Tuesday, February 06, 2007

National schools and National unity

This post is in response to some of the comments from my previous post on primary schools in Malaysia. I specifically want to address the notion that vernacular schools such as the SRJK(C) and SRJK(T) necessarily leads to less national unity (or more national disunity). This is probably going to be a longish post and slightly controversial. But I want to address this question by sharing some of my own experiences in a national school setting and how those experiences didn't exactly enhance my 'desire' for greater national unity. So please be patient and reserve your judgement until you've finished reading the entire post.

I attended La Salle PJ primary and secondary in the late eighties and I was there for 6 years of primary school and 3 years of secondary school before leaving to go to Singapore on an Asean scholarship (after Form 3). There was a good mixture of races at both the primary and secondary levels as is commonly the case in most national schools in PJ (Assunta, Sri Aman, Sultan Abdul Samad, Bukit Bintang, just to name a few).

At the primary school level, I mixed around with all the kids, regardless of race. I was probably closer to a few Chinese and Indian kids since many of them lived in the same area in PJ and our parents got to know each other. My brother was pretty close to our neighbors' kids, 3 Malay boys who went to La Salle, one of whom he's still in touch with fairly regularly. (We used to play sepak takraw and badminton together but I was usually left out because I lacked 'sporting prowess', to put it euphemistically). Issues of race didn't feature prominently at that age although we were always aware that there were differences between the races. The differences, by and large, just weren't salient enough at that age.

These differences were to become much more salient at the secondary level.

What I distinctly remember about the transition from the primary to the secondary level is that while the racial profile of the students didn't change sigificantly, the profile of the Malay students certainly did.

Many of the smart Malay kids at the primary level left the system at the secondary level for a variety of reasons. Some went to on to study at the prestigious MCKK (which is open only to Malay students, as far as I know) or other boarding schools which were open mostly to Malays only or they went overseas, usually to boarding schools in the UK (either on government scholarships or father/mother sponsorship or a mixture of both) and elsewhere.

Most of my Chinese and Indian friends who went to primary school with me also went on to secondary school with me. So any ties that I might have had with my Malay friends who had the opportunity to study elsewhere at the secondary level was severed and I was left mostly with the friends I was familiar with i.e. the Chinese and the Indians.

(My neighbor, who went on to become a director and chairman of a few listed companies, soon moved away to a bigger house and his sons left La Salle PJ at different stages at the secondary level)

My interaction with the Malay students at the secondary level can be largely divided into three typologies.

Firstly, the few remaining Malay students who were mostly middle class, spoke a substantial amount of English at home, and for some reason or other, chose not to leave the secondary school system in PJ for greener pastures elsewhere. I got along fairly well with this group given the similarities in background and interests and I had respect for them for their diligence and hardworking attitude. They performed well academically but were never in the top 10 or top 20 in the cohort rankings (out of about 350 or so in a cohort). The top 10 or 20 students were almost invariably Chinese or Indian students. (And I can say with some level of confidence that this was also commonly the case in many schools in PJ)

Secondly, the substantial group of Malay kids who were from the poorer parts of PJ (close to Taman Medan), clearly didn't speak much English at home (or elsewhere, for that matter) and performed so dismally in class that they often bore the brunt of our jokes when the exam marks were read out. (To illustrate this point, I still clearly remember the names of two consistently unperforming students, Hishamuddin and Nazri, who were happy if they obtained a mark above 40 for any exam. Their average was somewhere between 20 and 30 marks out of 100)

Thirdly, a significant minority of Malay kids who were from the asrama schools. They were mostly not from Selangor or from urban areas but were brought in from 'outstation'. They stayed in asramas (or hostels) which were 100% Malay, were very religious and were probably the most racist group of Malays out of the three groups I've classified. Some of my experiences with this group was so disturbing that I still remember the name and face of one of them - Syamsul - who used to spout hatred and stinging indictments on the non-Malays especially the Chinese. He would openly address the Chinese students with perjoratives (Cina makan babi and such) and would often instigate other Malay students not to join the non-Malays in any activities. He would often use religious language and justifications to slander the non-Malays. My suspicion is that a lot of this hate was probably encouraged, if not taught, by some of the residential advisors or 'ustazs' in these asramas.

