Book

Chinese Schools in Peninsular Malaysia: The Struggle for Survival

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Abstract

The history of modern Chinese schools in Peninsular Malaysia is a story of conflicts between Chinese domiciled there and different governments that happened or happen to rule the land. Before the days of the Pacific War, the British found the Chinese schools troublesome because of their pro-China political activities. They established measures to control them. When the Japanese ruled the Malay Peninsula, they closed down all the Chinese schools. After the Pacific War, for a decade, the British sought to convert the Chinese schools into English schools. The Chinese schools decoupled themselves from China and survived. A Malay-dominated government of independent Peninsular Malaysia allowed Chinese primary schools to continue, but finally changed many Chinese secondary schools into National Type Secondary Schools using Malay as the main medium of instruction. Those that remained independent, along with Chinese colleges, continued without government assistance. The Chinese community today continues to safeguard its educational institutions to ensure they survive. © 2011 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. All rights reserved.
... Despite language differences, these schools use a common content in their respective syllabi (Collins, 2006;Crouch, 2001). While Chinese independent secondary schools coexist alongside Malaymedium national-type secondary schools and serve as an alternative pathway of schooling, their academic qualifications, that is, Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) is not recognized by the government (Lee, 2011;Santhiram & Tan, 2015;Tan & Sezali, 2015). Chinese primary education has been a long-standing and contentious issue that includes politics, policy, culture and language considerations. ...
... Despite repeated government's promises to safeguard multiculturalism, fear and apprehension exist because the Malay-dominated government is deliberately seeking to hinder replication of Chinese identity by promoting a single-stream education system (Collins, 2006). Lee (2011) aptly pointed out that Chinese education in Malaysia has always engaged in 'the struggle for survival'. ...
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In Malaysia, Chinese vernacular education has been a highly contested and much debated political issue in the mass media. This study examines how Malaysian newspapers framed Chinese primary education for a 3-year period (2015–2017) which is before the 2018 election. Findings showed that, the proximity of election has led to a surge in news reporting about Chinese primary education. Political considerations remain central in mainstream newspapers’ reporting in which official sources are dominant in shaping public understanding of the issue. Alternative newspapers serve as a counter-establishment platform through active participation of readers in public debate. A responsibility frame dominates the news coverage of Chinese primary education in both types of newspapers. Nevertheless, the alternative newspapers tend to focus on the conflict aspect of the issue by foregrounding discord between ruling and opposition politicians as well as intra- Barisan Nasional (BN) disputes. Through human interest frame, the mainstream newspapers emotionalize the issue to obtain readers’ attention. This study concludes that varying reporting strategies adopted by Malaysian newspapers can impact readers’ evaluation of education policy issues. The implications of the findings and the limitations of the study are also discussed.
... Protestant missions and the Roman Catholics were equally active in the early nineteenth century with the setting up of schools in British Malaya. While religious teaching was an important part of the school curriculum, other subjects such as languages, arithmetic, geography, and literature were included for students (Lee 2011). Finally, there were also public free schools in the Straits Settlements (i.e., Singapore, Penang, and Malacca), focusing on the teaching of vernacular languages such as Chinese and Malay; these were maintained by public contributions and housed in schools built by the colonial government, generally perceived as feeder schools of the Straits government since this system was particularly useful in training interpreters and clerks for the various departments of the colonial government. ...
Book
Combining a historical approach of Chineseness and a contemporary perspective on the social construction of Chineseness, this book provides comparative insights to understand the contingent complexities of ethnic and social formations in both China and among the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. This book focuses on the experiences and practices of these people, who as mobile agents are free to embrace or reject being defined as Chinese by moving across borders and reinterpreting their own histories. By historicizing the notion of Chineseness at local, regional, and global levels, the book examines intersections of authenticity, authority, culture, identity, media, power, and international relations that support or undermine different instances of Chineseness and its representations. It seeks to rescue the present from the past by presenting case studies of contingent encounters that produce the ideas, practices, and identities that become the categories nations need to justify their existence. The dynamic, fluid representations of Chineseness illustrate that it has never been an undifferentiated whole in both space and time. Through physical movements and inherited knowledge, agents of Chineseness have deployed various interpretive strategies to define and represent themselves vis-à-vis the local, regional, and global in their respective temporal experiences. This book will be relevant to students and scholars in Chinese studies and Asian studies more broadly, with a focus on identity politics, migration, popular culture, and international relations. “The Chinese overseas often saw themselves as caught between a rock and a hard place. The collection of essays here highlights the variety of experiences in Southeast Asia and China that suggest that the rock can become a huge boulder with sharp edges and the hard places can have deadly spikes. A must read for those who wonder whether Chineseness has ever been what it seems.” Wang Gungwu, University Professor, National University of Singapore. “By including reflections on constructions of Chineseness in both China itself and in various Southeast Asian sites, the book shows that being Chinese is by no means necessarily intertwined with China as a geopolitical concept, while at the same time highlighting the incongruities and tensions in the escapable relationship with China that diasporic Chinese subjects variously embody, expressed in a wide range of social phenomena such as language use, popular culture, architecture and family relations. The book is a very welcome addition to the necessary ongoing conversation on Chineseness in the 21st century.” Ien Ang, Distinguished Professor of Cultural Studies, Western Sydney University.
