By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
I was a remove class student. The objective of remove class in the 1960s was very clear, namely to train students from non-English primary schools, including Sekolah Kebangsaan, as well as Chinese and Tamil schools, who did not even know how to say "May I go to toilet", through a year of intensive course so that they could master basic conversation in English and understand English textbooks.
I can still remember that we had spent nearly half the time in learning English that year. From conversation to grammar, from giggling only in early of the year to saying "yes" or "no" in the middle of the year and conversing in simple English sentences in the end of the year, it was the most important part of my secondary school life.
However, I must admit that spending only a year to improve our English was indeed insufficient. Even though we had spent a year attending the remove class, the gap between us and those who were from English primary schools was still very obvious. We even felt a little inferior in class and were afraid to speak, not to mention to take part in activities like debate competitions.
Based on my experience, we actually need another English-language upgrading course after the remove class. Under the then education system, however, we had to compete fairly, not that fair actually, with students from English primary schools after finishing a year of remove class. Tuition was not the trend in that era and even if it was, average families could not afford it. It would be your problem if you could not keep up and thus, many students dropped out of school starting from Form 1 and most who stayed were eliminated after taking the Form 3 major examination, since only those who passed with Grade A could further their studies in Form 4.
Later, the education system was changed and English secondary schools were transformed into Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan using Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of teaching. All students from Chinese and Tamil primary schools were required to attend remove class. However, remove class is no longer a compulsory for Chinese and Tamil primary school students after some time, but only for those who fail to achieve the basic standard of Bahasa Malaysia. However, do all students, who advance to Form 1 without attending remove class, really able to master Bahasa Malaysia? How many of them have actually dropped out of school because of their failure in mastering the language? It seems that the Education Ministry has never conducted a detailed investigation over the questions, or introduced any measures to solve the problem. And the recent preliminary report of the Malaysia Education Blueprint proposed to abolish remove class in 2017.
According to the report, the stage to master Bahasa Malaysia will be shifted to the primary school and the specific moves are, Chinese and Tamil primary school students will use a standard Bahasa Malaysia curriculum starting from the Year 4 cohort in 2014 and receive remedial after-school Bahasa Malaysia classes. In other words, the standard of Bahasa Malaysia textbooks used in Chinese and Tamil schools will be increased. The question is, will the Bahasa Malaysia standard in Chinese and Tamil schools be improved following the increase of the textbooks' standard? Would it end up as another example of spoiling the efforts by being over enthusiastic? Would it further trouble teachers, tire parents and harm students?
The world now stresses on speed and most parents do not want their children to spend a year for remove class, thinking it a waste of time. Has remove class become not essential now?