So, where did that leave me?

In an environment where 'national unity' is supposed to be strengthened, I was faced with a situation where:

(1) The few good Malays (group 1) were consistently and significant outperformed by the non-Malays
(2) A large majority of Malays (group 2) couldn't speak decent English and had trouble passing exams on a consistent basis
(3) A significant minority of Malays (group 3) were being taught in their asramas or were in an environment where it was encouraged to denigrate non-Malays for religious and other reasons

Is this the national unity that some of our political leaders are talking about when they mention how vernacular schools are creating national disunity and how enrolment in national schools will lead to more national unity?

But still, I wouldn't necessarily call myself an ethnic extremist. I didn't and still wouldn't go around spouting ethnic extremisms and resort to public name calling and denigration. Till now, I always make an effort to get to know more Malay friends and to try to understand their culture, religion, background and struggles.

My experience up to the secondary level was such that I associated, to put it honestly, Malays with religious extremism and academic underperformance.

Things didn't get any better in Singapore given the smaller % and number of Malays in the country and an even smaller % and number in the schools which I went to. In a class of 40+ students in Raffles Institution, there were no Malay (or Indian) students. In a class of about 20 in Raffles Junior College, there was only 1 Indian student.

There was only 1 Malay Asean scholar in my batch (She's probably one of the smartest people I know and she later went to Oxford to read law and is currently a lawyer in one of the biggest practices in the world). The other interactions I had with Malays was on the sports field and in Malay class.

It was only at the university level when I re-encoutered Malay friends who were bright, articulate and diligent. There was (and still is) a large Malaysian contingent at the London School of Economics (LSE) and there were a number of outstanding Malays there (who shall remain nameless since they are or will be in positions of prominence and probably wouldn't want to be associated with me) whom I got to know.

I also visited Cambridge and Oxford on a regular basis and it was there that I got to know more Malay students including arguably one of the most articulate and smartest Malaysians whom I personally know - Adlan Benan Omar. I mention him in name only because he's relatively well known, especially among the Malay elite in Malaysia. I was told that he had memorized the Malaysian constitution by the time he was 13. He studied History in Cambridge and if you had an opportunity to engage him on an intellectual level, I'm sure you'd be blown away. (And he's pretty funny too!)

For all the criticism directed him (fairly and unfairly), Khairy Jamaluddin, that famous or infamous graduate of Oxford (Tony's alma mater) is tremendously sharp in his thinking, creative in his methods and as articulate as they come.

The number of smart and intelligent Malays whom I got to know (or know about) in Englad are just too numerous to mention so I won't. My time in the UK reversed some of the negative memories of my secondary school days.

When I returned to Malaysia from the UK, the workplace and the public space also afforded my many opportunity to interact with many Maly professionals whom I have utmost respect for. All of my Malay colleages in the Boston Consulting Group, KL, were top notch people, graduates of great universities and tremendously creative, bright and inspiring. Many of my Malay friends in PROMUDA, an association with young professionals are among the smartest and brightest in Malaysia.

My point is this - the fact that I went to a national school didn't really help me personally to get along with, not to mention, respect other races, primarily the Malays. I would probably only have gotten the desired interaction if people Adlan Benan Omar or Khairy Jamaluddin went to and stayed in the national school system.

Where did Adlan Benan Omar go to school at the secondary level? MCKK.

Where did Khairy Jamaluddin go to school at the secondary level? UWC in Singapore (only one of his stops since his father was a Malaysian diplomat).

Let me give you another example of an up and coming young man in the Malaysian political scene. His name is Nik Nazmi, an articulate and bright young man who graduated with a law degree from King's College in London and is currently active in opposition politics. You can read about his at this blog. He is an alumnus of La Salle PJ, like myself (except a few years younger) and was obviously an exceptional student. Where did he go after that? You guessed it - MCKK.

