Drop outs from Government Secondary Schools and The Language Issue

The 8th Project of “20 Year Plan of Action” : Drop outs from Government Secondary Schools and The Language Issue

Coordinators: Yow Lee Fung, Ng Yap Hwa (LLG Culture and Development Centre)


The multi-lingual educational system in Malaysia reflects the country’s multicultural and multi-ethnic society. This is a valuable asset to the country. It is a development that came about as a result of struggle by earlier leaders and the community. At the same time, the government’s pursuance on a singular policy and the termination of the Chinese secondary schools within the system – allowing only the continuation of Chinese primary schools – has resulted in the existing incomplete Chinese educational system.   The Chinese Independent Secondary Schools (CISS) organized by the Chinese community with their own resources have been denied of government support including the setting up of new schools which is not permitted.Also, as the school fees of the CISS are relatively higher when compared with the government’s secondary schools (GSS), many parents choose to send their children to the GSS whose teaching medium is primarily Bahasa Malaysia .  

The primary school children from the Chinese or Tamil streams moving into the GSS find themselves in a difficult situation with the change of teaching medium from their mother tongue to Bahasa Malaysia. As they are not able to master the Bahasa Malaysia language, they fail to understand much of what is taught in class. As a result, these students who are from the mother tongue education system lose interest in their studies and are put into the classes of poor academic performance. They eventually become drop outs. When the remove classes are not compulsory to provide remedial language teaching, the problems become more acute.

In order not to let the children become victims of the inadequacy of our education system, the government and civil society must tackle the language problem directly and find urgent solutions to overcome this shortcoming.

Possible solutions include:

i) Ensuring the Malay language teachers at the primary school level have bi-lingual skills. The government should not appoint teachers who do not understand Mandarin – regardless of whether they are Chinese or non-Chinese – to the Chinese primary schools to teach Malay language. This is in contradiction to the principles of teaching and affects the quality of teaching because these assigned teachers are unable to teach the Malay language properly. The Chinese and Indian communities are not opposed to the posting of teachers to teach Malay language in the Chinese and Tamil primary schools. They welcome it. However, the government should provide sufficient language training either in Mandarin or Tamil to ensure proficiency and competency in using the students’ mother tongue in classes.

ii) The government should direct the GSS to pay special attention to the students coming from the mother tongue system and permit bi-lingual teaching in the first two years during the Malay language classes. Special bi-lingual classes can be conducted until the students are competent with the Malay teaching medium.

iii) The remove classes of the GSS should continue. Its original objective which is to prepare the students from the mother tongue system to cope with the sudden change of teaching medium is a sound one. However, the past experiences reflect that the remedial objective has not been achieved because the government has not tackled the problem arising from poor course design and the posting of inappropriate teachers. The government has to review and rectify the problem and not try to terminate the remove classes. The government also bears the responsibility of organizing pre-Form One intensive Malay classes for those students whose results are average or above average.

In order for these possible solutions to be implemented by Government, it is important for civil society to pay special attention on the issue of education affecting the marginalized groups and to publicly discuss the various options of resolving this long standing problem.

Project Deliverables:

  1. A comprehensive report on the issue will be prepared. The report will incorporate feedback from the educational authorities, research and study by scholars as well as the outcomes of dialogues and meetings.
  2. Other work will cover the collection of statistics on drop outs and a possible survey on the drop out problem aimed at providing recommendations to resolve the problems

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *