ACADEMICIAN-HISTORIAN Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim says Chinese and Indians, being minority races in the country, should give up the use of mother-tongue language as the medium of instruction in their schools to be out of the racial box and stay competitive.
He said non-Malays need to compromise and relinquish the Chinese or Tamil education they are conducting in their primary schools in favour of the one school education system for peace in the country, China Press reported today.
His remark drew quick rebuttals from Chinese educationists who deemed him lacking race pride and in contempt of Chinese education.
Khoo, 71, said the current education system of having many types of schools in the country has created a batch of people who do not understand Bahasa Malaysia and English, unable to communicate with other races or compete with the outside world.
He said the United States adopted the single school system out of which born the first black president, Barrack Obama, whereas Malaysians are still arguing over race issues 50 years after Independence.
He felt that while making Chinese and Tamil the second languages in primary and secondary schools, the government should continue with the current policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in English.
When told by the daily that Singapore's national schools are using English as the medium of instruction, in response to his recent remark that Malaysia should look to Singapore in adopting a single school system, Khoo said that as Malays are the majority race in Malaysia, any proposal to use English as the medium of instruction in schools would surely meet with overwhelming objection.
Does this mean the Chinese and Indians will have to make sacrifice?
"As minority races, we have to give and take, and compromise," said Khoo.
He felt that the issue (single school system) will eventually be taken to parliament for debate and a decision. "Who will win in the end?"
He said development in Malaysia has been overtaken by Vietnam and Thailand and felt that there should not be any more delay in implementing the single school system.
He believed the system, which will propel the country's standard of education to world class, takes nine to 10 years to bear fruit.
Khoo also ticked off politicians for blowing their trumpet on such education for political mileage.
His eyebrow-raising remark drew sharp criticisms from both Dong Zong and Jiao Zong, the guardians of Chinese education.
Jiao Zong (United Chinese School Teachers Association) president Ong Chiaw Chuan said "it is purely Khoo Kay Kim's personal view", and warned that the suggestion can uproot Chinese education.
He did not agree with Khoo that parents can imbue Chinese cultural values and thinking at home, giving as an example that the third generation American Chinese no longer possess Chinese moral values and virtues.
"This shows the importance of Chinese education. If Malaysia adopts a single school system, (all) children will be exposed to Islamic teachings," he said.
Ong stressed that education not only nurtures talents, but more importantly, it also inculcates the moral values of a race.
Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees Association) president Dr Yap Sin Tian said Khoo's remark showed that he did not know mother-tongue education is protected under Education Act 1966, or is in touch with the reality of Chinese education in the country.
He said Khoo's view that Chinese schools produced students who lacked knowledge in Bahasa Malaysia and English did not hold water as both languages are compulsory subjects in these schools.