Monday, January 09, 2006

Vision Schools

Remember a few years back when our former Prime Minister mooted and started the Vision school concept? There was a major uproar, particularly from the Chinese education communities. Most fear that it was a sinister government attempt at taking "control" of the Chinese schools, which has operating fairly independently to date.

However, if reports in the New Straits Times (NST) is to be believed, one of the few "vision schools" set up in Subang in 2002 has proven itself to be fairly successful in achieving its objectives without compromising on the independence of the vernacular schools.

In essence the "Vision School" concept involves putting a national school and 1-2 other vernacular schools together at the same site to share common facilities such as the school canteen and sports ground. It is hoped that the close proximity between the students of various races as well as organised activities between the schools will encourage greater interaction between them and foster national unity.

There are eight Vision Schools nationwide, but only three — Subang Jaya, Lurah Bilut in Pahang and Teluk Sengat in Johor — comprises of the national, Chinese and Tamil Schools. According to the NST, the Subang Jaya school is considered the cream of the crop due to smooth management, experienced teachers and excellent camaraderie between the staff of all three components.

After initial skepticism, parents are apparently now anxious to enrol their school-going children into the Vision school as reported by the NST on Jan 4th.
The Vision School in Subang Jaya, which encompasses three schools — one national, one Chinese and one Tamil — saw nearly 400 Standard One pupils being registered on the first day of school.

Many youngsters on their first day of schooling today looked out anxiously for their parents, who milled about outside the classrooms of the three schools: Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato Onn Jaafar, SRJK (C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock and SRJK (Tamil) Tun Sambanthan.

The school, which opened its doors in 2002 amid much scepticism, is now well received and has had to turn down hundreds of applications due to limited seats.
One of the parents, A. Sivajiran, said he chose to send his seven-year-old daughter to the Vision School because it had a "good and beautiful concept".
"It is wonderful, I am all for it. I have been watching this school closely for two years and though at first it may have seemed there was not much integration, it is happening," he said.
In a follow up report by the NST yesterday, Koh Lay Chin, the reporting journalist went so far as to state that the objectives of the Vision school "has succeeded".
All parents the New Sunday Times spoke to support the concept, though they say the integration aspect could be developed.

"I am happy, no complaints," said S. Danapaul, the father of two children who are in Standard Two and Five at Tun Sambanthan. But if you talk about integration, it is not 100 per cent successful, but yes it does happen. You can see it in the canteen especially."
However, what I would regard as a limited success did not come easy. The headmaster of SRJK (C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock (TTCL) said that the initial scepticism about the school was "hard to deal with".
"It was stressful for the first two years, as the Chinese community did not agree with the concept. However, parents are accepting the idea, confident that whatever the Chinese schools have, we have, too."
Certain Chinese educationists, who opposed the Vision school concept quite rigourously, have apparently begun to make site visits to the Subang Jaya school to "study" the implication of such schools and some were quoted to have been "impressed".

The question then to be posed to Malaysians of all races, is Vision schools the right approach to achieving national integration? Having spoken just yesterday in my post with regards to some alarming behaviour of secondary school students who have not had much interaction opportunities in vernacular primary schools, would Vision schools be the solution?

Readers should also know that the Ministry runs another programme - Rancangan Integrasi Murid Untuk Perpaduan (RIMUP) to promote racial integration. This programme, which I've written about here and here earlier, have designated national and vernacular schools run joint activities and programmes but without sharing school facilities and resources. Understandably, due to its less "intrusive" nature, the RIMUP programme have been faced with less opposition from the vernacular educationists.

In my opinion, the Ministry of Education should implement all activities acceptable by all parties in the most extensive manner possible. For example, if the RIMUP programme faces the least resistance from various parties, then it should be implemented as fast as possible to all schools, even if the "integration" element is the least effective. It apears that this is the strategy undertaken under Pak Lah's admistration.

At the same time, the Ministry should continue to engage the parties opposed to concepts such as the Vision school and convince these parties that such schools are not only in the interest of the country, but are also in the interest of the students who will grow up not as "Chinese", "Malay" or "Indians", but as Malaysians. Again in my humble opinion, the Vision school concept provides greater racial "integration" elements and opportunities when compared to RIMUP. An education official has said whether there are to be more Vision schools depended on what the communities, especially the Chinese, wanted.

However, in the long term, and in the interest of the country, we really need to move beyond the concepts of "Chinese school", "Malay school" or "Tamil school" and set up the single stream education system of "Malaysian schools" which will at the same time protect and celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity of Malaysian ethnic groups.

To quote a parent, who would summarise my arguments:
"I guess, the national school is still the best when it comes to integration."
The "national school" should not be in the form that it is today, but one which will cater to all Malaysians and their diverse interests in the future.


Anonymous said...

Good work on the education issues in Malaysia. I believe this blog has been fair(at least to me) to all parties.

I am currently in my final year in one of the local university. It is rather obvious that there are little racial integration within the university.

The Chinese students believe that they are superior, the malay students believe that the Chinese are looking down on them and the Indian students are not bothered with others (One of my Indian friend told me that they are the minority and must stick together to survive). I guess that the issue of opportunities and vested interests some how pushed us to the edge.

