Moving forward together with MIC
4:00pm, Sun: opinion Contrary to the critics, MIC is the largest grouping
of organised Indians which has gained the confidence of a majority of
This is reflected in every general elections held in Malaysia. While
there is democratic space to reflect critically, it is imperative that
there is a uniting of different sections of the community in addressing
the social needs, issues and concerns of the community.
This is the 'smart partnership' so often highlighted in contemporary
governance between public, private and civil society.
No one organisation whether political, socio-economic, religious, cultural,
education can effectively claim a total monopoly of the community. It
is the MIC that is the lead organisation for the Indian community in
While individuals might differ in their understanding and perception,
they cannot deny the role the MIC has played and is playing in championing
the cause of the Indian Malaysian community under the leadership of
S Samy Vellu.
One key area is Tamil school education. Over the years there has been
tremendous effort in championing this issue through the rebuilding of
Tamil schools and infrastructure developments to ensure a better quality
of teaching and environment in the schools.
Numerous dialogues and sessions have been held with headmasters, teachers
and parents on the one hand and with education ministry officials on
the other. This has borne fruit as shown by the very positive results
obtained by Tamil schools in last year's UPSR exam.
This is an ongoing process and together we will strive. With an increasing
number of Tamil parents sending their children to Tamil schools as reflected
in the recent intake, it is important for the community to lobby the
government for the improved facilities and a quality of teaching-learning
S Samy Vellu no doubt will be at the head of leading new initiatives
for the Tamil schools.
The recent New Straits Times article on Tamil education published on
Jan 9, while highlighting some critical dimensions, contained a number
of inaccuracies and a distortion of reality.
First, no details were given on the NST online poll, namely the background
of the parents who responded to the questions of Tamil school education.
A majority of NST readers would be middle-class English-educated Indians
who have negative view of Tamil schools and who themselves have not
been to Tamil schools.
Methodologically, this sample would not be reflective of the entire
Tamil population or the aspirations of parents who place their confidence
in Tamil schools.
Second, on the issue of inadequate facilities in Tamil schools, while
there is room for improvements, there have been systematic attempts
to improve the conditions.
There might be shortage of classrooms in certain schools however based
on a recent survey undertaken by the Yayasan Strategik Social, but there
aren't 'hundreds of Tamil schools without blackboards, chalk, tables
and chairs' as claimed by one Sathish Ramachandran.
He must produce a list of these 'hundreds of schools' or apologise to
the community for painting a negative picture of Tamil schools and Tamil
It is this negative image projection and stereotyping which is re-enforcing
images of the Indian community as backward and non-progressive community
in modern Malaysia. It is a sweeping over-generalisation that must be
substantiated with accurate facts.
Third, while I recognise the zeal and commitment of certain individuals
for Tamil school education, I disagree with their narrow focus on only
primary education as the solution to the community's social mobility.
The educational and human resource development of the community has
to be reviewed from pre-school to postgraduate qualifications.
A number of critical points have fail to be recognised. If a former
Tamil school student has managed to become a lawyer, his aspiration
must be for all Tamil school students to pursue higher education.
In this context the new MIC university will be an additional avenue
to apply to. Education in the United Kingdom is not only outside the
reach of many parents who send their children to Tamil school but also
for most middle-class families due to the high exchange rate.
However, the MIC university will provide opportunities not only in medicine
but also in science and technology. Access to affordable higher education
is one critical dimension that must be addressed to ensure the community
has more options before them.
I am surprise by the language used by one S Pasupathi in the NST article.
He said: "I don't know where the leaders have their brains".
I am even more concerned by the editorial policy of the New Straits
Times in publishing it. This statement and unprofessional approach raises
questions as to the true intention of the speaker, writer and publisher.
Why can't these individuals recognise that the Barisan National-led
government has given the approval to MIC to set up this Indian Malaysian-owned
university? It is the only one in the country with a majority Indian
ownership and where the vice-chancellor will be an Indian.
