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Call on Cabinet to end the three-year politicization  of primary education and restore the mother-tongue  teaching of maths and science while building strong foundation in English


Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Thursday): I commend the Penang Chief Minister and Gerakan deputy president Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon for re-opening the controversy over the teaching of mathematics and science in English in vernacular schools, but there should not be a second backing-down and compromise  on this very same issue, sacrificing the educational interests of the young generation and the future international competitiveness of the nation which was what   the Gerakan leadership did  in the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council and the Cabinet three years ago.

The Gerakan Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the MCA, MIC   and SUPP Ministers, as well as UMNO Ministers should put national interest above party political interest and  end the  three-year politicization  of primary education and restore the mother-tongue  teaching of maths and science while building strong foundation in English.

Almost all teachers in Chinese primary schools interviewed by the media, whether printed or electronic, will now say openly although still maintaining their anonymity  that the “2-4-3” formula is a political and not an educational formula. This is in fact their most powerful reason  why the “2-4-3 formula”  had failed the three important tests I had spelt out three years ago - to  strengthen English proficiency, maintain the traditional high standards of mathematics and science and preserve the character of mother-tongue education,

Way back in 2002, when opposing the introduction of the “2-4-3” formula for the teaching of mathematics and science in English for Std. One  in Chinese primary schools, I had pointed out its fatal flaw – that it was “a  pure political contraption and the product of compromising politicians who put politics above education and their political  interests above the interests of the  nation and the schoolchildren”.

I had shot down the claims of Barisan Nasional leaders that the “2-4-3” formula was  a “win-win” solution and warned that it  would end up as a “lose-lose” formula to the school-children and the nation as a whole. My warning has been proven right for the majority of schools and pupils.

What is most ridiculous is that people who had been most responsible in politicizing the “2-4-3 formula” in the past three years are among the loudest in accusing others who are calling for sanity and a review to abandon the political contraption of 2-4-3 as guilty of politicizing primary education.

In the past 48-years of nationhood, Malaysian education had  stumbled  from one disaster to another,  whether primary, secondary or tertiary.

The government has taken 30 years to find out that its ill-considered abolition of the English stream of education had undermined Malaysia’s international competitiveness and jeopardized the country’s future welfare and prosperity. 

It has taken 20 years to discover that its 3M system had failed to ensure that school-children could all acquire the 3Rs – the three basic educational fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic.  As a result, our schools are producing a new class  of the “educated illiterate”!

But the government has not yet woken up to the fact that its higher education policy is another disaster, despite producing 60,000 unemployed and unemployable graduates as well as 30,000 “overqualified” graduates in unsuitable jobs (such as being supermarket cashiers and fast-food restaurant workers as revealed by Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn yesterday) and the shocking results of the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Ranking 2005 with University of Malaya falling from 89th to 169th position while Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) falling  out of the Top 200 Universities bracket altogether.

Three years is long enough for the Cabinet Ministers, education planners and policy-makers to realize that the “2-4-3 formula” and the teaching of mathematics and science in English from Std. One  when English is not the medium of instruction or home language is laying the seeds of another disastrous educational experiment. This is because the “2-4-3 formula”  is not a recipe for educational excellence but the reverse by loading and confusing the schoolchildren  with an unsound educational change which impede them  from maximizing their educational potential where they can develop  their thinking and academic abilities to the utmost.

This will be most unfortunate and even tragic, for we will be demonstrating that we cannot learn from the past educational mistakes and disasters and we must once  again sacrifice the educational interest of our children and the future of the nation because of the politicization of education, until very great and far-reaching damage had been done.

Some UMNO leaders are demanding that Gerakan should review its position in Barisan Nasional because of Tsu Koon’s demand to review the teaching of maths and science in English from Std. One. The Gerakan leadership has three choices:

  • Declare that it is prepared to review its position in BN because of an important issue and principle involved.

  • Declare that it will neither  review its position in BN nor compromise its stand that the 2-4-3 formula should be reviewed and abandoned.

  • Withdraw its demand for review and again abandon its stand against  the 2-4-3 formula.

At the end of 2002, at the critical stage when deciding  whether to introduce the policy of teaching mathetmatics and science in English from Std. One and the  2-4-3 formula, the Gerakan leadership chose the third easy option of withdrawing its objection  with Gerakan leaders, led by its President Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik becoming among the most aggressive  Barisan Nasional salesmen for the 2-4-3 formula.

Which one of the three options would the Gerakan leadership choose now?



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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