Accepted Paper:

Identity and cultural contestation in a plural society: the development of Chinese education in Malaysia  


Ker Pong Thock (University of Malaya)
Yao Sua Tan (Universiti Sains Malaysia)

Paper short abstract:

Education has been identified by scholars as the main tool for the formation and maintenance of ethnic identity. The Malaysian Chinese portray a peculiar case study in its maintenance of identity.

Paper long abstract:

Chinese education in Malaysia has come a long way since the large-scale immigration of the Chinese beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. As a significant minority group in a plural society, the Chinese has shown a strong desire to maintain and propagate their identity and culture via the provision of Chinese education, though strongly contested by the Malays, the dominant group, who subscribe to a monolingual state policy. This paper illustrates this contestation in three key areas. First, the Chinese language movement which revolves around efforts to recognize Chinese as an official language of the country. Second, the preservation of the character of the Chinese primary schools which is underpinned by the use of Chinese as the language of classroom instruction, administration and wider communication. Third, the propagation of a complete system of Chinese education to ensure a vibrant development of mother tongue education in the country.

Keywords: Chinese education; identity and cultural contestation; plural society

Panel P025
The maintenance and consolidation of Malaysian Chinese identities: an anthropological exploration