Danni Rais 

 Danni Rais

 Young Entrepreneur

 

 

MUSLIMS  around the world celebrates Aidiladha today, a great and auspicious celebration in the Islamic calendar that signifies the importance of trust and sacrifice.

Malaysia has always prided herself on maintaining peace between many different races and beliefs through mutual respect and tolerance between each other, having in place a unique system of politics, governance and education.

And so this morning I was unpleasantly surprised to read that Umno Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad had proposed that vernacular schools, with emphasis on Chinese schools, ought to be closed down, claiming that such schools were being used by the Opposition to spread racial and anti-government sentiments, and for this matter to be raised in the next Umno General Assembly slated to take place next month.

The topic of education is one which cannot fully be looked into in one article. However, the crux of the uniqueness of education policies in Malaysia must be touched on.

Perhaps the only country in the world,Malaysia practices different streams of education

With the main emphasis being placed on the national school system, which also runs alongside vernacular schools, namely Indian and Chinese medium schools. Not forgetting private and international schools, all co-existing within the country’s education system.

In short, the existence of such schools is a basic representation of the main races in Malaysia, and that they are all free to practise and maintain their “mother-tongue”, an irony that dates back to the Independence of Malaysia to maintain the rights of all races, even though in the present time, no doubt that the mother tongue of all Malaysians is Bahasa Malaysia.

Such practices are even enshrined under the Federal Constitution, with Article 152 stating that while the national language is the Malay language, everyone is free to teach, learn or use any other languages, except for official purposes.

Official purposes here means any purpose of the government, whether federal or state, and includes any purpose of a public authority. As such, even the strongest proponent against the existence of vernacular schools must respect what is stated under the Federal Constitution, and that its right to exist is unquestionable. This is further supported by the existence of Article 12 of the Federal Constitution, which encompasses rights in respect to education.

Therefore, what perplexes me is that this issue is not even being raised in the context it ought to be raised upon, being that the existence of vernacular schools no doubt hinders the macro scope of unity in the populace, with a long-term effect of marginalisation between different races; not only do they not communicate in the same language, but they no longer mix around. This is highly apparent in the current generation. Truly, if left untouched, it will only manifest itself into a bigger problem, with polarisation that will no longer be able to be fixed.

However, the deputy division chief, rather than raising the compelling issues that the country is facing, is saying that this is a political one, in which the Opposition is using to its advantage.

I dare say that the gentleman’s claim is one of slander, and being a well ranked Umno representative, has perhaps forgotten the long history shared between Umno and her sister party, MCA, who together had fought for the rights and development of all Malaysians since the days of Independence.

Therefore, it is not shocking to note that at the time of writing, the MCA Youth wing has filed a police report on the grounds that he is challenging the rights of the Chinese community. One cannot blame the MCA for taking such action as it is in the party’s nature to protect the interests of the Chinese community.

Sedition is the word that springs to mind in light of the gentleman’s assertions. In a multicultural society such as Malaysia, such words can undoubtedly cause upset. He must be reminded that in October 1978, a Sabahan parliamentarian was charged under the Sedition Act for voicing his view that vernacular schools should be abolished. In light of the recent ruckus caused by the enforcement of the Sedition Act, one would not want to see this fall under the purview of the said Act, although to close a blind eye would be a mockery on the implementation of the law.

While vernacular schools do appear to hinder national unity, a right under the law is a right that has to be protected. No study is even required to show that vernacular schools, with emphasis on the Chinese schools, have become a preferred option not only for a majority of Chinese parents, but for an increasing number of Malay parents as well.

To date, approximately 80,000 Malay students attend Chinese vernacular schools; an indication that speaks volumes of the preference in education beyond the boundaries of race and language. Nonetheless, one can certainly argue that this is a racial selection. However, as a wise friend once mentioned, surely if those parents were offered the chance to send their offspring to private or international schools, they would jump at the opportunity.

The cost of this is that national schools no longer have a mixed racial composition like they once had, and that majority of these students are now all Malays. Ask most parents, and their main concern is the quality of education in the national school types, or the lack of.

The National Education Blueprint is already in existence, in an effort to raise the educational standards in the country. It is the personal view of the writer that with this, it is hoped that the standard of teaching in national schools is raised to such a level that these schools would be the main choice of parents, just like the golden age of national schools of old. The practice of other languages should be upheld in the national school type system in the interests of all parties involved, with the aim of making redundant all vernacular schools. The importance of this cannot be over emphasised for the sake of national unity.

As an Umno man, the gentleman’s words are instantly put under the magnifying glass. It will be assumed to represent the party’s views, although this perception by the general public will be inaccurate as it is far from the truth.

Umno has always prided itself in ensuring that the rights of other races be continued and protected. If the gentleman had raised the issue of abolishing vernacular schools in relation to national unity and educational quality, then he, perhaps, would have gained much applause. However, to maintain his stand that it is an outlet for politicking by the Opposition is something which even an Umno member, such as myself, cannot sit idly by and not say anything.

Ironically, his words will be the basis of the Opposition’s propaganda warfare — let alone the independently-thinking parents whose children go to Chinese schools.

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