For a more rounded discussion on the subject of Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua (SSS), we publish more views obtained from the public domain. Some of them we do not agree with but wish to discuss them with you here.
Readers are welcomed to comment. It does not matter how short the comments may be, so long as they are in the normal language, not rude or seditious, no expletives, profanities, etc. Reasonably lengthy ones are also welcomed.
There are, of course, many articles on SSS that we agree with practically in their entirety and we have published a few of them earlier on.
Lately, the Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua campaign is hotly debated among politicians and educationists.
The opinions are well divided with Chinese educationists and the Malaysian Chinese Association being the most vocal opponents of the idea.
Personally, I was glad to first hear about the 1 School Concept Petition some time ago. We all must agree that the way we are brought up will determine our character and mindset in the future.
The main method is of course through education. In other words, education are the basic fundamentals of a strong, united and dynamic society.
A blog (http://deminegara.blogspot.com/2009/05/satu-sekolah-untuk-semua.html) started this petition. Subsequently, mainstream bloggers publicised this campaign in their personal blogs as well as in several political groups in Facebook.
Today, we can see that many blogs are carrying the SSS banner, a symbol of support for the campaign to see a unified single education stream.
The title seems catchy and initially I had the thought that finally, someone is making the sincere moves to unite the plural society in Malaysia which coincidentally is a vision of our former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
However, till today, I have not signed the petition. Upon reading the wording of Kempen Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua, I told myself this is not the way I envision the concept and project.
As much as I am for 1 Malaysia and a 1 School concept, I cannot agree with the contents of petition. The gist of this campaign is a critical point of view against vernacular schools. The main content reads
” Sekolah Vernakular (SJKC dan SJKT) adalah punca utama ketidakserasian dan ketegangan kaum di negara kita tercinta. “
For those who have been following my blog, friends and relatives close to me, you all know how much I support national schools and I have always been critical that vernacular schools are possibly among the causes of national disunity – a stark contrast of opinion with the stand of the party that I support.
The 1 School Campaign is good but it cannot be based on a condemnation of vernacular schools only.
I believe my opinions on the wording are shared by the non Bumiputera community. Someone should write a better campaign and petition on 1 School.
If you have not forgotten, upon completion of major exams like UPSR and PMR, many Bumiputera students go to other types of school also.
These schools are in place mainly for the creme de la creme of Bumiputera students – specifically Malays.
Although some might argue that the boarding schools and elite schools are open to non Malays also, but the amount of places offered to them can be dismissed as insignificant.
If vernacular schools are probable causes of disharmony, then other school types like Sekolah Berasrama Penuh, MRSM, Sekolah Agama and many more are to share to blame.
1 School Campaign is wrong to begin by condemning the vernacular schools only as they are not the sole cause of disunity among Malaysians.
If 1 School is to be implemented at the expense of vernacular schools, I hope the Government consider scrapping the other types of schools under SBP, MARA and Sekolah Agama as well.
Otherwise, I foresee unrest and unhappiness among the multiracial society in Malaysia.
To lay down the foundations of a 1School Concept, we must all get things clear that the Government’s policy in the provision of Education must ensure that education is available for every single Malaysian with no barriers.
By no barriers, I suggest a complete unification of the schools under a single unified education stream that provides education access to students from all walks of life regardless of race and economic status.
Every dollar of public fund spent on education must not substantially favour any particular race be it Chinese, Malays or Indians. However, I do suggest that variant of the national schools should be permitted to co-exist with the national schools and international schools.
These variants may of course include SBP and vernacular schools where the education in these schools are to be listed under the private schools sector.
Let these other types of schools be funded by the Malaysian community, businessmen and philantrophists.
These schools should be delisted from under the National Schools Policy and be allowed them to be adopted by the private sector and the communities. This way, 1 School will be seen as 1 Malaysia.
This “extreme” approach will be acceptable by many I am sure. One has to give to gain something in return and this message must be imparted in the minds of all Malaysians.