Why is it when the MCA received approval for its university, the Chinese
community rallied behind it but in the case of the MIC, some so-called
professional Indians decried the achievement?
There are many differences of opinion within the Chinese community yet
on education they work together. Why can't the Indians do likewise?
Strength in unity
Indians must work together. For far too long sections within the community
have sought to build their little kingdoms that keep the community divided.
MIC provides the largest base for common networking and joint action.
Let us find common ground, pool our resources and build our community.
Let this be a year of vision and goal-getting, putting our differences
aside and mobilising the entire community - political, social, religious,
business and educational sections - for the advancement of the community
and nation. After all, united we stand, divided we fall.
DR DENISON JAYASOORIA is the exective director of the Yayasan Strategik
Sosial, the community development arm of the MIC.
The sad reality of Tamil schools
5:12pm, Fri: I refer to Dr Denison Jayasooria's contention that the
performance of Tamil schools has improved through the efforts of MIC
(Moving forward together with MIC, Jan 13). He refers to the positive
results in last year's UPSR exam.
What he has not highlighted is that Tamil schools consistently underperform
in the UPSR compared with national and Chinese schools. Last year, only
33 percent of Tamil school students achieved higher than the minimum
required grade of C in all subjects compared with 47 percent for Chinese
schools and 52 percent for national schools.
On the other hand, seven percent of Tamil school students scored grades
D/E in all subjects compared with three percent for Chinese schools
and six percent for national schools.
The performance of Tamil school students in Bahasa Malaysia is appalling.
Only 55 percent attained grade C or better in the Ujian Kefahaman compared
with 65 percent for Chinese schools and 88 percent for national schools.
It was even worse for the Ujian Penulisan: only 40 percent attained
grade C or better compared with 57 percent for Chinese schools and 84
percent for national schools.
The underachievement in Bahasa Malaysia is a critical factor in the
overall underachievement of Tamil school students in secondary schools.
Going by the results for 2001, 60 percent of students from Tamil schools
enter remove class without even the minimum level of writing skills
in Bahasa Malaysia. How can these students be ever expected to cope
in secondary schools or make it to the MIC university?
MIC has to face the reality of the failure of the Tamil school system
and not delude itself and the community by highlighting the one percent
of students from Tamil schools scoring As in all subjects in the UPSR.
It is the other 99 percent that the MIC has to worry about. It is a
fact that most Tamil school students are from the lower income group
and face the disadvantages and barriers of poverty and social marginalisation.
However, by no means are these students inferior in learning aptitude
and capabilities. What they need is a nurturing school environment and
innovative learning programmes to help them overcome their social and
The sad reality is that what MIC can actually deliver to the Tamil school
system is very limited. MIC is unable to alter the gross inequities
arising from misguided national education policies related to resource
allocation, curriculum and management of vernacular schools.
It is also unable to enhance the commitment and professionalism of Tamil
school teachers and headmasters despite many of them being MIC members
and active MIC politicians. Nor can the community expect MIC to alleviate
the myriad economic, housing and social conditions of the families of
children attending Tamil schools.
MIC's role in the Tamil education system therefore remains as one of
establishing political patronage and perpetuating the politics of chauvinism
in Malaysia to ensure that the party remains relevant to the Indian
The party therefore neither has the political will nor the principled
leadership required to champion Tamil education (it will be interesting
to determine how many MIC leaders send their children to Tamil schools).
This is why the call by Jayasooria to "work together (with MIC)
through common networking and joint action" sounds rather hollow.
The Tamil education system can only be improved through concerted local
level initiatives by parents, committed community leaders, teachers,
headmasters and concerned individuals.
These initiatives should focus on key areas such as strengthening early
childhood care and education, modernising learning facilities, modes
and the school environment, enhancing the effectiveness of teaching
Bahasa Malaysia and improving the service conditions, professionalism
and commitment of teachers and headmasters.
If MIC is sincere about improving Tamil education, it should commit
the required financial resources to these initiatives and de-politicise
the Tamil education system.
