Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 9th August 2009:
Muhyiddin – honour Najib’s pledge that “The era where the government knows best is over” and allow parents the choice to retain the policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in English for their children
When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced his Cabinet four months ago on April 10, 2009, he built on his motto of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” a week earlier to be “a government with new approaches for new times – a government that places a priority on performance, because the people must come first”.
Najib declared: “The era where the government knows best is over. We can only achieve our ambition for Malaysia if the government and the people, in a unified effort, work together for success and progress”.
We are only in the First 128 Days of Najib’s premiership, but his injunctions and exhortations of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” and that “The era where the government knows best is over” had been completely ignored or forgotten by his Cabinet and bureaucracy.
Otherwise, the parents of SMK Seri Hartamas students in Kuala Lumpur would not have been locked out of the school yesterday when the school’s Parent-Teacher Association wanted to hold a properly-convened extraordinary general meeting to retain the PPSMI policy on the teaching of of science and mathematics in English in their school in 2012.
Why should the parents, concerned about the best education for the children in a Najib administration which respects parental choice as “The era of where the government knows best is over”, be treated as if the parents concerned are criminals, subversives or anti-national elements by locking them out of the school instead of allowing them to hold the PTA EGM?
SMK Sri Hartamas PTA chairman Salmah Abu Bakar said the PTA EGM was not a protest but a gathering of parents who wanted to voice their opinions and concern over their children's education.
She said: “We only want to be given an option -- and that is to maintain the policy in our school."
PTA Vice Chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said schools should be given the opportunity to discuss the option of retaining the PPSMI policy.
"The school has benefited from the policy and we should be given an opportunity to maintain the teaching of both subjects in English. Moreover, the students have been disheartened by the reversal as they have adapted well to the policy."
Nor Halilah Lani, 48, who was among the parents at the gathering, said the policy should be retained because parents must be allowed the choice to choose what was best for their children's education.
Though unable to hold the meeting, the parents were however able to witness one agenda of the intended EGM, which was to count ballots slips from parents stating whether they wanted the teaching of science and mathematics to continue in that school.
Of the 553 ballots counted, an overwhelming 97 percent were in favour. A total of 1,310 ballot slips were issued to students to hand over to their parents.
The Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, should be setting the example for all Cabinet Ministers in giving flesh and meaning to Najib’s exhortation that “The era where the government knows best is over” by directing the Education Ministry to fully respect the rights of parents to voice their demands for the option for their children to be taught mathematics and science in English, although the Cabinet has taken the policy decision to scrap PPSMI in 2012.
Surely, Malaysia is not coming to a stage where tear gas and chemically-laced water cannons would be directed at parents who take seriously Najib’s statement that “The era where the government knows best is over’?
Muhyiddin should reprimand the education officers responsible for locking out the parents of students from SMK Seri Hartamas from the school and send out a clear message to all PTAs that there would be no repetition of such lock-outs and that they have the democratic right to voice their views about PPSMI which would be seriously considered by the Education Ministry.
It is reported that ever since the Cabinet decision to reverse the PPSMI policy, there have been more inquiries than usual to international schools from Malaysian parents who are thinking of sending their children there.
Is the Najib administration going to drive more students away from the national education system with the rigid and inflexible application of the new PPSMI Cabinet decision?
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor