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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974

Racist requirements

Racist requirements

Image of a Malaysian man in jail imposed on hands

The New Zealand Government is imposing the Malay Language requirement as a prerequisite for admission to study in New Zealand. In its reply to the question raised by the overseas students, the NZ authorities claim that the Malay language is not a difficult language to learn and students who intend to come to study here will have little problem overcoming the language requirement.

It is in fact not as simple as that. The new language requirement implies that the NZ Government is prepared to encourage the present Malay chauvinistic and racist education policy in Malaysia and wrongly introduces it into the NZ education system.

The following article illustrates how the young school students suffer from failure in their Malaysian Certificate of Education Exam which requires a compulsory pass in Malay language, the same requirement the NZ government imposes on students from Malaysia. The widespread student demonstration in early 1973 on the 1972 MCE examination result is an inevitable outcome of the present policy of education which concerns the future of the young people and their parents as well as the public. It is hoped that the New Zealand Government will review this serious issue and reconsider the Malay language requirement which does not serve to develop the New Zealand higher education and academic level.

Reprinted from 'Forum'

To many young people. Black Monday struck on March 19, 1973. On that infamous day, many young hearts were pierced by the announcement of their failure to obtain the object of their entire school life — the Malaysian Certificate of Education.

In 1972, there were 37,126 candidates sitting for the MCE examination. Out of that number, only 16,065 students passed! The rest were unsuccessful. From that fantastic number of failures, there were 14,331 students who failed, simply because they did not pass one single subject — 'Bahasa Malaysia'!

Examinations are set to find out the ability of the students. The aim of public examinations is obviously not to reduce the number of students for promotion and thereby rob students of their opportunities for further studies! In the past years. English schools usually obtained better results in the MCE exam than Chinese schools. But last year, that record was broken. Both English and Chinese schools obtained their poorest results. For example, in the state of Penang alone, well-known schools like the St Xavier's Institution, Methodist Boys' School, Han Chiang and Chung Ling High Schools, all had pass rates of not more than 26%. The best result was from the Penang Free School which obtained a 50% pass! There was one Chinese school which obtained a 100% failure. On the other hand students in some Malay schools did extremely well in 1972's MCE exam. There were four Malay schools which obtained a 100% pass rate! In Johore, most Malay schools obtained rates from 80 to 97% pass.

Parents of those unfortunate students were very concerned over the future of their children. Many other people also showed their concern.

The press was busy with news. The Minister of Education, Dato Hussein Onn was 'most concerned'. But, what action was taken?

Peaceful demonstrations were organised — students and parents gathered anxiously outside the Ministry of Education. Banners asking for reasonable consideration were waved by young and old. Hope for the future filled every young face. They all waited together patiently.

The Minister of Education 'promised' to consider the appeals put forward by the student representatives. They asked for the lowering of the average passing mark for the 'Bahasa Malaysia' paper, to enable more of them to enter the sixth form classes, or to let them sit for another 'Bahasa Malaysia' exam. But, the answer to all these appeals was 'No!' However, the Minister of Education said that he would 'try his best' to allow the unsuccessful candidates to repeat another year. But, how many students is the Ministry willing to take? The student wondered. They appealed for information concerning the marking of their examination papers. They did not understand why they failed. But the Minister of Education knew the reason very well!

He announced that the failures were due to the 'poor attention' paid by the students towards our 'national language'. The students should have taken a serious attitude towards the Malay language because it is the most important subject in the MCE exam — the one that decided the destiny of the students. The Minister denied any injustice in the marking of the exam papers in 1972, because the whole exam system was in accordance with the Cambridge regulations. Nothing has gone wrong anywhere!

So, with the announcement of his last decisions, the Minister of Education has 'solved' the problems created by the exam results of the MCE of 1972! He has put an end to the hopes of many young people who wished to further their studies.

But, how far from the truth is the statement by the Minister of Education? Is it true that those Chinese and English school students failed because they did not pay attention to 'Bahasa Malaysia'? Every student's mind was instilled with the great importance of 'Bahasa Malaysia' long before the exam. How could they have belittled it when they knew well that they would never obtain a Malaysian Certificate of Education without a pass in 'Bahasa Malaysia'? No matter what has happened, the Education Ministry should shoulder the responsibilities! Were there adequate facilities for the study of the Malay language? Was there a shortage of teachers? Did the syllabus coincide with the exam questions, or was the level of the exam too high? And, most important, it is hard to believe that there should be such a great difference between the capabilities of Malay and non-Malay students.

Certainly, this whole event gave rise to undesirable racial feelings which is very dangerous in a multi-racial country like ours. The government knows it, and yet it allows the event to go its way! Is there something behind the whole event?

About 85% non-Malay students would have passed were it not for Bahasa Malaysia. Instead only 33.5% of students passed. The reluctance of the government to open new classes and the three ludicrous priorities set out by the Ministry for repeating students (the first two priorities are practically and deliberately planned in favour of Malay students), and the lack of any real effort and sincerity to find the cause (despite the hullabaloo in parliament) substantiates the claim that MCE result is a political manoeuvre.