... Protestant missions and the Roman Catholics were equally active in the early nineteenth century with the setting up of schools in British Malaya. While religious teaching was an important part of the school curriculum, other subjects such as languages, arithmetic, geography, and literature were included for students (Lee 2011). Finally, there were also public free schools in the Straits Settlements (i.e., Singapore, Penang, and Malacca), focusing on the teaching of vernacular languages such as Chinese and Malay; these were maintained by public contributions and housed in schools built by the colonial government, generally perceived as feeder schools of the Straits government since this system was particularly useful in training interpreters and clerks for the various departments of the colonial government. ...
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“Chineseness is back on the agenda” yet again. In the introduction to the special issue on “Chineseness Unbound” published in Asian Ethnicity in 2009, historian Anthony Reid argues that “The tension between the center and the periphery, the political and the cultural, the lumpers and the dividers or deconstructers, makes Chineseness again a critical field of contestation.” Even after the debate presented in the seven papers published in the special issue on whether Chineseness could or should be “unbound” from China, race, or definition of culture, many scholars continue to take the category of “Chinese” as a given and remain focused on the essentialist notion of Chineseness.
... Protestant missions and the Roman Catholics were equally active in the early nineteenth century with the setting up of schools in British Malaya. While religious teaching was an important part of the school curriculum, other subjects such as languages, arithmetic, geography, and literature were included for students (Lee 2011). Finally, there were also public free schools in the Straits Settlements (i.e., Singapore, Penang, and Malacca), focusing on the teaching of vernacular languages such as Chinese and Malay; these were maintained by public contributions and housed in schools built by the colonial government, generally perceived as feeder schools of the Straits government since this system was particularly useful in training interpreters and clerks for the various departments of the colonial government. ...
Chapter
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As the antithesis of identity, hybridity blurs and traverses the boundaries that identities have established, undermining the phantasmic integrity and purity that the boundaries attempt to safeguard. Werbner maintains that, “rather than being open and subject to fusion, identities seem to resist hybridization” (1997b, p. 3). To resinicize or be “Chinese again” involves returning to primordial identity and the essentialist “cultural stuff” (Barth 1969) in which “identity” is bounded. This chapter endeavors to examine the cultural politics of the Chinese Indonesians in negotiating between hybridity and identity, as well as the underlying power dynamics in such negotiations. Lastly, in light of the rise of China, this chapter will explore the cultural and political economy of resinicization in post-Suharto Indonesia.
... Existing scholarship has approached the institutionalisation of Chinese language education in Malaysia from historical and policy perspectives (e.g. Tan 1997;Lee 2011;Santhiram and Tan 2017). Some scholars have examined independent Chinese schools vis-à-vis the formation of the multi-ethnic nation (Kua 1985;Tan and Santhiram 2010), while others have focused on how they safeguard the inter-generational continuity of Chinese cultures (Chin 2001;Collins 2006;Tan and Teoh 2016). ...
Article
Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography of Chinese Malaysian students’ educational mobility, this article discusses the experiences, everyday practices and future aspirations of my queer informants who went to Taiwan for university and returned to Malaysia after graduation. Through examining their narratives, this article has three objectives. First, it demonstrates how tensions between my informants’ ethnic and sexual identities are reconfigured and how new forms of queer relationality and subject positions have emerged via a distinctive process of student migration across the Chinese-speaking world. Second, it contributes to the theorisation of transnational queer Chinese cultures vis-à-vis an articulation of queer Sinophone Malaysia. Third, by way of conclusion, I present a case study of transnational queer activism and demonstrate how it is practised by returned migrants in everyday life settings.
