The government's proposal to establish Tamil national type secondary schools (SMJKT), has received mixed reactions from the Indian community.

While some people Astro Ulagam spoke to said the move is long overdue, others said it’s unnecessary, and merely making the Tamil language as one of the core secondary school subjects for Indian students would suffice.

Dr K Mahmathi, in her late 30s, who sends two of her children to Tamil schools, is not in favour of the idea.

"I will not send my kids (to SMJKT) as I want them to mingle with other races and understand their culture.

"I don't see or understand the purpose (of having secondary Tamil schools). Perhaps adding Tamil as one of the core subjects in the secondary school will be better," said the Pharmacy lecturer, adding that having primary Tamil schools are enough.

According to her, having such school will further segregate the community.

She also questioned on how well a student who had been educated in Tamil-stream for 11 years would be able adapt to higher education or the working world.

Mahmathi was commenting on a recent remark by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching that the ministry has set up an Indian Community Education Advisory Committee to study the need to establish Tamil national type secondary school to improve the education level of the Indian community.

The establishment of the first national-type secondary school financed by the federal government was one of the pledges in Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto.

Teo said the committee will engage with various stakeholders to discuss the matter before a decision is taken.

'What next?'

M Karmegan, in his 50s, voiced similar concerns, saying there are many obstacles to the government's consideration.

He questioned whether there will be enough qualified teachers to teach subjects like Physics and Chemistry in Tamil should the plan take off.

"Will the school have enough students? If there are limited number of schools, will there be hostel facilities provided for students nationwide to come and study there?

"After completing education at a Tamil secondary school, what next for these students? Will the government think of a Tamil university? Is it even remotely possible?" asked the former journalist, adding that making Tamil subject compulsory for secondary Indian students should suffice.

There are pros and cons

According to A Sivashankari, the proposal has its advantages and disadvantages.

Having Tamil secondary schools will elevate the status of the Tamil language and provide more job opportunities for Indians, said the 39-year-old teacher.

"More Indians can be employed as teachers and book publishers, if the idea gets through.

"As for the cons, it carries the risk of only having bright students making it all the way through to higher education level.

"Some students, after completing 11 years in Tamil-education environment, may find it hard to adapt in the university or college, and get left out," she said, adding it may also make them less sociable with the other races.

However, Prem Ramasamy was very enthusiastic with the idea of having Tamil secondary schools.

"I will definitely send my children there. My daughter who goes to a Tamil primary school has been given many good chances, academically, and also in terms of her extra curricular activities.

"If I send her to a national school, I'm not sure she will be given those chances," said the 39-year-old photographer.

He also noted that nowadays, Tamil schools are in no way lagging behind national schools.

In fact, Tamil school students are winning more state, regional and global awards than their national school counterparts, he said.

'Why discuss? Implement it now'

Penang chief minister 2, P Ramasamy said he was glad with Teo's remark, but said the government should implement the plan as soon as possible.

"There is no need for extensive consultation. The government should just implement it, since it was in the election manifesto.

"The Indians have given mandate for Harapan in the election and it is time the government kept to its promise. I don't think any Indian would disapprove of the plan," he told Astro Ulagam.

Ramasamy also dismissed the notion of further segregation happening, should such schools be implemented.

"Any claims to that effect will only be made by politicians for their own gain," he added.

Ramasamy is a staunch advocate of Tamil education and has been asking for Tamil secondary schools in Penang for the past several years.

Photo source: The Malaysian Times, Astro Awani.