Let me state another point for further food for thought.

In all humility, I would probably say that most Chinese (or non-Malay) students who went to the national school system at the secondary level (and this would be almost all Chinese with the exception of those who attend the Chinese independent schools) would probably not have had the opportunity to interact with as many outstanding Malays as I've had, during my university and post university days.

How do you think they would feel about their secondary school and post secondary school experience in regards to 'national unity'?

Furthermore, consider this: I wasn't personally 'hurt' by many of the affirmative action policies in Malaysia. I managed to obtain a scholarship to study in some of the top schools in Singapore. I was lucky enough that my parents had saved enough to afford my an education in two great schools in the UK. I was lucky enough to obtain a couple of scholarships to pursue my PhD here in the US.

What about other middle class Chinese and Indian students who didn't have these opportunities? What would they have said when their Malay friends in secondary school went on to obtain government scholarships and places in desired subjects in public universities even as they were left by the wayside or forced to take less desired subjects at the public universities or go to the private colleges where again there is little interaction with other Malay students?

I distinctly remember the experience of bumping into a former La Sallian when I was back from my summer holidays while studying at the LSE. I was with two of my ASEAN scholar friends from La Salle at Stephen's corner, a mamak place in OUG just off Old Klang Road. (One friend was one year my senior at LSE, the other was studying medicine in Australia)

I can't remember the name of the former La Sallian but I still remember his face and what he said to us. In secondary school, he was slightly chubby, had a clean cut face and was very well behaved and quiet in class and was a diligent student. He was a good student but not a brilliant one. He would consistently rank in the top half of our class (between 10 to 20 in a class of 40) and would periodically crack the top 10. When we saw him sitting at a nearby table (this was 5 or 6 years after we had left La Salle in Form 3), we could hardly recognize him. His face was gaunt and thin and he looked as if he'd smoked too many cigarettes and had too many late nights. He looked at us with some level of recognition and we said hi and exchanged pleasantries. We asked him what he was doing and he told us that he was working in sales. (Keep in mind that the three of us were still in university at this time) I was slightly shocked since I assumed that he would be either a public university or a private college at this stage of his life (we all remembered him as a good student).

Then he said something to us that I remember to this day. He said, "Not everyone is lucky enough to go to university, like you guys".

I wonder to this day whether he was more bitter towards people like me and my two Asean scholar friends whose parents could afford to send us to universities overseas or towards the government for giving other people the chance to attend university despite them not doing as well as he did in school.

(In case it wasn't clear, the former La Sallian is a Chinese)

To end this post, I'd just like to use my own personal story to show that the notion that we can 'restore' national unity by abolishing Chinese and Tamil type primary schools is a myth that deserves to be debunked. I'm all for strengthening the national school system - improving the quality of teachers, making them less Islamic, better teaching of Pupil's Own Language (POL) and so forth. But unless many of the other entrenched institutions in this country (such as elite all Malay or almost all Malay secondary schools and boarding schools, inequalities in the allocation of scholarships and university places, and so on) are addressed concurrently with the issue of Chinese and Indian primary schools, we are being unfair in placing all or most of the blame on Chinese and Indian primary schools as the main cause for national disunity.

I'm sure many of our readers have their own personal anecdotes to share as well, perhaps from other cities or states (Kota Bahru, Batu Pahat, Penang), some negative, some positive.

I'm especially interested to know the views of our Malay readers who have either gone to all Malay schools boarding schools such as MCKK or to national secondary schools with a significant number of non-Malay students (mostly in urban areas) or even to the asramas (is hatred towards non-Malays something that is inculcated) since these are views which people such as myself (and many of our readers) are unfamiliar with. Let the comments begin!

78 comments:

Student said...

Well, I can certainly confirm some of these things. Here are some personal anecdotes of my own. I had my primary education in the late 80s and early 90s.

Up to when I was about 6 I didn't even know there was such a concept as race. I saw other kids as just, well, other kids. I didn't really know (and didn't care) what Melayu, Cina and India were until I entered primary school. I guess it was also around then that I heard grown-ups talking about the bumiputera privileges.