... The framing of the South China Sea disputes by Sin Chew was closest to that of People's Daily and Global Times, where the coverage was pervasive with supportive valence towards China. It is interesting to note that scholars (Lee 2011;Lim et al. 2014;Suryadinata 2007;Tan et al. 2012) recognised that there are still many Malaysian Chinese that are proud of their links to China, where their forefathers originated. Significantly, Ou (2009) explicated that there exists a symbiosis between the Chineselanguage press and the Chinese community in Southeast Asia. ...
Article
The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan. Framing an analysis of international news and diplomatic relations allows researchers to examine how news organisations provide their audiences with context regarding news stories through content promotion and exclusion. This study examined how the Malaysian and Chinese newspapers reported about the South China Sea disputes and Malaysia–China bilateral relations. The findings indicated that the newspapers reported the topics with different intensity and prominence, while different news sources were employed. It was also found that conflict was a salient frame used by the various newspapers. In addition, this study found that the Malaysian and Chinese newspapers exhibited different valence in reporting the South China Sea disputes. Among the Malaysian newspapers under examination in this study, Sin Chew Daily (a Chinese-language daily) employed the most similar frame to that of the Chinese newspapers, where the coverage was pervasive with supportive valence towards China.
... However, the close connections between these Chinese schools and the Chinese government caused the colonizer to implement a couple of policies to restrain Chinese schools from flourishing. One such policy was to exclude Chinese education from teacher training institutions, primary education, and secondary education (Lee, 2011). Another was to convert Chinese secondary schools to national-medium secondary schools (Tan & Santhiran, 2014). ...
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Aiming to explore factors affecting Malaysian Chinese parents in sending their children to either national secondary schools or Chinese independent schools, 494 parents were surveyed using a questionnaire. Results showed that parents who sent their children to Chinese independent schools have different priorities compared to those who sent theirs to national secondary schools—the former are concerned with teachers’ quality, chances of learning the Chinese culture and Mandarin while the latter are concerned with tuition fees and strategic location. In general, the finding that Malaysian Chinese parents take cultural and language factors into account when choosing a suitable school for their children is interesting because both are seldom listed as important.
... All secondary schools were required to employ Malay as the instructional language thereafter the enactment of 1961 Education Act. 12 Under this Act, Chinese secondary schools which insisted not to change their Chinese instructional language were separated from the mainstream to become ICSS. ICSS adopt Chinese language as the main medium of instruction for all academic subjects while Malay and English are taught as language subjects. ...
The purpose of this paper is to discuss some language issues and the relation to ethnic identity among the Malaysian Chinese secondary school students who are undergoing their mother tongue education. By setting the context of mother tongue, this paper reveals the pattern of students’ language usage in various situations, language proficiency, language preference and their perspectives on language. Findings show the relationship between students’ ethnic identity and their preference towards Chinese language, as well as their perspectives on the language. Both of the factors also significantly predict ethnic identity of the same group of respondents. This study offers implications for the Chinese schools, educators, and parents regarding the passing down of the mother tongue and identity while concurrently embracing the diversity in a multi-ethnic society.
... A gradual conversion of English-medium schools into Malay-medium took place in the 1970's (Platt, 1976) [38], which also marked the advent of the New Economic Policy in Malaysia. Following the enactment of the National Language Act 1967, the Malaysian authority took steps to convert all National-type English schools, both primary and secondary schools, from 1968 till 1982 (Lee, 2011) [28]. English was retained as a second language taught in all primary and secondary schools as well as a prominent reading language in tertiary settings, though it functioned as the medium of instruction in very few settings (Platt, 1976) [38]. ...
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Language policy and planning (LPP) is defined as large-scale national planning, usually undertaken by governments, meant to influence, if not change, ways of speaking or literacy practices within a society (Baldauf, 2006 [5]). As a multilingual society, Malaysia is determined to preserve its linguistic diversity through its LPP. So far, Malaysia is still struggling to draw up a policy that encompasses the demands of all its linguistic groups across the country, which is shown by its constant policy revisions. Therefore, this paper aims to trace the development of LPP for English in Malaysian education, and it examines the reasons as well as the impacts of language planning and language policy to the competency and proficiency of English among Malaysians. The study is conducted based on secondary research, whereby materials such as journals, books and dissertations are used as references. Apart from gaining an insight of the implemented language policies in Malaysia, the findings reveal the social reality of contrasting LPP initiatives in Malaysia, in which English proficiency levels among students are experiencing a sharp decline, contrary to the amassing significance of the English language in the global arena. Indeed, the effects of LPP, such as the strengthening of nationalist ethos as well as the increasing burden of teaching staff, should be taken into consideration while drafting up and revising LPP to ensure the sustainability of a just and fair society.
