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Lim Fong Seng: A visionary Chinese educationist

Lim Fong Seng (departed March 13) shall be remembered as a visionary Malaysian Chinese educationist who fought courageously for the mother-tongue education of all Malaysians to be recognised as a basic human right.

As the chairman of the Chinese School Committees of Malaysia (Dong Zong), he led the movement through many landmark episodes in its history.

In 1973, he provided the leadership to the Duzhong (Independent Chinese Secondary Schools) Revival Movement which succeeded in developing the organisation from 14 independent schools in 1961 to the present 60 schools.

He was the key figure in fund-raising and organising the committees which made this possible. Throughout this movement, he displayed clear vision, implacable resolve and courage.

Unified exams

In 1975, when the Chinese education movement decided to hold the first Unified Examination for all the independent Chinese secondary schools, they were asked to rescind that decision by the then Education Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The grounds given were that the independent schools were trying to set up a separate education system and that this would disrupt national unity. When the Unified Examination was about to begin, the Chinese educationists led by Lim Fong Seng were summoned to Parliament House by Mahathir.

The latter did not mince his words but told leaders of Dong Jiao Zong (United Chinese Schools Committees and Teachers Association) that the Unified Examination had better not be held or else& He did not ask for any response and dismissed the Chinese educationists with a curt &that; is all. (Kua Kia Soong, A Protean Saga: The Chinese Schools of Malaysia, 1999:106)

Under Lims leadership, Dong Jiao Zong decided they were prepared to face the consequences and the first Unified Examination was held as scheduled at the end of 1975.

Through his foresight and courage, the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) is today recognised all over the world except in Malaysia. The National University of Singapore for example, accepts hundreds of UEC graduates every year.

Merdeka University

Lim will also be remembered for his courage in taking the Merdeka University case to the highest court of the land. This became a cause cél