Basically, the problems of Malayan education centred around the 'language of instruction in schools' and its position in the national system of education. What invoked the controversy was over the claim of legitimacy each ethnic group had over their cultural and political status in the new polity. The philosophical differences that existed over these issues were further exacerbated when they became politicised and polarised along ethnic lines.
The Report of the Education Committee, 1956 (the Razak Report) which attempted to reconcile these differences, especially over the question of 'language in schools' somehow had failed to reduce the controversy. The same fate was also inflicted upon the Education Review Committee, 1960. Under these circumstances, the linguistic controversy remained and this created a serious problem towards the full implementation of the national education policy as recommended by the Razak Report. Out of this controversy emerged the condition of 'stalemate' that stalled the progress and development of the national language but nonetheless paved the way for the continued retention of English in the educational system of the country. It was only in 1970, following the ethnic crisis of 1969 that the national education policy of which the national language clause was an essential part was fully implemented.
As the study shows, the reasons for not implementing the national language policy in schools were many. Among them were the policy itself which was ambiguous and vague, the government who vacillated due to the pre-independent political arrangement which easily succumbed to communal pressures, and the ruling elites who resisted the change and preferred the retention of the colonial language.
This study thus attempts to provide an analysis on the development of Malayan education between 1955-1970. The emphasis is on the development that led to the implementation of the national language policy in schools following the ethnic crisis of May 13, 1969.
The first two chapters of the study provide the setting, both geographical and historical, the ensuing demographic change, the emergence of ethnic nationalism and the growth of a plural school system. Chapter three explores the various alternatives that Malaya could choose in its effort of nation-building. In chapter four, the Report of the Education Committee, 1956 is critically analysed. The contradictory political implications of the Report is specially elucidated in chapter five. In the final three chapters, attempts are made to provide the background that led to the 1969 ethnic crisis and the impact it had upon the direction of the national education policy.