When I was in Standard 2 or 3 a new (Malay) boy moved to our area. We became quite good friends and spent a fair few evenings playing together. One day I heard that his father had gone to the school and quarreled with the teachers because according to him only a Malay should be class monitor! Mind you, his father was a bank manager. I wonder what he must have thought of his son playing with me (I am not a Malay)... They moved away after a short while though. Incidentally this boy had the same name as the racist kid in your account. Anyway, the point here is that whatever the schools can do, it's what goes on at home that carries more weight.

As for Islamism, it was very much alive even then. At assembly in primary school there were the occasional doas, and the senior assistant always started his speeches with two forms of greeting, one for Muslims and one for non-Muslims (although I didn't really know that it was meant to be that way until a couple of years later). Thankfully, as far as I was concerned I was relatively sheltered from extreme Islamism until I did my A-levels (I went to former English schools up to Form 5).

However, I spent some of my recent university holidays teaching in national schools, and I was so disappointed that even the former English schools have not been spared. In one such school the religious teacher had a group of spies out to inform on any of their Muslim colleagues who didn't live up to their brand of piety (this included not patronising the Chinese food-seller at the canteen, despite the canteen being allowed to sell only halal food) among other things, after which the offender would be brought to task during religious class. It seemed that eating cake (bought from a shop) offered by a non-Muslim fellow student was also punishable. This school also had dedicated time for prayers in the middle of lessons, and an extra 3 periods of religious classes during which non-Muslims, apart from those who took Chinese were left to their own devices under teacher supervision (I am told they have now stopped the Chinese lessons however). In another school, tudung wearing was compulsory, and even the teachers had to be sex-segregated during assembly.

Moving on to the quality of bumiputera students during secondary school - yes, it reduces after each public examination for a given cohort. I went to one of the premier schools in my area, and by the end of Form 5 there were only 3 Malay pupils in the top class (of 30), the rest having been creamed off to the MARA colleges or residential schools. We also had 2 asramas, reserved for pupils under the Special Plan (Rancangan Khas) where bumiputeras from rural areas with a minimum of 2 A's (out of 4) at UPSR were admitted so as to benefit from the urban experience. Unfortunately the only thing that happened was a drop in academic standards. The end classes had many of these pupils, who ended up mixing among themselves (so much for exposure). My former school has now drastically increased its bumiputera intake (a policy affirmed by its principal) - how the mighty have fallen! Its 100+ years of tradition have been shot to hell, and I sadly don't see it getting any better there. I, and many of my non-Malay friends, did have Malay friends though, despite the enrolment during my time being predominantly Chinese, but we never believed in discriminating based on race in the first place.

I then moved on to do pre-university studies at an institution with links to the government. It was there that I started to realise the full extent of the indoctrination that goes on in our residential secondary schools, as many of the students came from such schools. The more religious students ruled the roost, and there was a great emphasis on religion to the extent that there was a campaign for 'proper' dress, notices against Valentine's Day and suchlike. It was there also that I found out the views held by some of my fellow students, as I came across literature alleging mass conversions of Muslims (which were factually wrong, and showed such shallow understanding of how conversion works - for example there was one alleging that money was being used to convert Muslims), how non-believers were doomed to hell (admittedly some non-Muslims also have similar views) etc. So - whither national unity? We can make everyone attend national schools, but as some of these examples show, they are only as good as the people running the show there. Incidentally, the best schools in the past for promoting unity were the Christian schools (and they didn't even actively promote Christianity nor condemn the unbeliever), yet see what our government has chosen to do to them ?

Sorry for the long post, but hey, you wanted examples.

johnleemk said...

While I agree with all the points made, I think that there's a bit of a logical fallacy going on here. Many (including myself) would state that our present segregated school system (under which I include all those Malay boarding schools) is detrimental to racial unity, which is a very different thing from saying that the national school system is conducive to racial unity. Rather, the national school system can be a boon or bane - as was said, it all depends on the people you have.

