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Lim Lian Geok and the Chinese Education

Speech on the conference organised by Tamil Foundation in conjunction with 200 Years of Tamil Education in Malaysia (by LLG Vice chair, Yow Lee Fung)
Date : 31st October 2015
Time : 9.00am – 5.00pm
Venue : Kompleks Perdana Siswa, University Malaya, PJ

President of Tamil Foundation, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning to everybody! On behalf of LLG , first and foremost, I would like to congratulate the Bicentennial Celebration of Tamil Education in Malaysia and the successful conducting of this conference by Tamil Foundation, and I feel honored to be invited to celebrate together with you all this auspicious and meaningful event.

200 Years of Tamil Education 2200 years is considered not a short period in the history of this land. Chinese Education has an equally long history in Malaysia, and maybe even slightly earlier than the existence of Tamil Education. Just like Tamil Education, the story of two hundred years of Chinese Education is one of great sacrifice and heroism, and also one of great determination and struggle.  We underwent the same fate, the same struggle, before and after Independence.

According to a church publication by the name of “The Indo-Chinese Gleaner”, in year 1815, Malacca had already got nine Chinese Private Traditional Schools delivering Chinese studies, and with a student enrollment of more than 150. This is a written document recording the actual existence of Chinese Education. From here, we can conclude that Chinese Education most probably started earlier than year 1815.

Entering the 19th century, new format schools started to appear replacing those old traditional Chinese schools. However, in 1920, the British colonial government announced  the Registration of Schools Ordinance, intending to control the Chinese schools. Such policy triggered the first wave of Chinese education movement. Subsequently in the Second World War, during period of Japanese Occupation of Malay Peninsula, the Chinese schools faced a heavy blow from the Japanese invaders whereby our schools were destroyed and many of our school board members ,teachers and students were arrested and killed and many forced to hide. Lim Lian Geok was one of them forced to hide during  that time to escape from Japanese cruel persecution. Many schools had to be rebuilt from scratch after the Japanese were defeated and left. Lim Lian Geok used up all his saving to help rebuilding the Confucius School.

After the war, despite “the State of Emergency”, Chinese schools still expanded quickly. In 1956, the first Chinese university in South East Asia, Nanyang University, was established in Singapore, completing the Chinese education system in Malaya.

Nearing Independence, Lim Lian Geok saw the importance of securing the status for the Chinese Education and other vernacular educations once the country gained independence, he thus initiated dialogues and negotiations with Tengku Abdul Rahman and The Alliance, the predecessor of the present Barisan Nasional,in year 1955 . In year 1956, Lim Lian Geok delivered a Hari Raya Aidilfitri Message publicized in the then Utusan  Melayu, calling upon all races to inculcate a Malayan mindset upon Independence to create a peaceful and prosperous country. Such Malayan mindset fostered the idea of “Living as One and Prospering as A Whole”. He stressed that “Every ethnic community should be accepted as a member of this nation’s family, equal in their rights and in their national duty.”

In that same year , Lim Lian Geok was invited to speak at the Congress of the Selangor Tamil School Teachers’ Association. A Joint Declaration was arrived at the end of the Congress by the United Chinese School Teachers’ Association and the Selangor Tamil School Teachers’ Association, stressing the importance of using mother tongue as the medium of instruction and that every community should enjoy equal treatment as well as equal opportunity for their development of education. I think this is the earliest cooperation between Chinese Education and Tamil Education. For unknown reasons, such connection was not maintained until many many years later.

For Lim Lian Geok , in the early sixties, he was unfortunate to be deprived of his citizenship and teaching permit when  he opposed strongly the conversion of the Chinese Secondary Schools by the government which forced them to drop their medium of instruction in Mandarin. Barely five years after Independence, all promises and agreements were broken by the ruling coalition.

We are happy that Tamil Foundation also recognizes the contribution of Lim Lian Geok towards mother tongue education and took such a pain to translate and publish this book in year 2012. The book was originally in English version edited by Dr. Kua Kia Soong and won  Book of The Year 2011 jointly conducted by The Star and Popular Bookstore. Tamil Foundation also won 2012 LLG Spirit Award due to its invaluable contribution towards Tamil Education in Malaysia. In future, we hope to build a stronger linkage between Chinese education and Tamil education as well as other vernacular education.

In conclusion, I wish to stress that the survival and development of the mother tongue  education is inseparable from the perseverance and resilience of the  community and our forefathers , and thus we should try our best to continue their legacies and help our country to preserve such invaluable assets, i.e our diversity in cultures and languages.
Thank you.