Chinese education groups are starting a one-million signature petition drive against the Education Ministry’s proposal to increase the amount of time Bahasa Malaysia is taught at Chinese primary schools.

Under a government plan, Bahasa Malaysia will be taught for 270 minutes weekly, while English will be taught for just 150 minutes.

Since July, Chinese education groups have proposed compromised solutions but talks appear to have failed.

Chinese education groups like are largely behind the operations of almost all Chinese primary schools in the country — are against proposals to drastically increase the weekly Bahasa Malaysia teaching time to 270 minutes, from 180 minutes presently.

The Government’s proposal applies to Chinese primary school students from Primary Four to Primary Six and is supposed to start next year.

The ministry claims the proposal is to improve proficiency in the national language, especially for pupils who go on to national secondary schools where Bahasa Malaysia is the language of instruction.

Chinese education groups, however, say the increase for Bahasa Malaysia should be lessened and with the time saved given to English classes.

The groups are proposing that Bahasa Malaysia be taught 240 minutes and English, 210 minutes.

So far, Chinese newspapers have reported parents were mostly more supportive of Jiao Zong’s proposal.

Parents were quoted as saying the Government’s plans overemphasised Bahasa Malaysia at the expense of English. Other parents have pointed out that the Government was wrong to assume all pupils would be able to excel in all three languages.

There are 1,294 aided Chinese primary schools in Malaysia. The schools are allocated Federal Government funds annually for operation purposes. The school boards are responsible for raising funds to build and enhance facilities.

More than any other states in Malaysia, Sarawak’s Chinese primary schools are attended by large numbers of bumiputra students. In rural areas like in Betong, at SJK(C) Chung Hua Maludam, the school has a student population that comprises roughly 90% non-Chinese.

These schools were mainly built decades ago by local communities — with large amounts of funds raised from urban centres — to alleviate the shortage of schools in rural areas.

-The Star