Tamil schools student intakes have increased gradually in schools located in towns and at the same time gradually reduced in estate schools. So much so Tamil schools located in towns are over crowed and have outstripped the physical infrastructure. Teachers are conducting classes in cabins and canteens which are congested and narrow for classroom purpose. On the other hand estate schools have been reduced to the minimum where teachers outnumber the students. The ministry of education seems to be reluctant and don’t have the political will to promptly provide the necessary classroom facilities and teaching staffs to these bustling urban Tamil Schools. It was never their priority and Tamil schools were left lurching way behind National schools. It was done deliberately to force Tamils to die off naturally without government being blamed for closing down Tamil Schools. The way UMNO members of parliament speak on Tamil and Chinese schools, in parliament, are the testimony of this claim.
The BN government is caught in a quagmire after the post 2008 political tsunami. They don’t have the wish and will to support Tamil schools but have to address these needs of Tamil Schools for vote bank purpose. Tamil Schools have always been a political issue among the Malaysian Indians. The Selangor State has taken the lead and has been supportive to the welfare of Tamil Schools even though education is under the preview and control of federal government. These monetary provisions of the state government has prompted some Tamil school Parent teachers Associations to demand that the money be handed over to them directly than to give NGOs who undertake curriculum development and under achievers enhancement work. Should the state government support NGOs undertaking educational development or give money to PTAs who use it other general purposes?
Indian students who are economically weaker generally under perform in schools. Big numbers of these students go to Tamil Schools. Because of their weaker economic background they do not get educational support and extra help from parents and they depend solely on teachers to uplift them. Tamils schools do not have the extra resources to give these additional support needed by students. But Tamil school teachers in estates cannot give any excuse for their poor performance. Besides, these students learn their subjects in their mother tongue. Their spoken lingua franca is Tamil and their English and national Language lessons are too little and do not make them proficient in these languages. The mindset of parents, teachers and Tamil politicians are all about how many A s these students can secure in standard 6 examination (UPSR). The students are not at all prepared by teachers to face the new multi racial challenges in secondary schools which are in national language, multi racial and do not bother about welfare and non-achievements about these Tamil students.
The students are left to fend for themselves in secondary schools with severe handicap of spoken national and English languages. They feeling inferior about their economic background and do not have the courage to speak to students of other races or their teachers about their problems. Those few who can overcome these limitations will be left off the hook and they will take care and work hard on their own. But the majority gets stuck to their own Tamil school friends speaking the same language and with the same mind set comforting each other. Teachers with their big classes may not know the underlying problems. Dedicated teachers are far and few left in our schools. From here starts the gap between these students and teachers and as the lesson progresses these students are left way behind. These students become problematic and start picking fights over small issues and in a racial divided country like Malaysia everything has racial connotations. There are secondary schools that call up politicians to talk to these students. Teachers do not take it upon themselves to know the real problem. Everything left to politicians to solve. Schools have degraded to rote learning and not for critical, analytical and problem solving education. Large numbers of Indians students from Tamil school dropout or poorly equipped excel in PMR and SPM examinations.
Tamil schools need to reform themselves and become relevant to the advancement of students in their career. Their objective should be to make students excel in secondary schools. The irony is Tamil school heads and supervisors are all interested in securing jobs for themselves and pleasing their immediate ministry bosses and their political bosses. Tamil School heads do not speak up against their bosses. They don’t have courage to champion Tamil school problems. This perverse and selfish desire is ruining the future of many Tamil school students. They become casualties in secondary schools. PTAs with political ambitions and inclinations are speeding up this process. It is high time that the educational NGOs, political leaders and community leaders take note of this glaring failure of the education system and work towards instilling skills and values that will inculcate confidence, maturity and broad mindedness to survive in hostile and new environments.
MIC the political party that guarded and championed Tamil Schools for 53 years became irrelevant and lost all confidence and credibility of the Indian community. Tamil schools gained prominence even among English educated parents because of poorer education standards and poor quality of learning and teaching in national schools. These parents may not be keen on Tamil schools but they are all for the learning of mother tongue for their children. Besides national schools have over the years become Islamic religious schools and are indifferent and couldn’t be bothered to the religious sensitiveness of other students. Secondary school headmasters can be intolerant to the presence of other student religious bodies in schools and even pass racial derogatory remarks on non Malays students. It is this external reasons that give support for the increased student intakes in Tamil Schools. But Tamil schools need to add value to their students advancement towards secondary schools and thereafter.
Tamil Schools are here to stay and therefore educationist, social workers and NGOs need to come together and brain storm the internal reform and transformation needed to it more relevant in the wake of changes taking place both nationally and internationally. Students of Tamil Schools must be broad and open minded to comprehend the changes taking place and make informed decisions to uplift the community along with their advancement.