The 1950s and early 1960s were two crucial periods in the educational development of Malaysia. The transition from colonial rule to self government during these two periods had brought to the fore the adverse effect of the segregated school systems created by the British colonial government on the role of education as a tool for nation building. It had also heightened the sharp disparity in educational advancement between the Malays and the non-Malays, especially the Chinese. This was the result of the educational policy implemented by the British colonial government. The British colonial government implemented a laissez faire educational policy for the Chinese by allowing them to pursue their educational interests. On the other hand, a dualistic educational policy was imposed on the Malays in which only a small minority of Malays, largely the scions of the aristocracy, was provided with an elitist English education, while the Malay masses, largely rural-based, were purportedly encouraged by the colonial government to attend Malay schools, which had limited instrumental value. Both policies were implemented within the segregated system of education and served the “divide and rule” purpose of the British colonial government. The 1950s was a period of decolonization after the Second World War. Realizing that eventual self government was inevitable, the British colonial government started to initiate educational policies to unify the 6
segregated school systems in the Federation of Malaya that had flourished along with the large-scale immigration of Chinese and Indians into the Malay Peninsula in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The segregated school systems that used different media of instruction were a direct consequence of the divide and rule policy implemented by the British colonial government to protect its colonial interest. But things changed with the impending process of decolonization and eventual self-government. The stand of the British colonial government on the segregated school systems took a turn as such a system of education no longer served its purpose. The British colonial government considered the segregated school systems as dysfunctional and malintegrative and efforts were thus undertaken to restructure the educational system. Apart from the role of education in the context of nation building, the British colonial government was also well aware of the urgent need to advance the education of the Malays which had lagged behind the Chinese. It was within this process of educational restructuring that the roles of Lim and Aminuddin had taken different trajectories. Efforts by the British colonial government to restructure the educational system in the Federation of Malaya were aimed at the primary schools. The British colonial government, through the Barnes Committee formed in 1950, had recommended the establishment of a single-type primary school or national school open to pupils of all races. This recommendation was underpinned by the objective to build a common Malayan nationality by re-organizing the existing schools on a new inter-racial basis (Federation of Malaya, 1951a:20). In essence, the national schools were bilingual schools that used Malay and English concurrently as the main media of instruction (ibid.:22). In other words, the Barnes Committee intended to make English and Malay, the two official languages of the Federation, the main thrust of the nation building process. This was a clear departure from the earlier stand of the British colonial government, which had favored English as the sole language to foster inter-racial unity. The First Report of the Central Advisory Committee on Education (CACE) or commonly known as the Holgate Report, named after the chairman of the CACE, H. R. Holgate, released before the Barnes Report had categorically stated that “the one language all would accept is English, while Malay – the other official language – will continue to be necessary...
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