The question of whether MIC needs to set up a university or not is irrelevant
to the thousands of Tamil school children who are being condemned to
a lifetime of underachievement every year.
Saturday January 19
MIC's university project a misplaced
2:58pm, Sat: opinion Yayasan Strategik Sosial executive director Dr
Denison Jayasooria's opinion piece entitled 'Moving forward together
with MIC' on Jan 13 in malaysiakini was obviously written to rebut the
views expressed by two concerned individuals in a New Straits Times
article on Jan 9.
This is a vintage MIC diversion tactic; question the motive of the writer
and publisher, attempt to discredit the dissenters, raise irrelevant
matters to mislead readers and avoid discussing the core issues.
One of the concerns raised by lawyer and Tamil educationist S Pasupathi
in the NST article was the rationale for MIC to squeeze millions of
ringgit out of a poor community to set up a private university while
the foundation of pre-school and primary education is still weak.
True, individuals and numerous organisations, including the MIC, have
made efforts over the years to improve Tamil schools. But much more
needs to be done to lay a stronger foundation at pre-school and primary
Tamil school levels. Only with a sound primary education will children
from low-income families be able to move-on to secondary and tertiary
It is in this context that the plan by MIC to spend over RM400 million
on a private university was criticised. This is a lot of money to be
raised from a community mired in social problems. A more beneficial
step will be to spend such funds in areas of immediate need.
Step one - prepare more children from poor families to qualify to enter
existing public universities and private colleges. With better results,
they will qualify for scholarships and other loan schemes.
Children from middle class families who want to take up medicine are
able to find places in medical colleges in India and Indonesia. There
is no urgent need to invest limited funds in a new private medical college.
Besides, there is the International Medical College in Kuala Lumpur
and the Melaka-Manipal Medical College.
Step two - to provide skills and create employment opportunities for
school dropouts who may otherwise be drawn into the world of gangs and
Pride and symbolism
In light of this reality, consider Dr Denison's arguments:
'Why can't these individuals recognise that the Barisan National-led
government has given the approval to MIC to set up this Indian Malaysian-owned
university? It is the only one in the country with a majority Indian
ownership, and where the vice-chancellor will be an Indian.
'Why is it when the MCA received approval for its university, the Chinese
community rallied behind it, but in the case of the MIC - some so-called
professional Indians decried the achievement? There are many differences
of opinion within the Chinese community yet on education they work together.
Why can't the Indians do likewise?'
Flabbergasting, indeed! So, it is all about pride and symbolism. Over
RM400 million is to be invested just to have the satisfaction of an
MIC-owned university and an Indian vice-chancellor.
It is precisely these misplaced priorities that well-meaning members
of the community are contesting.
The question is not about 'recognising' the fact that MIC has obtained
government approval for a university. It is great that MIC will be setting
up the university for the advancement of Indian Malaysians. It will
be even better if the university provides free education for Indian
Malaysians from poor backgrounds.
But shouldn't the MIC leadership finance the university entirely from
their own resources? It is not that Indian Malaysians are unwilling
to rise to the occasion. The bone of contention is the further taxing
of a poor community to finance the project.
Indian, however, have rallied to the support of such projects for their
advancement in the past.
Take the example of Maika Holdings. There was a groundswell of support
for the venture. Ordinary Indian Malaysians sold their goats and cows,
pawned their family jewellery and took out loans to invest in the venture.
Over RM100 million was raised. That was about 20 years ago. By now the
investment should have grown to over RM1 billion with possible ownership
in several public-listed companies.
Sadly, its story today needs no elaboration. The goodwill, enthusiasm
and trust of the community was betrayed. The villains: mismanagement,
political interference and appointments.
Today, the MIC is back again with its exhausted cry of Indian Malaysian
unity and advancement. It is too late to pound any sense into MIC's
mandore-style leadership. The project has started anyway.
Hopefully, this time there will be no political interference. And we
ask that a more professional management be put in place for the sake
of the community.
S NAGARAJAN is a former journalist and currently a research student
at the Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research, Universiti Malaya.