The President of Malaysian Chinese Association, Dato Seri Ong Ka Ting may envision that UTAR will become "The People's University", but in reality, isn't it more a university for Malaysian Chinese? After all, 98% of students in UTAR belongs to the Chinese ethnic group. On the other hand, the bumiputeras will have their matriculation colleges, Universiti Teknologi Mara and possibly an UMNO University.
It is extremely disappointing to see that while many of our leaders preach national unity and integration, the policies which they advocate are instead entrenching the racial separation and segregation in the country.
So when UTAR council chairman Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik proposed a student exchange programme with other universities to "ensure that students of all races are not segregated in their pursuit for higher education", I had to laugh.
Tun Dr Ling said the programme would help create a multi-cultural environment in Utar.
We would like these students to work together or become business partners after they graduate which is in line with the national objective of multi-racialism.Another programme, "Titian Integrasi", as reported in the New Straits Times, the brainchild of the State National Unity and Integration Department, aimed to enable students, "particularly those from Sabah and Sarawak, to get acquainted with the culture of the people in Peninsular Malaysia."
Since the time I was an active politician, we have been pushing for this national objective to foster greater racial integration where students can study together under the same roof and later work together or become business partners."
The programme involves 25 students staying for 4-5 days with their foster parents in another state. Nineteen-year-old Goh Bee Eng from Sibu, a first-year student from Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman (TARC) will stay with a Malay family in Bukit Mertajam.
The question I have is, how will these very micro-measures affecting a handful of students going to contribute significantly to breaking down the walls created through years of racial polarisation in the Malaysian education system?
Will a student exchange programme, often taking place over a period of 1 month to a maximum period of one term create everlasting friendship and understanding, to become future "business partners"? Isn't having student exchange programmes just to create an apparent "multi-cultural environment" absolutely superficial?
There is a fundamental flaw with our education system from primary schools to universities, involving both national and vernacular schools which is resulting in a highly polarised community, which can only worsen in the future. These cracks must be tackled at their source, and not be papered over with "noble" student exchange or foster care programmes. Should these cracks be properly sealed, these superficial programmes would not have been necessary in the first place.
Politicians or former ones should not harp on their honourable intents when their actions to date are to very much to the contrary. It's hypocritical and it peeves me mightily.