In 1950, The I.J. Barnes Committee had been set up to review the Malaya education system after the rejection and abandoning of the Cheeseman Plan.
Chapter IV, paragraph 16 in Barnes’s Report stated that the child’s earliest education should be in the child’s mother tongue… (Federation of Malaya. Central Advisory Committee on Education, 1951)
The Barnes Report is in favour of abolishing the vernacular schools and recommended:
- a national school system, which would provide primary education for 6 years in Malay and English
- Malay be treated as the principal language
This proposal was rejected by all the ethnic groups. In order to pacify ethnic sensitivities, the British government approved a modified formula that would allow:
- bilingualism in Malay schools (Malay and English) and
- a three language “solution” in Tamil and Chinese schools (either Tamil-Malay-English or Chinese-Malay-English)
- recommending a common curriculum for all schools that may pave the way to a national school system.
The Barnes Report was unsuccessful, and in 1955, two years before Malaya’s independence, the Razak Report endorsed the concept of a national education system based on Malay, being the main medium of instruction.
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