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Keng Yaik – why the silence over the UMNO attacks on Tsu Koon for being irresponsible and guilty of “communal polemics” when calling for the teaching of mathematics and science in mother tongue from Std. 1 to 3?


Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Saturday):  Why is the Gerakan President  and senior Cabinet Minister Datuk  Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik so silent in the past week when his No. 2, Gerakan Deputy President, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon came under UMNO attack for being irresponsible, unrealistic, inconsistent and guilty of “communal polemics” when calling for the teaching of mathematics and science in mother tongue from Std. 1 to 3 in vernacular schools?


Tsu Koon had  been let down by the Gerakan President and the other Gerakan leaders as only  Gerakan Central Committee member Dr. Toh Kin Woon is the only lone voice to publicly back Tsu Koon for the review of the educationally unsound “2-4-3” formula.


If UMNO leaders are right in their criticisms and attacks on Tsu Koon, then let Keng Yaik and the other Gerakan leaders acknowledge Tsu Koon’s mistake. But if Tsu Koon is right and his stand reflects Gerakan party stand, then Keng Yaik and the other Gerakan leaders must have the courage of their conviction, regardless of the pressures emanating from UMNO.


Tsu Koon’s blaming the media for misreporting him has compounded the confusion, raising the question whether he has fully backed down from his call and is looking for an honourable political exit for himself, since he had not found any support whatsoever from the rest of the Gerakan party leadership.


The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has from Lesotho called for a stop in the debates over the use of English in the teaching of science and mathematics in primary schools, saying that it would lead to more confusion.


I would urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his call for an end to public debates  in the interests of  the  proper quality education for  our children and future international competitiveness of the nation.  Our problem on this issue is not that the country has  too much but too little debate, before and during its implementation.


We must be fully conscious that the  full repercussions of an unsound education policy like the “2-4-3” formula will only be fully realized in 15-20 years time – just as the government and people are now realizing  the folly  of the overzealous closure  of the English-medium schools undermining  the ability of the new generation of Malaysians  to communicate in the international language with all its repercussions on international competitiveness on commerce, industry, education,  information technology and the country’s development, progress and prosperity..


Malaysians are generally agreed that we want the new generation to master English, mathematics and science, but is the “2-4-3” formula and the  use of English to teach these two subjects from Std. One the best way to achieve these ends?


If we cannot have a full but rational and civil debate and discussion on such an important issue, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the 48-year nation-building process in the country and the system of government of Barisan Nasional and its predecessor the Alliance.


Today’s New Straits Times report from Lesotho  on the Prime Minister’s call quoted an UMNO leader as defending the policy, using Singapore as the example, where he said that “in predominantly Chinese-populated Singapore, English was also the language of education for all subjects and did not in any way deter students from excelling in Mathematics and Science”.


This UMNO leader is right, except that  the example he quoted does not support his argument.


If we want to follow the Singapore example, then Malaysia should emulate the island republic where English is the home language a high  percentage of the population or alternatively, we should re-open English-medium primary schools from Std. One.

Be that as it may, the Prime Minister should welcome a fuller public debate on this important educational issue and not ban it from public debate, so that any mistakes in  unsound educational programmes can be rectified before it is too late with  great damage to the economic prosperity of the nation.



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

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