... Secara kolektifnya ia dikenali sebagai Dong Jiao Zong (DJZ). 11 Tanpa pengiktirafan rasmi dan pementauan terhad kerajaan, DJZ telah membangunkan diploma tinggi persekolahannya sendiri (dipanggil UEC), meskipun mereka mendorong pelajar-pelajar mengambil peperiksaan awam kerajaan, SPM juga. 12 Kerana kurangnya sokongan dan pengiktirafan kerajaan, dari semasa ke semasa, DJZ dan pendokongnya membangunkan mentaliti terkepung mengenai sekolah Cina. ...
... While Anglo-Malay education received government funding and support, the development of vernacular schools was very much left to the respective communities. The British colonial administration's laissez-faire attitude towards vernacular schools changed in the 1920s, when Chinese vernacular schools were placed under government surveillance to curb the rise of communism following the 1911 Kuomintang Revolution in China (see Lee, 2011). The prioritization of Anglo-Malay education is clearly seen in the education system in the Federated Malay States in the 1930s (Figure 1). ...
Chapter
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This chapter provides an overview of Malaysia's skilled migration through the concept of 'education-induced migration'. The focus of this chapter is twofold: firstly, to explain how their migration pathways need to be contextualized to Malaysia's race-stratified education system that was institutionalized during the British colonial period; and secondly, to explain how Malaysia's skilled migration needs to be seen as a continuum from young people's education migration pathways. This chapter consists of five sections. The first section introduces the theoretical and empirical backgrounds to Malaysia's education-induced skilled migration. The second section provides the historical background to the institutionalization and development of Malaysia's race-stratified education system. The third section gives an overview of the geographies of higher education for Malaysian students in public, private and overseas institutions. The fourth section reviews available data suggesting evidence of education-induced skilled migration amongst the Malaysian diaspora, and describes two examples of such migration paths amongst non-bumiputera student-turned Malaysian skilled migrants in Singapore. The final section concludes this chapter and calls for researchers to adopt a continuum lens in understanding young people's learning-to-laboring migration processes.
... Ee Hoek's brother Kia Soong, who met us at the cemetery in Batu Pahat, was director of the Malaysian Chinese Resource and Research Center (1985-90), has been a lecturer in Singapore and Malaya, a school director, and member of the Malaysian Parliament, and is an activist and author of a series of books on the Chinese struggle for education as well as other political issues. At the time of Malaysian independence, there were 1,500 Chinese schools (Kua Kia Soong 1999;Lee Ting Hui 2011;Tan Yao Sua 2010). None have been permitted to be built since, and today, with double the Chinese population, there are 300 fewer schools, serving both Chinese and 80,000 Malay and Indian students. ...
Article
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Social theory generated in and about Singapore lies in psychic depths and archive fevers of an immigrant society subjected to accelerated social changes that devalue the lives of those marked by aging. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Singapore, weaving together four kinds of data sets—gerontology psychiatric research and intervention; changing ritual forms; analytically phenomenological, paraethnographic theater and stories; and student video and drama projects—I argue that new literacies, pedagogies, and practices can foster enriched community life in posttraumatic, aging societies. Focusing on meaning and affect, and referencing Derrida on hauntology, archive fever, sur-vie, and grammatology (as syntax of social configurations within which aging occurs, or, sociocultural texts, narratives, and symbols), I build on the ethnographic literatures on aging and explore strong metaphors of monstrous history (taowu), ghosts (hantu), obliviousness brought by prosperity (fat years), and intercultural repetition compulsions of unfilial children (Lear).
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The years between 1955 and 1965 marked an extremely turbulent period for Singapore. In the span of a decade, Singapore first transitioned from a British colony to self-government in 1959. It gained independence through the merger with the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 but was asked to be separated in August 1965.