I was very lucky to have an idea of what a true national education can be, because my primary school was not very Islamicised and had a good racial balance, while my first secondary school had a surprisingly large number of high-calibre Malays whose parents did not send them to boarding schools. I of course realised how screwed up things are once I transferred to another secondary school, where not more than one or two Malays could be described as above average academically.

The point is, the national school system is neutral when it comes to racial unity, but the segregated school system is actively negative, because it segregates our young. The problem noted by the post in the first place stems from a different brand of segregated school - the asrama.

nate said...

I observe, Kian Ming, that you are a rank-ist, describing your past accomplices not by their personality but how they scored in class.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand, why we like to use the word "race." There is only ONE race in the world - humans.

After all, we come a long way to the 50th anniversary of independence. It is sad that we are still arguing about the differences among each and everyone of Malaysians and at the same time pointing fingers against each other, while our neighbour has slowly surpassed Malaysia one by one. Are we going to be the next Indonesia?

Of course the government may not be as good as the "ideal" type in our mind. Come on, they are humans too. Selfishness and being greedy are human nature and we can't expect them to change, to work for the benefit of the people. We are the ones who choose them to lead in the first place. Moreover, we are heavily pushed by capitalism, and exploitations are inevitable.

If we are really that concern, why don't we change those people? It's a government by the people, for the people - democracy! Exercising our right is definitely better than mumbling and throwing papers at the stone. Why not do it another round?

Everything happens because of prejudice. The government has been particularly good in instilling such thought in each and every Malaysians. The situation is even worse than during colonial era. Is Malaysia a plural society? Are Malaysian being Malaysianized or the boundary between "race" is more significant than ever? We can lie to the world, but we can't lie to ourselves.

Anonymous said...

It saddens me a lot when I read the postings made by other bloggers about Islam...Islam is never a racist religion and as far as I know, being a Muslim means that you never should be a racist. Nonetheless, I believe that all these misconceptions arise from the poor understanding of Islam among the Muslim themselves and the ways goverment institionalized the 'Islamic ways'in Malaysia, be it the education system or others. I myself do not fancy MARA boarding schools or other boarding schools that clearly has become the mechanism to further segrerate Malaysian people...vernacular schools also to a large extend are in this category...whether we like it or not..it is the fact.

daniel said...

KM, when I read your anecdote, it was like reading an account I would have written myself, only it happened earlier in the mid-to-late '70s, in a small town location. Unfortunately, through a combination of reasons, I self-destruct academically at HSC after never been out of the top ten of my school from primary to secondary school, and ended up like your friend because my family had no resources to let me recoup and proceed to tertiary studies.

I now run my own business and took courses to better myself academically but I sometimes think what might have happened if I had those same opportunities many of my malay friends had. Then, I'm jolted back into reality because the same scenario is being replayed over and over again both in the school system and in the business world through the NEP.

Madcap Machinist said...

I rarely reveal to people that I went to MCKK (in the late 90s) but recently I told an acquaintance who spent some years teaching there and her response was, "you poor boy, scarred for life!"

On one hand, it wasn't that bad, but on the other hand, I can't truthfully disagree with her. Boarding schools are really intense environments.

Before that I went to a school in Cheras where the majority of students is Chinese. Before that, I was in a school in Sarawak where the racial and religious mix is best described as eclectic. As such being in an almost exclusively Malay--and male--environment was a big shock.

An observation that I can offer is that while in the Malay College 'Islamism' wasn't so overt (perhaps because it was a single-sex school, among other, no less important reasons), I also spent some time visiting other boarding schools where I noticed very strong religious environments--in the sekolah agamas obviously and also the co-ed MARA JSCs and the co-ed boarding schools.

There were some racial rhetorics in school as well; that is to be expected but the presence of teachers from other races helped to keep that in check. Also, we students self-police: I remember a particularly vocal chap with some ultra-leaning views who sparked debates after debates, but we all got along in a fashion.

