KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Despite gaining more Malay students, Chinese vernacular schools continue to have poor command of the national language due to an external “racist social environment,” controversial columnist Ridhuan Tee Abdullah asserted today.
The Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin lecturer who had previously called for Chinese vernacular schools or SJKCs — short for national-type Chinese schools as they are known in Malay — to be abolished defended his past criticisms in his latest column in Malay daily Sinar Harian.
“Before this I was seen to be too critical of SJKCs because of their stubbornness in not wanting to implement government agendas especially on matters relating to BM, but that does not mean I am not recognising the strength of SJKCs or the Chinese race itself,” he wrote.
“The intention is not to belittle SJKC but just wanting them to get out of their comfort zone. Actually SJKCs have tried their best to ensure that their students have good command of BM but this is made difficult by the racist social environment outside,” he added.
In his past articles, Tee had consistently touted the poor command of the national language among Chinese Malaysians as proof they were racists, even though the majority of primary Chinese schoolers continue their secondary education in national schools where BM is the medium of instruction and where a credit is compulsory to pass national examinations.
Mandarin as a medium of instruction is only used in 1,287 primary schools and 60 secondary schools that are wholly private.
In a January 25 column for the same daily, Tee branded ethnic Chinese to be “racist” and “ultra kiasu” and had not shown gratitude for all the government’s tolerance of their demands and called for the abolition of their vernacular schools.
The column was written in response to reports of a Chinese principal who had allegedly made racial remarks against a Malay teacher at a vernacular primary school in Mersing, Johor, and the basis of his argument that Chinese Malaysians was racist.
In today’s column titled “The Strength of SJKCs,” Tee praised the good qualities of the ethnic Chinese community and of vernacular schools, calling them hardworking, “survivors” and well-organised, especially on matters of education.
“Chinese parents never hesitate to spend when it comes to their children's education, even though they come from the poor.
“Even though SJKCs get full government assistance, they still impose extra fees like for computers or ICT, extra classes, special BM classes and so on. If it was the SK (national schools), I'm sure we would have jumped if we were charged extra. We even grumble for being charged RM20 for PIBG fees annually,” he said.
Tee said this explains why Chinese schools often have sufficient funds to ensure their facilities are top notch, and ultimately a good learning environment for students.
He added that it also why Malay parents are keen to send their children to vernacular schools, noting Malay student enrolment there now stood at 60,000.
He urged the government to address factors driving Malay parents to send their kids to Chinese schools, and why Chinese parents stay away from sending their children to national schools.
He also offered his help, and that of his university to resolve the conundrum.