Replace Mandarin with English classes, UTM students told
Ng Boon Hooi

23,Feb:Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) students have protested over an order from the university administration to replace their Mandarin classes with English classes, a student leader said today.

Hwa Ser Piow told malaysiakini that last November, the university had issued a letter stating that vice-chancellor Prof Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Ghazali had asked that steps be taken to promote English.

In line with this, the university requested the committee to convert the Mandarin classes into English classes.

“We strongly felt that it was a discriminatory decision as the Mandarin classes did not prevent the students from learning another languages,” said Hwa, who is head of the Students Representatives Council’s academic unit.

The Mandarin classes, which began in 1998, are one of the activities of student body with about 20 students volunteering as teachers.

Since then, more than 500 students, university staff and lecturers have attended the classes with 70 percent of them comprising non-Chinese.

However, the committee has to reapply for permission to run the classes every year and Hwa said they frequently faced problems in getting approval from the university authorities.

“We’ve already tried numerous times to negotiate with the university authorities over the order to terminate the Mandarin classes but they are sticking to their decision,” said Hwa.

Bureaucratic culture Early this month, UTM deputy vice-chancellor for student affairs Prof Mohamed Mansur Abdullah laid down two conditions for the Mandarin class to continue - that it be recognised by the Faculty of Development, Management and Human Resources and that the teachers were qualified.

“But it is only a programme for simple communication in Mandarin, not a course. The students have the right and freedom to hold it.

To have qualified teachers is impossible as the students who teach the classes have not graduated yet,” argued Hwa.

The students will launch a signature campaign soon to gain the support for the continuation of the classes.

Hwa urged the university to respect the freedom and rights of the students, and not promote a bureaucratic culture. “We hope the vice-chancellor will solve the matter as soon as possible and lift the conditions,” said Hwa.

Last February, the university adminstration drew flak when it banned a Chinese New Year exhibition organised by students from being held on campus.\