In my pre-U days it became obvious that my contemporaries from the other boarding schools were from very different worlds. The ones from the MARA and religious boarding schools, particularly those from the rural areas were the ones most overtly racist, or at least had trouble integrating with the 'real world' -- though, to be fair, we all had our demons to deal with. Nevertheless, I was at a MARA college that offered A-Levels and stayed in the student hostel where there was a high level of 'Islamism' which polarized the non-muslims, even alienated the moderate Muslims in the same building.

I went to the UK for my degree and I avoided the Malaysian community, or rather, they avoided me (got along too well with the locals I suppose) so can't say much there.

In my opinion, the most critical phase is at pre-u level where 'first contact' happens and many students from previously insular environments start to break out. I believe that boarding schools are still good environments for learning, being highly structured, but healthy interaction with the outside world must be maintained... sadly in my experience this is not the case.

Madcap Machinist said...

To clarify: between Sarawak and Cheras there was a period where I went to school in Terengganu (Kerteh)and it was a very fine school: Sekolah Rantau Petronas.

This school is worth mentioning because the students are mostly from similar backgrounds; they come from families who work for Petronas in a professional capacity--who, from my experience (though arguably biased, since I've known them all my life), are largely some of the most solid people I've ever met. I knew some very outstanding kids there... evidence that the best education begins at home.

Anonymous said...

When an idiot somehow or other gets the incredible idea in his worthless brain that "My religion is better than yours", it is the beginning of the end for human civilization.

your fellow anon said...

As SPM approaches, the guidance counselors gave numerous talks about career paths and opportunities. After such a talk, I approached her to discuss more. In the middle of our conversation, I distinctly remember her saying: "If you are Bumiputra then different story lar".

Now, let's assume the national school system is perfect that if fostered the ideal national unity: minimal radical-Islam, high interaction and respect between races, strong bonds of friendship between races. How would students feel when told at the end of their secondary school education : 'Oh, I'm sorry, but you're actually different under the law. We have limited resources and for the good of the society, we will give special opportunities to only a certain group of people.' Continuing with our Utopian scenario, will our close Bumiputra friends openly sympathize with the non-bumi? or will they say 'tough luck bro, better luck next time' ?

Inequality. That is our sickness. Everything else could be classified as symptoms of our national disease.

Anonymous said...

Kian Ming,

in your opening paragraph, you wrote "I specifically want to address the notion that vernacular schools such as the SRJK(C) and SRJK(T) necessarily leads to less national unity (or more national disunity)".

I think there is a mistypo there coz that sentence sounds to me that you are saying it DOES lead to more national disunity.

Tong said...

Hi Kian Ming, reading your experience with Malay students sure brings back some memories from my days of attending Universiti Sains Malaysia.

During my first year, there was a friend from Kedah by the name of Sobri who used to hang around a lot in my hostel room, chatting and watching movies. He gradually stopped dropping by after the first semester and I only found out much later that he had been warned by other Malays in the hostel against mingling with Chinese.

This was an eye opener to me because my encounter with Malays in secondary school was minimum. At St. Paul's in Seremban, there were only Chinese and Indians in my class, which incidentally happened to be the top class.

Sobri's friends who did not like Chinese were not the minority, as I came to realise in the ensuing years.

At the same time, I also got to know more Malays who seemed to be of a different breed when I started working. But there are so few of them based on my unscientific estimate.

The funny thing is the more open-minded Malays are not necessarily those who speak fluent English or who have had high exposure to Western culture.

Some of the more Islamic Malays (at least in appearance) surprisingly could be far more tolerant than those who wear jeans and listen to rock music. On that note, it is possible that one who attends Oxford talks and behaves worse than an illiterate.

The tolerant ones often share one trait: they are genuinely interested to learn about other races and cultures.

The only problem is they also tend to be more private about their opinions and thoughts, fearing to upset the majority, or what I call the "mob".

With regards to the national unity project, I think we have become so obsessed with it that we fail to realise unity is an aggregrate, or rather the end product, of positive values and practices.

Set your eyes on mutual respect and equality and you might just have unity. Aim for unity in vacuum and you'll achieve nothing.