I love my country and I love the idea of 1 School which unites people under 1 Language and 1 System.
But this must not be exploited as an opportunity to slam vernacular schools as the main cause of disharmony as other types of non national & non vernacular schools are to be blamed too.
Having said all these, my comments will not be well received by Chinese educationists and neither will it be endorsed by the Malaysian Chinese Association. Though I am a Malaysian Chinese, I do aspire to see a united Malaysian society.
This post grew out of comments that I made in a post on Jed Yoong’s blog which linked to another blogger’s post calling for all vernacular Tamil schools in Malaysia to be closed down. I think it’s worth taking the effort to explain that in this context, “vernacular schools” refers solely to primary schools that use Chinese and Tamil as the medium of instruction, while still receiving government funding, as opposed to those that teach using the national language, Bahasa Malaysia the so-called “Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan”.
There are a couple of obfuscating factors at work here that needs to be explained. One, the original call to close down Tamil schools cited the generally poor quality of these schools as a primary reason. As Jed Yoong quoted from the original writer of the post, Balan:
One of the contributing factors leading Indian youth to gangsterism and other criminal activities is their inability to excel in education, particularly when they enter secondary school.
The new environment and being not conversant in Bahasa Malaysia which is the medium of teaching in secondary school have resulted in students dropping out after their PMR and SPM.
The reason this happens is the poor quality of Tamil schools in the country. Most of the Tamil schools in the country are poorly managed, lack facilities and are helmed by substandard headmasters and teachers.
But as I commented, this, as far as I know, does not apply to Chinese vernacular schools! It’s a well known fact that the Chinese in Malaysia place a high priority on their children’s education. If the Chinese vernacular schools prove to be of poorer quality than the national schools, I have no doubt whatsoever that the parents of the students attending them would immediately move them to better ones. This actually leads us to the second point: why is there such a difference between the quality of education offered by the Tamil vernacular schools and the Chinese ones?
As it turns out, while vernacular Chinese schools do indeed tap the government for funding, they also raise additional funds from parents and the general Chinese community. As I see it, this explains the disparity between the generally decrepit facilities and poor quality of education of the Tamil schools and the well equipped, highly regarded quality of education offered by Chinese ones.
Still, as these schools still receive government funding, it’s only fair to raise and discuss the issue of whether such schools should exist at all. The argument against them is perhaps best set out in this editorial by Azly Rahman which is well worth reading. The general idea is that vernacular schools segregates students by race at a young and impressionable age which, it is argued, is detrimental to the unity of the nation. To this line of argument, I beg to raise the following points:
While it’s heartwarming and indeed desirable to see young children of different races studying and playing together, I honestly believe that this will not help much in getting rid of the racial tensions that exist in the country. Let’s not be naive and believe that Malaysian citizens will ever mingle and live as if they were not of different races. Different races and cultures will always have different tastes in entertainment, food and even lifestyles. The point of the exercise should not be in eliminating differences but acknowledging them and even celebrating in them. What we should work towards is mutual tolerance and respect for each other, despite our differences, and the only way to achieve that is addressing perceived injustices with regards to government treatment towards different races and cultures. In other words, I do not believe that racial divisions arise from the people. I believe that they arise out of government policies.
There is a clear wish here to use public schools as institutions to create and foster a sort of Malaysian identity. I have misgivings concerning this because it seems to me to be overriding the parents’ right to educate and bring up their children as they see fit in the interests of what is thought to be a wider and greater good. Bringing up a child is an extremely personal and emotional affair and I believe that having the government interfere in that process, barring cases of outright child abuse, would be a violation of human rights. It is true that the government should not be obliged to cater and provide funding for every type of educational scheme wished for by parents, but in this case, such schools already exist and parents apparently do want their children to attend them.
As per above, it would seem to me that closing down these schools against the wishes of the community would not only fail in the long-term to foster the national unity desired, but cause plenty of short-term racial divisions. The Indian and Chinese communities would simply have yet another grievance to hold against the government and the Malays.
