CHINESE Independent High Schools (CIHS) have been part of the Malaysian education system since the 1970s.
The subject of government funding for CIHS, which are considered as private schools, has been raised from time to time. Except for one-off contributions, CIHS do not receive funding from the Federal Government, and they are kept alive mainly by donations from the public.
I am currently a CIHS student who will be sitting for the SUEC (senior middle level) exam in December. Most CIHS students would continue their education to tertiary level mainly in universities overseas. After graduating, most would not return to Malaysia.
So, should the government spend money on educating people who would eventually leave their country?
Besides funding, the syllabus of CIHS also warrants a review. Undeniably, the standard of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) is very high, and it is recognised as a qualification for entrance into many tertiary educational institutions around the world.
However, I feel that more attention must be paid to two subjects, Bahasa Malaysia and History. Despite being our national language, Malay is not given equal emphasis as Chinese and English. As an education system based in Malaysia, shouldn’t the Malay language be given more attention?
As for History, in the UEC syllabus, there are textbooks – World History, Chinese History, and Malaysian and South-East Asian History respectively. Chinese History comprises nearly one-third of the entire syllabus while Malaysian History is only included in the general South-East Asian textbook. This emphasis on Chinese History could shape the mindset of students, making them think that they are more Chinese than Malaysian.
This might seem harmless on the surface, but it has the potential to raise questions about the loyalty of the local Chinese community.
These are issues that Dong Zong and Jiao Zong, as the two major organisations for Chinese education in this country, must address. The Malaysian Chinese community should identify as Malaysian first and Chinese second.
It is completely understandable that the local Chinese community would want to preserve their language and culture, hence the majority of students in CIHS are Chinese. In a way, CIHS are excluding students from other races by fiercely promoting Chinese culture, leaving little to no room for others.
CIHS need reforms. Lim Lian Geok (1901-1985), the “Soul of the Malaysian Chinese”, once said: “What it means to be a Malayan citizen is to be loyal and do our utmost for the country.” In 1952, he advocated for the Chinese school curriculum to be changed to focus on Malaya instead of China, and fought hard for CIHS to ensure that all races can live together in harmony while preserving their own cultures.
With the rise of the People’s Republic of China, many local Chinese are now looking at China, but we should still remember that our loyalty should be to the country of our birth and its people.
YONG JING YI