Anonymous said...

What every anecdotal evidence confirm is this: our school system is not a big reason for national disunity, it may not do a lot for unity but its certaintly is not high in the rankings.

Every anecdote have one thing in common - no matter how pleasant memories of racial harmony, respect etc anyone have, sooner of later, they don't last.

The reality of economic and religious difference and competition, incidently and legally fitted into race, is a fundamental undercurrent that keep us divided. Not only that these undercurrent are demarcated by deep fissures. No education system can counter those forces and in fact increasingly hard to just cover it up. Some would even argue that our 'segregated' system actually are in-builts relieve valves that prevents the deep fissures from exploding to the surface.

Face it, great world leaders and nations are grappling with the complex problem of economic and religious divide and while they are talking optimistic prescriptions, its quite clear the confidence is not 100%.

Do we honestly believe that our mediocre leaders really have the answer to the problem?

While it should be our goal to seek a united Malaysian society, the truth is division within us will be with us for long long time. Even if we wipe out the NEP, even if we remove race from our constitution and implement meritocracy, AND even if we adopt absolute secularity, that divide will still exist for a long time to come.

The constant harping of SRJK(C) is not worrying because of national unity. Its worrying because its a larger national disease of looking for easy, unpainful solutions to big issue, i.e., looking for the short-term, scapegoat, the weakest member, parties and reasons to bear the brunt of the problem while the elite and powerful avoid the tougher medicine that will cost them heavily.

In other words, frankly, this debate of the school is really the cart before the horse. There is no point talking about it so extensively although I would not suggest ever forgetint it. Discussing it and any proposal from it will not do much. No until the sick horse in front of the cart is at least well-enough to pull the cart...

Anonymous said...

In my neighborhood,
there are national bahasa schools built grandly with multi buidlings, with very little students.

On the other hands, the residents here have to fork out own funds to build a relocated chinese school, that even malays are enrolling.

What sort of future these biased policies painted toward our youths. To me, this is simply not a place to raise our kids, education wise, as estimated a million high-value and productive professional locals have migrated, to indicate their disapproval.

Kian Ming said...

Thanks for the many thoughtful comments on this post. Keep them coming!

johnleemk said...

I think those who say we should deal with the NEP, ketuanan Melayu, etc. before sorting out our segregated school system need a bit of a reality check. The distinction between Bumis and non-Bumis is starkly clear in almost any setting, but does this act as a true barrier to integration? Have you ever seen someone say "Oh, I don't hang out with the Malay fellow because he got the MARA scholarship I can't apply for", or someone say "I'd rather not be with that Chinese girl because I'm Bumi - I'm special"? There are insane freaks who use such rationales, but they are such a tiny minority that they're practically nil.

The fact is, racial politics keeps us divided as a polity, but not necessarily as a society. What divides our society is the unwarranted stereotyping and false conceptions of other races - which is exactly what our segregated school system encourages. If a Malay in a boarding school never has any non-Malay friends, he will be far more susceptible to propaganda about Malay superiority and the impurity of non-Malays than he would be if he had attended school with a balanced ethnic composition. Likewise, a Chinese might think that all Indians and Malays are dumb because those are the only kinds he was exposed to in secondary school - and that's if he was lucky enough to have such exposure, because more and more national secondary schools in urban areas are being Chinese-dominated, and it is obvious that Chinese schools provide little opportunity for interaction between different ethnic groups.

That is what divides society - not racial politics. Racial politics makes us stab each other in the back for power, but it doesn't keep us from being friends on a personal level. (And after all, despite all its racial politics, BN is perhaps one of the few truly multiracial organisations in the country - its leaders are united in destroying Malaysia.) A racialised society, however, results from stereotyping and misjudgements based on false preconceptions - both of which arise far more easier under a segregated rather than integrated school system.

Nik Nazmi said...

Kian Ming,

Do you really want to put my name along with Adlan Benan and KJ ;)?

From my experience, there is a ring of truth to the classification of Malay students that you made.