Finally, the detractors of the vernacular schools argue that the concerns of the ethnic communities can be assuaged by offering the maternal language of these communities as optional subjects in the national schools, upgrading the quality of the national schools and removing the creeping Islamisation and Ketuanan Melayu aspects from them. I argue the opposite. The existence of vernacular schools does not prevent these improvements to the national schools from being carried out. Show that the national schools can indeed meet the needs of the parents of the different communities, prove to them that they can offer education of good quality and put a firm end to racist teaching of Malay supremacy in them. Achieve all that and the vernacular schools will simply wither and die on their own because no parent will want to send their children to them!
Of all countries in the South East Asian region, Malaysia is a distinctive case where there are 3 different streams of schools in its education set-up, catering to the respective major races. Naturally, this phenomenon doesn’t sit well amongst some people with misplaced feelings of nationalism who see this uniqueness to be a great impediment to solid nation-building but as a dispassionate observer, I strongly disagree on their premise.
A case in point, I am a product of national school where medium of instruction is in the majority language, Bahasa Malaysia. No doubt, I had an early head-start in socialising with students of various races and we became good friends, thus giving me a better understanding of fellow Malaysians. Looking back, I enjoyed my schooling years very much.
During that time, I was a discriminatory child for I grew up showing contempt to the Chinese educated students due to their overall weaker command of English and Bahasa Malaysia. On top of that, I was under the mistaken belief that they had a less than worldly view of things. Only after leaving school, did I realize my puerile thought had no basis because in reality, these students are made of sterner stuff particularly in areas of resilience, discipline, humility and most of all, character. Additionally, their arithmetic skills have been acknowledged to be far superior to their national schools’ counterparts.
Back to those who oppose the presence of vernacular schools on the pretext of it being a stumbling block to greater national unity. Either these critics are genuinely ignorant or choose to conveniently ignore the bigger issues affecting national cohesiveness. While in school, I wrote countless of essays espousing the greatness of our country where people respect each other and we live in perfect harmony. I admit I was very patriotic; not that I’m any less, nowadays. However, I received the first dose of reality tinged with shock and bitterness upon discovery that the intake of students into local higher institutions of learning is not based on absolute meritocracy. Students who performed less admirably were readily admitted into universities at the expense of their peers who scored better by the virtue of the race they were born as. Not only that, MARA institutes of learning are virtually filled by students of a particular race. And to think of it, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Therefore to say with the abolishment of vernacular schools, greater national unity can be achieved is just a misleading notion. Eventually people will still feel aggrieved when they leave school, so long the root causes are not fixed.
I believe vernacular schools are needed by Malaysia more than ever, now that China and India are on the rise. Malaysians need to be at least conversant in either Mandarin or Tamil to engage with the citizens of these 2 rising giants because we will reach a point in time when these two nations will present us with business opportunities. One may argue that Hindi is spoken more widely in India but who is to say with certainty that when India advances as a whole, its Tamil Nadu state will not progress accordingly? With our sizeable communities of Malaysians with Chinese and Indian descents and the vernacular schools they are educated in, we will have the edge over our other Asian neighbours when China and India finally make their mark at world stage. Therefore, it makes economic sense to maintain vernacular schools in Malaysia. As it is, the younger generation of Vietnamese and Thais can converse in Mandarin. Given the high stakes, surely we don’t want to be left behind.
Let’s be reminded that we are now paying for our past mistake in relegating the importance of English language when in the past, our earlier generations possessed better command of the language, thanks to English medium schools, which have now been confined to the history books. I doff my hat to the Malay and Indian parents who have the foresight to send their children to vernacular schools. They are doing a great service to their children and I am embarrassed no end whenever young Malay children speak flawless Mandarin to me and I am unable to reply! Being multilingual has many benefits and numerous studies done have confirmed this. I don’t believe at all that by being educated in vernacular schools, they will turn out to be less Malay. In fact, more and more Malays are sending their children to vernacular schools.
