Fenn-Wu Committee Report (1951)

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Earlier in January 1951 , two educationists,  William P. Fenn, then associate executive secretary of the board of trustees of a number of institutions of higher learning in China, and  Wu Teh-yao, then an official with the United Nations, were invited by the federal government to conduct a study of Chinese schools in Malaya. The study aimed to make recommendations that would lead to “a greater contribution by Chinese schools in Malaya to the goal of an independent Malayan nation composed of people of many races but having a common loyalty” (HistorySG, n.d.).

Dr. William P. Fenn

Wu Teh Yao







Some of the recommendation made by The Fenn-Wu Report were:

  • vernacular schools continue to exist
  • Trilingualism in Chinese Malayans, with Malay as the official language, English as the business language, and Chinese as the cultural language
  • an increase in government subsidies
  • formation of a committee to look into existing problems in schools;
  • formation of a committee to produce textbooks based on modern pedagogical methods, with Malaya as the focus, while preserving Chinese culture and tradition;
  • establishment of an institution to produce more qualified teachers
  • and an improvement in the terms of service of Chinese school teachers.

Overall, the report supported the idea of constructing a national community that would preserve existing multiculturalism.

The Central Advisory Committee on Education, Federation of Malaya, reviewed both the Fenn-Wu report and the Report on Malay Education in Malaya (1951 or Barnes Report) and made known their findings  in a publication titled Report on the Barnes Report on Malay Education and the Fenn-Wu Report on Chinese Education on 10 September 1951. This report led to the enactment of the Education Ordinance of 1952, which largely incorporated the Barnes report’s recommendation of a six-year free compulsory education for all children aged six to 12, during which both Malay and English would be taught.


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