So… We all pretty much know how new DPM Zahid Hamidi is a purveyor of racial unity, so much so he has recently pushed for vernacular schools to be abolished. Doing this will improve unity in the country, he stated. But Lim Guan Eng said it would do the complete opposite and destroy unity. Aiyo, which is which now? Will it strengthen or destroy unity if we have single-stream national education?
Actually both sides do have their points, which we’ll be talking about in a bit. We know it’s a sticky subject and people might have different ideas about how we should revamp the education system, so there’s bound to be head butting. But is Malaysia ready to abolish all Chinese and Tamil schools?
Removing Chinese and Tamil schools can unite people…
Imagine if a 7-year-old kid is only taught in Mandarin or Tamil, and speaks that same language to classmates, where probably only one majority race exist, for 6 to 11 years of his life… some people believe this creates polarisation. It wouldn’t be surprising if the kid sticks with his ‘own kind’ all the way into adulthood. Not ideal for unity, right?
So to remedy this, people who are AGAINST vernacular schools say we should look to countries with a single-stream school system – like Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand – and teach students using 1 standardised syllabus, in 1 language.
Even the Sultan of Johor wants Malaysia to follow Singapore’s example: “The use of English as a medium of instruction has been effective in the development of the country and uniting their people regardless of race or religion.”
Yeahh, we can see how standardising the learning medium will break down communication barriers. On one hand, the US is home to so many different ethnicities, but at the same time got issues of discrimination. If you look at Japan and Thailand on the other hand, they only have one culture and live cohesively with fellow countrymen. Aiya, if like that, then who do we blame for everything?
Question is… are we READY for it?
Even if anti-vernacular school flers have points for going fully national school, is it achievable? Are we ready to get rid of vernacular schools? Zahid himself said it would take a long time – “an entire generation” and not just “one or two decades”. Here are 3 possible reasons we may not be ready to do something so drastic:
1. Kebangsaan schools also got racism la
Maybe it’s not just vernacular schools causing disunity – can we say that national schools are the perfect model of 1Malaysia? Some people agree that national schools, we’re not saying all, but some national schools are seen to only protect the interests of 1 particular group.
We’ve spoken to some students from a sekolah menengah in Klang who told us that their Christian Fellowship club was not recognised because the principal wouldn’t sign off on it, so the students have to find other ways to meet up (sometime’s in a nearby student’s house). However, there’s no problem for the Persatuan Pendidikan Islam to meet up. They even have a spot in the school yearbook, smiling happily in the photo. But its neighbour schools in the vicinity don’t have the same issue setting up Christian clubs.
We also shouldn’t ignore the few cases that support this, like a principal telling her noisy students to “balik India dan China” and not letting non-Muslims eat during Ramadan. Sadly, many teachers have been reported for the same attitude. How will the problem go away if these educators are transferred around instead of being disciplined?
Of course, we’re not saying stuff like that doesn’t happen in vernacular schools. In a Chinese primary school, a girl was asked to sit next to a boy. He burst out crying and said, “I don’t want to sit next to a Malay girl.” This story was reported in The Star. Believe us, we looked for cases of racism in vernacular, only to find it’s reported more prevalently in national. If ugaiz know of any more cases, let us know so we can update it here.
2. We wanna learn other languages also, ok or not?
We remember during our school days, if teacher tangkap us for speaking in a language other than BM or English, we’ll kena demerit points or get yelled at. Dunno if it’s still the same now, do ugaiz know?
Anyway, in national schools, BM and English are compulsory, whereas learning Mandarin and Tamil is only applicable if the parents of at least 15 students request it. Well at least got chance to learn, but some schools set inconvenient timetables for the lessons, like night time! Some schools don’t even have the resources for this, like not having qualified teachers to teach languages.
Last time, we even used to have Punjabi schools. Eventually they all closed because of the dwindling number of students. Now if students wanted to learn Punjabi language, the role falls mostly to Gurdwaras to teach them. Anyone would fear losing their culture and language – Malays, Chinese and Indians alike. So why not be fair to all and allow for proper lessons?
3. Parents believe in the quality of vernacular schools
Almost every article we researched talked about the quality of education. One of the reasons parents choose vernacular is because they believe kebangsaan schools fall short on standards and dedicated teachers. Mastering Mandarin is another reason! Do vernacular school kids perform better in life?
We couldn’t find any studies to support this, but we found an article where DAP’s national organising secretary Anthony Loke said some vernacular grads can speak better BM than some Umno leaders. However, we did find an article contradicting this, where Sin Chew Media Corp’s Executive Director Rita Sim stated vernacular schools have not produced English and BM-fluent students, and this is how they ‘end up as DVD sellers’.
Then what about Malay families who choose vernacular? Surely they did that for a reason right? According to stats from Dong Zong (the association of Chinese schools), 14% (or 80,000) of 600,000 students enrolled in Chinese schools are not Chinese. We couldn’t find stats on non-Indian students in Tamil schools. So PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi said perhaps we should fix national schools and stop blaming vernacular.
Shouldn’t people have the right to choose?
The constitution protects the rights of all Malaysians. And guess what, vernacular education is also protected as a RIGHT. It’s rooted in the social contract that was established by Malaysia’s founding fathers and is guaranteed under the Education Act. In 1982, a BN MP was even convicted of sedition for suggesting to get rid of vernacular schools in Parliament in 1978! So if people still want Chinese and Tamil schools, shouldn’t they have the right to choose?
How did the story of vernacular schools begin? During the colonial era, Chinese and Indians built them up, with syllabuses and teachers from China and India. Then when our forefathers were developing the education system close to Malaysia’s independence, they had a few models to choose from:
- Barnes Report – Provides primary education for 6 years in BM and English, hoping over a period of time to get rid of Chinese and Tamil schools. This was favoured by the Malays, but not by the others.
- Fenn-Wu Report – Chinese schools would continue to operate and teach kids Chinese, BM and English, while national schools teach BM and English. This was favoured by the Chinese, but didn’t meet Malay approval.
- Razak Report – Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil schools at primary level, and Malay and English schools at secondary level.
So apamacam? Finally, everyone settled on the Razak Report which compromised for both sides. And this is the system we’re using today. So should we see this as a heritage to be celebrated? Or a division to unity?
Maybe the best deal is for us to meet on middle ground
Surprisingly, Najib and Mahathir agree!! Even Mahathir said national schools have been “hijacked” and people are more worried about banning shorts and skirts than seeing students of all races study together. And Najib said if we wanna move into a single-stream system, we need a major perception overhaul. But that too should also come from within the gomen – walk the talk of 1Malaysia, improve national school standards, free schools from extremism…
It’s politicians looking for fame who keep using the vernacular education card policy analyst Dr. Lim Teck Ghee said. There is NO evidence that mother-tongue education causes disunity. Sooo, maybe, the fault is not in vernacular schools, but in racial politics!?
In the spirit of fairness to ALL Malaysians, political party NewGen Party Malaysia and student activist group Anak Muda Harapan Malaysia (AMHM) say, let’s get rid of vernacular schools AND pro-Bumi policies!
Can we work together on that? If we remove vernacular schools, can we remove agama schools too? Instead of fighting for ‘YOUR’ rights and ‘MY’ rights, let’s think of what’s best for all Malaysians and agree to meet on middle ground. It takes 2 hands to clap to the tune of unity.