Pondering Tamil schools in Malaysia


Where did the early Tamil school teachers learn about curricula, pedagogy, etc.? Where do current Tamil school teachers learn the same things?


About 2 months ago The Star reported that the Deputy Minister for Education, who is also an elected Member of Parliament and a leader of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), announced that 13 Tamil schools will receive RM20 million in total under the Action Plan for the Future of Tamil Schools in Malaysia (PTST), to upgrade “classrooms, canteens, sports fields, fences and safety.”
I’ve not reviewed the PTST action plan. I decided that before I review it, I should assemble some thoughts and questions about Tamil schools in Malaysia. This is my first attempt to do so.
Please indulge me. Before you read further, name 5 Indians in Malaysia. They don’t have to be alive, it doesn’t matter if they’re long dead. Just name them. Now ask: which of them was most likely educated in a Tamil school in Malaya/Malaysia?
My experience of Tamil schools
My brother was 2 years older than me. When my parents sent him to Standard One in the local, national school, I wailed daily. I too wanted to go to school. But I was too young. I was so miserable I became sick. What were my parents to do?
Kindergarten was not an option. At that stage in its history, our little town in Johor had no kindergartens.
As usual, it was my mother who came up with a solution. She reminded my father that he was the chairman of the board of the local Tamil school. She implored him – and if you knew my mother you’d know that’s not too strong a term – to send me to Standard One in the Tamil school.
I was an “auditor,” i.e. one who attends without being on the register and gets no credit.
The Tamil school was in town. It met on the top floor of a dilapidated wooden shop which certainly would have failed a fire and safety inspection. Below it was an Indian barber shop. The schoolroom was actually the meeting place of the Indian Association – of which my father was also the elected chairman.
I can only recall one teacher and one classroom, so the school must have been in its infancy. I think my father’s decision to send me to the Tamil school was an abuse of his authority.
In any case, my health and my self-esteem were soon restored. Self-esteem? Well, I showed them! As the youngest in the family of four, I made it clear once again that I could get what I wanted!
As it turns out, I was the top student in my class.
Though only 5, I could read and write in Tamil before I was ‘enrolled.’ This was because my mother included me when she taught my brother at home while my father was at work. In the evenings, when my father was home, he would teach my brother English, and I would join in as well.
After one year at the Tamil school I was moved to the national school. I suppose tongues wagged in the community because the chairman of the board didn’t send his own children to the Tamil school. (We continued to study Tamil at home.)
I don’t know how the Tamil school eventually moved into more appropriate buildings, how a headmaster was appointed, teachers were selected and hired, etc.
I just know that about 20 years later the Tamil school headmaster became chairman of the local branch of the MIC. He also wrote and sold short stories to the  Tamil Nesan newspaper, to supplement his meagre income. I don’t recall any other Tamil school teachers.
Tamil/Indian teachers and teacher training
There were many Tamil teachers in the national schools which I attended. The national schools also had Anglo-Indian, Ceylonese, Malayalee and Telugu teachers.
In 1976, after sitting for the Form 5 MCE examination the previous year, I applied to Teacher Training Colleges (TTC) in Malaysia, although I was sure I would be offered a place in Form 6.
I learned later that I was not accepted for teacher training because my results were “too good for TTC” and wise administrators had decided I should go to Form 6 instead. I suppose they thought I was likely to eventually qualify for University admission.

If you’ve read any history of schools in Malaysia, you’ll have heard of Kirkby.

Read more at: http://write2rest.blogspot.com/2013/09/pondering-tamil-schools-in-malaysia.html