No agreement to limit number of Chinese independent schools, says MCA
KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — There was no agreement reached between MCA and the government to limit the number of Chinese independent schools when the amendment was made to the Education Act in 1996 as alleged by the Chinese education movement, United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia or Dong Zong.
MCA presidential council member and former human resource minister Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn said Dong Zong’s claim that the number of Chinese independent high schools was fixed at 60 and that problems related to Chinese schools remain unresolved due to that agreement, was not true.
“There was no such agreement. We would never agree to it (if there was such an agreement). They (Dong Zong) created the issue to bombard MCA based on lies,” he told Bernama, here, today.
He was commenting on Chinese newspaper reports quoting Dong Zong deputy president Chow Siew Hong as saying that “MCA must bear the responsibility for the rights of Chinese education” which were “pawned” when MCA and non-governmental organisations were preparing the Education Act 1996 with regard to Chinese education.
Chow claimed that problems in Chinese education remain unresolved until today because MCA and the NGOs had reached the agreement with the Education Ministry, whereby he believed the number of Chinese independent high schools was fixed at 60.
Dong Zong did not participate in discussions on the amendment to the Education Act in 1996.
Fong, who served as deputy education minister when the Education Act was amended in 1996, explained that the government decided to amend the Education Act 1961 in order to resolve the issue involving provision 21B of the Act.
“Under the provision, all the vernacular schools can be converted into national schools. When Anwar was the education minister, he was mandated by the prime minister to amend the provision due to the Chinese community’s concerns.
“However, he did not do it until Datuk Seri Najib Razak became education minister in 1995. Within one year, Najib managed to push for 21B to be removed,” he said.
Fong said the amendment to the Education Act 1961 in 1996, which was later called the Education Act 1996, was very significant to Chinese education in the country as the government recognised the fact that the Chinese primary schools, national-type secondary schools and Chinese independent schools were very much a permanent part of national education system.
“It was more than symbolic. It was a legal change because through this amendment, there were no more temporary features. It has allowed the government to provide financial and planning resources to the Chinese education system.
Since 1996, much more financial resources have been allocated,” he said.
There were 78 Chinese secondary schools that chose to conform to the government’s teaching and syllabi, thus becoming national-type secondary schools (SMJK) while another 60 remained as Chinese independent high schools. There are also 1,291 national-type Chinese primary schools (SJKC).
“For the 78, they could allocate more time to teach the Chinese language and their headmaster must be Mandarin-speaking.
“This acceptance of them as part of the government’s secondary school system is very important as the government could allocate more resources to these schools.
“For example, in Seremban, there is the additional secondary school, Chan Wa No. 2. In Penang, you have Chung Ling 1 and 2, which have played a major part in trilingual education in this country. Others include Chung Hwa (Kuala Lumpur),” Fong said.
Apart from that, he said, the Education Act 1996 also allowed the government to accept Chinese independent schools as part of the education system.
“Under the previous Education Act, these independent schools had to apply every year to be allowed to operate.
“However, following the amendment to the Education Act in 1996, the government recognised them by issuing all 60 independent secondary schools permanent registration.
“In other words, they are part and parcel of the national education system. Following the amendment, some state governments such as Johor and Malacca, on their own, set aside allocations for these schools,” he added. — Bernama