The Chinese Language Movement in Malaysia, 1952-1967: Language, Ethnicity and Nation-Building in a Plural Society
This monograph examines the education of ethnic minorities in plural societies within the broader context of majority-minority relations. It comprises eight theoretical chapters dealing with various aspects of the education of ethnic minorities. The education of ethnic minorities in plural societies has always been a hotly contested area, having a dynamic of its own, often involving minority linguistic and cultural claims that go against those of the majority. This is especially true in the case of non-marginal minorities or active minorities who are in a position to make such claims. Notwithstanding the right of the minority groups to use their own language in plural societies, when such claims are pitted against the majority language, they have to accept the fact that the majority language is usually recognised as the language of national integration and the sole or the main medium of instruction in the national educational system and as such, their claims for minority linguistic rights should not override the supremacy of the majority language. It is perhaps for this reason that ethnic minorities have to take a middle course so that their linguistic and cultural claims do not jeopardise their social mobility as well as the nation-building process in plural societies. Such an act of balancing is not only necessary but also crucial to the survival of ethnic minorities within the mainstream society. It is essentially a matter of choice between maintaining their ‘life styles’ or ‘life chances’. It is against this backdrop that bilingual education is perhaps a viable option for ethnic minorities to accommodate their educational needs as well as their role in the national-building process. While there are different models of bilingual education, the Malaysian model of transitional bilingual education for the ethnic minorities merits our attention. Despite some shortcomings in its implementation, this model of bilingual education has been able to ensure language maintenance within a wider shift to the majority language.
About the Authors
Dr. Tan Yao Sua is Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. His main research interests include minority education, educational policy analysis, bilingual education, sociology of education and Malaysian Chinese Studies.
Prof. R. Santhiram is Professor and Dean of the School of Education, Languages and Communications, Wawasan Open University, Penang. His main research interests are in the areas of education for ethnic minorities, educational policy analysis and history of education.
Sememangnya tempoh masa ini merupakan jangka waktu pendidikan Cina dilanda banyak krisis dan dilemma lantaran kesungguhan kerajaan untuk merealisasikan ‘matlamat akhir’ Laporan Razak 1956 yang mencadangkan penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan sebagai bahasa pengantar tunggal di semua institusi pendidikan. Pelaksanaan kerajaan tersebut dianggap sebagai suatu tindakan untuk menyekat perkembangan pendidikan Cina dan menghakis identity sekolah Cina oleh Dong Jiao Zong. Dalam buku ini, permasalahan pencetusan Gerakan Pendidikan Cina diteliti mengikut kerangka konflik etnik, iaitu antara pembentukan bangsa-negara dan pengekalan identity etnik, serta pembalahan persepsi tentang konsep pluralistic dalam bidang pendidikan dan bahasa, iaitu antara pemupukan system persekolahan satu aliran dengan pelbagai aliran.
Dari segi lain, perjuangan Dong Jiao Zong ditinjau dari kerangka perjuangan kumpulan kepentingan yang berjaya mencetuskan gerakan social yang berterusan dan berpengaruh. Hasil penyelidikan menunjukkan bahawa perjuangan Gerakan Pendidikan Cina yang diterajui Dong Jiao Zong ini membawa impak dan pengaruh yang kuat kepada negara amnya dan masyarakat Cina khususnya. Keupanyaan Gerakan Pendidikan Cina mempengaruhi pola pengundian dan pendirian masyarakat Cina menyebabkan parti-parti politik memandang serius tentang tuntutannya dan kerajaan turut menyediakan ruang kompromi kepada perkembangan sekolah Cina.
Education in multiethnic societies is a subject of considerable debates in almost all parts of the world. These debates have invoked strongly-felt positions between competing ethnic groups over a host of issues that have a profound impact on the nation building process.
Apart from deep-seated issues arising from contrasting internal demands over educational rights and equality, emerging issues arising from external influences such as the global spread of English as a result of globalisation have also impacted the nation building process of multiethnic societies.
It is against this context that educational issues in multiethnic societies merit our attention. In the case of Malaysia, discourses over these issues are particularly intense and hotly contested by the different ethnic groups.
This is primarily because of the extreme difficulties in mediating these complicated issues which are impinged by competing socio-cultural, economic and political interests.
This book explores the contested terrains of education in multiethnic Malaysia. It comprises seven chapters that cover three crucial areas of educational provisions and delivery, namely education of ethnic minorities, education and national integration, and educational language policy.
These three crucial areas are often the prime concerns of policy makers in multiethnic societies who have to tread a thin line in resolving these issues which are underpinned by intense coterminous interests and inter-ethnic competition, and having the potential to generate conflicts, contestation and power struggle.
As far as the Malaysian policy makers are concerned, their efforts in resolving these issues have not been overly successful. It is most unfortunate that their policy decisions are at times influenced by competing political and ethnic interests rather than guided by sound theoretical underpinnings that could put the educational development of the country on a stronger platform and a clearer trajectory.
The authors review the background to this segmented system as well as relevant literature on minority education. Both colonial era and post-independence language and education policies have been contested and divisive. While nation-building remains a key concern, education and language policies often reflect majority–minority relations, rather than being focused purely on pedagogic goals—or interethnic socialization and integration.
The Chinese educationists have been a driving force in these developments. But their vision of a complete system of Chinese-medium education, as this book shows, is not fully supported by Chinese parents. Furthermore, the flawed implementation of transitional bilingual education has resulted in, among other problems, linguistic dysfunctionality. A substantial number of Chinese students have such a poor grasp of Malay that they drop out of secondary school, while overall Chinese-language competency also deteriorates after primary school.
This objective, scholarly analysis should be read by educationists, scholars, journalists, policy-makers, and parents who seek to learn more about the history, context, and longer-term implications of the education of the Chinese in multiethnic Malaysia.
“This book is based on my experience as a language teacher for over twenty years and some of the chapters have been adapted and revised from early research papers and articles. This book starts with a description of the socio-historical backdrop of language policies in multilingual, multiracial Malaysia. Having to cater to national, international and diverse ethnic interests has not been an easy task vis-a-vis language policies but a vigilant government has ensured that policies changed and change with changing scenarios and demands. Keeping aligned with evolving needs is necessary as languages empower individuals and nations to progress both socially and economically.
While this book covers many topics and suggests some important issues in language teaching, it also acknowledges that there are many other means of effective language teaching which have not been discussed. There is no one correct way of teaching second or foreign languages and we must be eclectic in our teaching. I hope that my experiences will be of benefit to language teachers.”