The need to debunk myth of teacher surplus at Chinese national-type schools

TEACHER shortage has been a perennial problem for Chinese primary schools in the country, and this problem has remained unresolved for decades.

While we have seen different faces taking charge at the Education Ministry, this problem is still stubbornly lingering.

Nothing comes as a bigger shock to the country’s Chinese educationists than the latest development in this issue as they are caught totally perplexed.

This time around, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said there is a surplus of teachers at vernacular schools, hence there is no need for additional teacher training.

Fadhlina pointed out recently that her ministry had initiated a re-designation programme for vernacular school teachers earlier this year and expected the number of teachers for Chinese and Tamil primary schools to be sufficient over the next five years from 2024 to 2029.

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek

As such, she justified that there was no need to train more Chinese and Tamil language teachers. Dong Jiao Zong (Chinese educationist group) apparently disagrees.

The most scientific way of doing things is to base the decisions on statistics. It is essential that the statistics must reflect the reality so that the decision-makers can grasp a clearer picture of the actual situation.

Unfortunately, the Education Ministry’s “re-designation” programme has failed to truthfully reflect the reality of Chinese teacher shortage at SJKCs (Chinese national-type schools)!

According to Dong Jiao Zong, the methodology adopted in the ministry’s statistics was flawed as it separated the teachers in accordance with the subjects they teach. As a result, the statistics showed a surplus of Chinese language teachers at SJKCs.

Flawed data

Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying admitted that the methodology currently used in the ministry’s statistics was unable to precisely reflect the reality of Chinese language teacher shortage at SJKCs.

If this is the case, why does the Education Ministry still insist to decide whether training of more Chinese and Tamil language teachers is necessary based on the data provided by a flawed system?

Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying (third from left)

The minister asserts that there is no teacher shortage based on the data provided but in reality, SJKCs are constantly facing the dilemma of teacher shortage.

Should we believe in the cold numbers or real-life evidence presented before us? The minister’s conclusion that there is no need for more Chinese and Tamil teachers over the next five years is hardly convincing and is extremely irrational.

Bear in mind that there are teachers retiring every year (including those applying to retire early) while the training of teachers typically takes years.

If the ministry does not plan ahead of time, there might not be enough teachers taking over once senior teachers leave the profession. This will invariably impact the pupils’ learning progress.


Pic credit: Motherhood Story

Well, the Education Ministry can always claim that the decisions have been made based on the data collected but the thing is, such data do not reflect the actual situation!

Deputy minister Lim has repeatedly assured that she would continue to fight for the training of more Chinese and Tamil teachers every year. While we applaud the deputy minister’s effort, more importantly the issue must be tackled from the root for lasting effects.

How difficult is it to get the Education Ministry to understand the actual situation at SJKCs? It all comes down to communication. If both sides are willing to sit down and talk, everything can get solved slowly and the current disagreement would have been averted.

There is nothing the capable Education Ministry cannot handle so long as accurate numbers are obtained.

Perhaps, it is the Little Napoleons that mess up things but as leaders of their ministry, the minister and deputy minister have the responsibility to see that the problem is amicably solved through consultation and round-table dialogues with stakeholders.

Education is of paramount importance to the nation and society and there is no doubt about this. As such, the issue of teacher shortage must be tackled as soon as possible so that we can focus on improving the quality of our education. – Nov 22, 2023


The opinion editorial first appeared on Sin Chew Daily’ English portal on Nov 20, 2023 under the same headline “The Myth of Teacher Surplus at SJKCs”.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia

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