Article
China’s rise as a global economic powerhouse has led to a surge in Chinese language-learning worldwide, including in Southeast Asia. This article examines how this phenomenon has unfolded in Brunei, a Muslim and English–Malay bilingual majority country. Drawing on participant observations at two private Chinese middle schools, 19 interviews with teachers and parents, and 10 focus group discussions with students conducted in 2018, we find that there are discrepant discourses and multifaceted realities within and between different groups. While parents and teachers articulate the economic and cultural benefits of learning Chinese, students struggle to understand these and instead articulate banal motivations (e.g. being able to communicate with non-English-conversant family members and foreigners). Contextualising our findings to the historic marginalisation of the ethnic Chinese diasporic minority community in Brunei, we argue that the cumulative effects of educational and non-educational institutional barriers (e.g. lack of teaching materials relevant to the local context, and reliance on foreign teachers) hamper the development of effective and comprehensive Chinese language-learning in Brunei. Our findings suggest that, to date, the rise of China has had limited impact on Chinese language-learning among Chinese students and their parents in Brunei.
Article
Drawing on archival sources in Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States, this article explores late-colonial anxieties about the influence of Chinese nationalism in Malaya (and especially among students in Chinese-medium schools) in the lead up to self-government in 1957. It demonstrates that the colonial fear of communism in Malaya was not always synonymous with the fear of cultural influence from “new China” and that the “rise of China” in the mid-1950s was viewed as a challenge to colonially sanctioned programs for “Malayanization.” More importantly, in exploring some of the ways in which the colonial state mobilized anti-communist cultural workers from Hong Kong to help counter the perceived threat from China, the article argues that more focus should be placed on the role of colonial agency in shaping “Sinophone” cultural expression in Southeast Asia during this period.
Article
The history of modern Chinese schools in Singapore may be traced back to the early 20th century, when efforts to provide vernacular education in the British colony were made by community leaders across Chinese dialect groups, with support of the Qing Empire. Only a handful of these were selected as elite schools for bilingual education under the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) introduced in 1979 in independent Singapore. This paper examines the historical trajectories of these early schools from early association with Chinese nationalism to becoming multi-ethnic schools or simply defunct. It will focus on the case of the former Yeung Ching School in ‘Chinatown’ catering to the Cantonese community, to explore how the legacy of a Chinese school may be impacted by state formation and urban development since the 1950s, and also to point out a gap in current heritagisation pertaining to the role of education in shaping cultural identities.
Article
Lim Chin Siong was the undisputed political leader of the anticolonial and Malayan left-wing in Singapore until his detention without trial in 1963 ended his political career. That he had a major impact on Singapore’s decolonisation is beyond dispute – indeed, both Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew formulated their merger policy specifically in response to Lim’s politics and his values. Yet Lim remains a poorly understood figure because of a lack of sources and a historiography written almost entirely from his opponents’ perspectives. Reassessing existing literature in view of recently declassified British archives, this essay pieces together Lim’s articulation of three tenets in the political thinking that guided his tactics for social mobilisation: anticolonial unity, non-violence, and popular sovereignty. Lim put these principles into practice with great success, becoming the leader of the largest and most formative nationalist movement Singapore has ever known. Understanding Malayan nationalism in Singapore – and its successor, Singaporean nationalism – is thus impossible without understanding Lim Chin Siong.
Chapter
This chapter provides an overview of Malaysia’s skilled migration through the concept of “education-induced migration.” The focus of this chapter is twofold: firstly, to explain how their migration pathways need to be contextualized to Malaysia’s race-stratified education system that was institutionalized during the British colonial period and, secondly, to explain how Malaysia’s skilled migration needs to be seen as a continuum from young people’s education migration pathways. This chapter consists of five sections. The first section introduces the theoretical and empirical backgrounds to Malaysia’s education-induced skilled migration. The second section provides the historical background to the institutionalization and development of Malaysia’s race-stratified education system. The third section gives an overview of the geographies of higher education for Malaysian students in public, private, and overseas institutions. The fourth section reviews available data suggesting evidence of education-induced skilled migration among the Malaysian diaspora and describes two examples of such migration paths among non-bumiputera student-turned Malaysian skilled migrants in Singapore. The final section concludes this chapter and calls for researchers to adopt a continuum lens in understanding young people’s learning-to-laboring migration processes.
Chapter
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This chapter discusses the three colonial legacies of race, education, and citizenship/nationality in the Malaysian context using a post colonial perspective. It traces thematically the intertwined developments of these three colonial legacies over the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial period. The first theme focuses on the materialisation of race and Malay ‘indigeneity’. The second theme analyses the racialisation of citizenship, the institutionalisation of racial politics, and the securitisation of race. The third theme focuses on the development of a race-stratified national education system and an internalised aspiration for Western/overseas education. This chapter concludes with a post colonial discussion of the linkages between race, education, and citizenship, with particular emphasis on what their interconnections mean for migration.
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