August 23 , 2002

No Objection To Malaysians In Singaporean Schools - Syed Hamid

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 23 (Bernama) -- The government has no objection to Malaysian students attending schools in Singapore, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Syed Jaafar Albar said today.
"If they can afford it, then why not but when they come back, they should be equally fluent in Bahasa Melayu," he said.
Syed Hamid said that the issue of Malaysian students enrolling at schools across the Causeway should not be turned into a racial or ethnic issue.
"We are a multiracial country...we should be sensitive in bringing up issues like this. And any Malaysian citizen wanting to acquire knowledge is free to do so...they should not be questioned," he told reporters after opening the Foreign Ministry bazaar at Wisma Putra here.
The Utusan Malaysia, in its front page report today, said that there are about 7,000 Malaysian Chinese students attending secondary schools in Singapore where the medium of instruction is English.
The report quoted Federation of Peninsula Malay Students (GPMS) president Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim as saying that these Malaysian students enrol in secondary schools in Singapore for the sake of learning English.
Two months ago, the government announced its intention to use English in the teaching of Science and Mathematics starting next year but certain segments of the society including Chinese educational groups and political parties raised strong objection.
The government, in its argument, said that the move was to lift the standard of English among students in the country, but those opposing the proposal felt that the move would reduce the importance of the mother tongue of students.
"Our aim when the idea was mooted was to increase English proficiency among Malaysian students and for them to acquire knowledge especially in the field of information technology. All the knowledge and information are available in English so it is only wise that we learn the language," he said.
Syed Hamid said that translating these reading materials into Bahasa Melayu, or any other language, would take time and in the meantime, the capacity of students in mastering the English language would further worsen.
The minister said that sending students to Singapore to acquire knowledge does not mean that Malaysians lack confidence in the country's education system.
However, he said that it would be better if parents send their children to schools locally as this would reduce the outflow of the Malaysian Ringgit.
He also advised the media to be very careful over issues such as this as in this case, it gives an impression that only one race was sending their children for schooling in Singapore.
"It is important for the media to play its role and not make a racial issue out of this," he said.