the Cabinet, and that the Government was serious about resolving the matter once and for all. But the assurances were snubbed by Dong Zong as “hasty and expedient attempts” to merely counteract the rally.

Now that the protest rally is over and the demands made, the right thing for Dong Zong to do is to go back to the discussion table. Civil discourse is the right path to take, no matter how angry one is.

> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes these wise words of Confucious: The gentleman is calm and peaceful; the small man is always emotional. Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

Related post:
Angers to the deception of Malaysian Chinese education

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