This is strictly my opinion and does not reflect to all in the university.I have friends that are close to all races.The common thing: they are not bothered with other people's opinion and stigma they received. Its just a simple word that binds them together:FRIENDS.....

All I want to say is that sometimes,try looking beyond the self-imposed rules,so-called culture,I am better than you-mentality. We are all here thanks to our fore-fathers that fought wars and struggle to build up a country,OUR country.It is thanks to them that we are in a peaceful country.

Just try to look beyond our differences.....we have a lot more in common......

Anonymous said...

Whether it's Vision School or not, the outcome, or final product is still the same. Why do I say so? Here:

When children of all races study together until Lower secondary school, students of a particular race with excellent results go on to MRSM boarding schools. What about other races with similar scores? Still stick around in old school of course.

After taking SPM, for those who opts to stick to government IPTAs, many will continue to prepare for pre-U studies in Form Six or Matriculation centres. But due to some technical issues, namely quota and certain restrictions placed against certain races, again the students are segregated. A particular race will opts for somewhat "easier" routes in Matriculations in one year while leaving others swot and sweat in STPM for 2 years.

Then, during the application for IPTAs, certain races are barred from applying for certain University. This is blatant discrimination against the "victimised" races. Thus leaving them at disadvantage and let them compete not only from STPM comrades, but with the Matriculation graduates with "mystified" standards as well. Yet the "victims" don't dare to voice out. As a consequence, the "victims" will certainly bear the brunt of such discrimination and hence, hold the grudge and resentment is not suprising at all.

Finally during undergraduate years, like most of what the above anon have stated, the students of various races won't mingle with each other. Why? Because the students know certain races have certain advantages on the other. Yet most of them do not voice out lest they will be 'blacklisted'. Freedom are suppressed to the fullest extent.

After all these years, with the minds are already set, how do you tell them to integrate as a whole?

Anonymous said...

Vision School USJ is a new schools with all experienced and trained teachers. While the SJKC are still crying for teachers after so many years.

Anonymous said...

i heard the school gate open by different race. is it right?

Anonymous said...

“ Perkara 12. Hak berkenaan dengan pendidikan.

(1) Tanpa menjejaskan keluasan Perkara 8, tidak boleh ada diskriminasi terhadap mana-mana warganegara semata-mata atas alasan agama, ras, keturunan atau tempat lahir—
(a) dalam pentadbiran mana-mana institusi pendidikan yang disenggarakan oleh suatu pihak berkuasa awam, dan, khususnya, kemasukan murid-murid atau pelajar-pelajar atau pembayaran fi; atau (b) dalam memberikan bantuan kewangan daripada wang sesuatu pihak berkuasa awam bagi penyenggaraan atau pendidikan murid-murid atau pelajar-pelajar di mana-mana institusi pendidikan (sama ada disenggarakan oleh suatu pihak berkuasa awam atau tidak dan sama ada di dalam atau di luar Persekutuan).

(2) Tiap-tiap kumpulan agama berhak menubuhkan dan menyenggarakan institusi-institusi bagi pendidikan kanak-kanak dalam agama kumpulan itu sendiri, dan tidak boleh ada diskriminasi semata-mata atas alasan agama dalam mana-mana undang-undang yang berhubungan dengan institusi-institusi itu atau dalam pentadbiran mana-mana undang-undang itu; tetapi adalah sah bagi Persekutuan atau sesuatu Negeri menubuhkan atau menyenggarakan atau membantu dalam menubuhkan atau menyenggarakan institusi-institusi Islam atau mengadakan atau membantu dalam mengadakan ajaran dalam agama Islam dan melakukan apa-apa perbelanjaan sebagaimana yang perlu bagi maksud itu.”

The right to such vernacular education is also part of the Social Contract by our forefathers. Just look around us, I do not know of any country in this world that has such an education system like we have. Not even Singapore. I am told Lee Kuan Yew closed down all other streams of schools in the 60s / 70s and only allowed national schools.

Thailand, Indonesia or even Phillipines do not have such a system also. In fact they are worse. Everyone, whether you are a Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim do not have a name that identifies you with your religion or race. Everyone has been assimilated and have only Thai name or Indonesian name.

Until now, our government has always respected the Social Contract and even included it into the Constitution. The Government had never attempted in any way to close down vernacular schools as was done in Singapore. And I sincerely doubt they would ever do that. In fact, I know for a fact, the Government through Ministry of Education allocates per capita and some repair funding for Vernacular Schools.

On this note, I do not understand why certain groups such as Dong Jiao Zong are so against Sekolah Wawasan. I am told SJK (T) groups are supportive though. I have discussed with some friends before on it. One of the reasons given is that they fear this action is the initial stage of the assimilation process. Now, I have to rebut that.

As I said, the right to vernacular education is part of the Social Contract. It is also enshrined in the Constitution and more specifically addressed in the Education Act 1996. The BN Government has never attempted to close vernacular schools down and I doubt it ever will. In fact I believe variety or diversity is a strength that is unique to Malaysia if addressed properly. I for one would like to see vernacular schools be a part of the tools for integration and not be an unwilling agent for polarization.