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    Updated on Monday, April 8, 2002 11:21 PM

Make additional language studies compulsory: DAP

Susan Loone, Malaysiakini
4:10pm Sun Apr 7th, 2002

Opposition party DAP has commended the government’s move to offer Mandarin, Tamil and Arabic languages as options for primary school pupils as “a step in the right direction”.
However, the party’s national public bureau secretary Gobind Singh Deo said the authorities should consider making it compulsory for pupils to study an additional language to ensure Malaysians are bilingual or multilingual.

“As an option alone, there will be no motivation, as primary school students do not realise the significance of an additional language at such ages,” said Gobind, in a press statement today.

“If it is made compulsory, then results will show,” he added.

Gobind urged the Education Ministry to include subjects such as literature in various languages to encourage language proficiency among youth and generate greater “greater minds and passion” for the arts.

On Friday, Singapore’s Straits Times reported that Malaysia’s national schools are offering Mandarin classes as a move to attract Chinese and other non-Malay Malaysians to government schools in order to strengthen national integration.

Under the latest plan, Chinese, Arabic and Tamil language classes will be introduced into the national school syllabus, as opposed to Pupils' Own Language (POL) classes that were conducted previously outside school hours.

The news report stated that an estimated nine out of 10 Chinese Malaysian school-going children now opt for government-aided Chinese schools with Chinese as the medium of instruction.

Deputy Education Minister Hon Choon Kim announced the new plans and gave an assurance to Chinese schools that their existence will not be threatened.

The plan was meant to upgrade the image of national schools due to a recent government survey that found that only 2.1 percent of students in national schools are Chinese Malaysians while only 4.3 percent are Indian Malaysians.

The survey was conducted following allegations that some national schools were practising racial segregation. The government has dismissed the claims as “baseless” based on the results of the survey which in actuality stated the “evidence was weak”.

Vision schools take off

Meanwhile, despite protest from Chinese educationists, Education Minister Musa Mohamad announced yesterday that the controversial Vision School project was set to take off in Subang Jaya, Selangor and Pundut in Perak, in June.

Admission would be on a voluntary basis and the government is currently reaching out to pupils.

Aimed at promoting racial integration, each vision school is comprised of a Chinese, Tamil and national-type primary school, with their pupils sharing facilities like the library, canteen and playing field.

Chinese educationists believe that the plan is another step to eventually abolish vernacular schools, which are part of Malaysia's education system.

Despite assurances from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the government has no plans to close down Chinese schools, suspicion remains of the government’s intentions.

The groups have even taken their cause to recent by-election campaigns all over the country.

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