To further allay our fears, compared to the Pre-Independence years, our vernacular schools have ceased to adopt the syllabuses of the countries of origin. Instead, what we have now is a uniform syllabus with emphasis on nation-building. The only difference lies in the medium of instruction.
For the sake of pragmatism, let us not cast a bad light on vernacular schools anymore.
We have been talking a lot about 1Malaysia for this past year. Not only the Government has been propagating it but the opposition has to a certain extent jumped on the band wagon claiming that certain things, which are not done by the Government, should be carried out in line with the 1Malaysia spirit. There has been talk about changing the Biro Tata Negara courses to be more in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia, establishing of the 1Malaysia unit trust and ultimately the changing of Government Link Companies (GLC) logo to be in line with the 1Malaysia base logo.
Apart from recent suggestions by Dato Mukhriz Mahathir and Tan Sri Professor Khoo Kay Kim on restructuring the current school system to adopt the single stream concept, there has been little take up on this issue.
Why not? Our education system may be the key pivotal factor that could lead towards integration of our multiracial society. This is where our kids learn, play and interact with one another. Through interaction, we will understand one another. As it is, there are some Chinese who think that halal food for Malay Muslims only mean that the food should be pork free only. Vice versa for Malays, most of them think that all Chinese who have a Christian name must be a Christian. Both circumstances demonstrate the ignorance of the respective race groups about one another. This ignorance can be addressed through better understanding and appreciation of one another. In order to understand one another, we must first become friends. As it is we hardly interact with other race groups as we work and play separately. The current situation can be traced back to our separation which began at our schools. Why?
The argument for the Chinese or Tamil vernacular schools is that for these race groups to better understand their cultures. Why can’t education on these cultures be taught at the national schools where not only the Chinese or the Indians can learn about their respective cultures but other races can learn them too? You can learn the Chinese language as an additional language in a single stream school. Besides, if the Chinese argue that they should learn about their mother tongue, then they should teach Cantonese, Hokkien or even Hakka, instead of Mandarin as a language. As far as I understand, Mandarin is the official language of China but it is not mainly spoken by the Chinese ethnic groups in Malaysia. Furthermore, if the argument for having vernacular schools is for each race groups to learn about their respective cultures, then should we also create Iban or Kadazan streamed schools to protect their cultures and languages?
A phenomenon that has been increasingly prevalent nowadays is the racial polarization in our society. Society tends to mingle, play and work around their respective racial groups. The separation starts at the tender age of seven and this will continue for the next eleven years. This is evident as close to 95% of the Chinese send their children to Chinese vernacular schools. So long as we have multi stream schools, this separation of society will continue.
Though it is important that we should facilitate the preservation of the cultures of each race groups, but efforts towards the integration and assimilation into the multicultural society of Malaysia should not be avoided. What better and more effective way other than doing it at our schools? Kids can easily be tended and nurtured at the young age, as they see individuals beyond the colours of racial background.
In addition to propagating the non-Malays on letting go of the vernacular schools, the Government should promote and upgrade the national schools so that it becomes the first choice for parents in sending their children for education. The best talents and most resources should be directed to the national schools. The national schools should also provide subjects that teach the various race groups of their respective cultures. Furthermore there is an alleged fear that the national schools is promoting Islamic tendencies though its practices, like the recital of doa and other Islamic-based programmes. The Government should make the national schools more palatable to the multiracial society by toning down some of these activities, as to make the other racial groups more comfortable with the national schools.
If the Government is not able to remove the vernacular school systems in the near future due to political reasons, then it should make the national schools more enticing so that society would voluntarily send their kids to be educated there.
In summary, there should be a move towards converting our schools into a single stream system, whether by immediately removing the vernacular schools or indirectly increasing the role of the national schools in the education system, so that the vernacular schools become insignificant. This move is essential as it may be the pivotal factor in integrating our society together, hence moving towards achieving our vision of a 1Malaysia!