Posted tagged ‘reform’

Death knoll tolls for the ailing Dewan Negara

June 3, 2013

With the latest fiasco of appointing non-elected ministers before being made Senators, the role of the Dewan Negara has come under severe scrutiny and subjected to public discussion while calls are being made for its entire abolishment. BN has been using the Dewan Negara as a back door entry for cabinet appointments and rewarding party loyalist with golden handshakes in the form of a senator’s post.

Unless the Dewan redeems its original role and purpose, such calls may become more frequent, vocal and may lead to unicameral parliament. One of the significant roles of the Dewan Negara was to give representation to the states in the federal legislature. The Senate is a federal Chamber, where the representatives of each state are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the state. Since members of Dewan Rakyat are directly elected, the Dewan Negara was intended to be the representative forum of the states. The Senate, being the representative forum of the states, strengthens the country’s federal -state relations and promotes national integration.

Unfortunately in the 56 years of uninterrupted BN rule, the constitution was amended to systematically erode the power of states and empower the federal government, which is contrary to the spirit of the original constitution. The  Senate from being a council of states has now become Dewan Negara (chamber of the nation) 

The original constitution provides for only 16 senators to be appointed by the king on the advice of prime minister, with the intention to give the states some say over federal policy whilst state senators outnumber by 22:16. But subsequent constitutional amendments have allowed the present 26 state senators to be overwhelmed by 44 federal government appointed senators. Currently 8 senators are appointed by the 4 Pakatan Rakyat state assemblies including Kedah while the remaining 62 are BN appointments. Such an unfavorable ratio between the state elected and federal appointed Senators has degraded the esteem, dignity and purpose of the senate. The senate has become a rubber stamp and a chamber to reward the has-beens who have served their masters well. The 44 appointed senator’s’ second term renewal is at the discretion of the prime minister leading to political allies and loyalist getting reappointed. 

In India, the upper house is well regarded and remains a house of dignity for its constitutional role. It has 250 members with 12 nominated by the President of India for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. The remainder 238 members of the body are elected by the states and the two territorial legislatures (New Delhi and Pondicherry). The number of members from a state depends on the population of the state (e.g. 31 from Uttar Pradesh, one from Nagaland, 18 from Tamil Nadu, 3 from New Delhi and 1 from Pondicherry). Seats are allotted in proportion to the population of each state or union territory. The Vice President of India (currently, Hamid Ansari) is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions.

The Dewan Negara too could emulate the population proportional representation from each state and limit the number of federal appointed senators. The federal appointments too should give the minority groups like orang asli, disabled activist, environmentalist, consumers, Artist, NGOs etc a voice. The GE 13 results clearly reflect the people’s wish to strengthen the competency, relevance and integrity of the federal institutions.     

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Tamil Schools need to redeem and reform itself to remain relevant to the aspiration of students and parents

August 21, 2010

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.