I enjoyed the multiracial experience in La Salle PJ. When I got into MCKK, the environment was obviously different (it only accepts Malays or at most, Muslim Bumiputras).

There were certain events with a racial connotation that we went through, but as we grew up and matured I don't think we're exceptionally racist from the Malaysian population at large. Our mailing lists continue to invite various points of view.

Overall, MCKK promoted meritocracy within the Malays, as kampung boys were deemed equal to the sons of ministers and senior civil servants. MCKK also gave us the confidence to compete with others later in life.

But yes, we need to address the race-based affirmative action in place. This includes giving more opportunities to non-Malay students to go to the residential schools, and furthermore make our local university admission and the award of overseas scholarship a mix between merit, and socio-economic background rather than entirely focused on race.

At the same time, the government should also allow for more Mandarin and Tamil to be taught in national schools.

Once we've achieved that, we might need to reasses the need for separate vernacular schools, which is also not contributing towards national unity.

Nik Nazmi said...

And just to provide more perspective, Adlan Benan Omar was from SRK Kampung Tunku in Primary, and then stayed on BBBS until form three. He only joined MCKK in form 4.

your fellow anon said...

johnleemk,

Thanks for setting me straight.

Meng said...

Firstly (with tongue in cheek) the Hishamuddin and Nazri you mentioned - do they happen to be Ministers in the Malysian government???

Thanks for your detailed analysis - I read it all!! I was from La Salle PJ, I think quite a few years earlier. I met Nik Nazmi and yes, must say quite a impresive guy whats more humble!(which is rare)

I think its very different today then it was in our time. For one, We had good mission schools with teachers who were dedicated and ...color blind.

My children now all go to Chinese Kebangsaan - not my first choice and I tend to think not very good for National Unity in the long run...but for lack of a better choice. At least they learn good work ethic and hard work.

Anonymous said...

I just want to add what I see as a tendency to use anecdotal and even statistical evidence of the elite like MCKK, La Salle, Oxford, oversea scholarships as a basis for reasoning and ideas.

If we are going to rely on the elite of this country to unite us, then you can forget it. The elite are different and as smart and spiritually wonderful as some of them can be, there are many many more that are just overwhelmingly preoccupied with their own self-interest.

This is not to say elite INSTITUTION like MCKK and others don't play important role. In fact elite institutions are the most redeeming quality of elite compared their more often than not dissapointing members. But these institutions don't hold the major answer precisely because their members tend to fall short to the ideals of the institutions.

The elite institutions also are not prescriptions for the rest of the people. As I said, the elite are different - they don't need help, they don't need and hard to be lead . While certaintly the elite are examples that the rest especially the most disadvantage and needy seek to emulate, the tendency is not to emulate the best which is hard but that which is the easiest and by definition the worst of the elite.

More oversea scholarship for non-bumi? Please... Just give them a good place in a good local program. More elite bumis in non-residential/non-elite schools? Like they will try and take on the Islamist and racist. KJ is the very proof of the failure of this idea..

The failure of policies like NEP, Islamization is precisely that they tend to benefit the elite and extreme more than the average and moderate by a hugely disportionate amount. Its not an implementation failure as some politically correct like to excuse but the implementation failure is inherent and not separate from the policy.

The truth is whatever success the elite institution achieve is likely not be able to emulate elsewhere and that is the issue. That is why the best prescription for the masses is always to just let them be, protect their democratic rights and voice like private property, freedom of expression, freedom o religion, justice, law and order, decent education, infrastructure, low inflation, broadband access and have faith that they will choose and do the right thing.

Attempts to force the masses to integrate, to emulate the best of the elite and rise above the worst tendencies are idealistic that, in the long run, ALWAYS have either no real result or very often negative side-effect.

That is why removing the NEP and secularity of constitution, independence of judiaciary can do more than anything being proposed by the government. But its not the only thing they can do. Removing the NEP must also be replaced by anti-discrimination act, secularity must also be protected with the right of religious practise, independence of judiciary but mitigated by clear non-interference of judiciary from law-making role and independence of election process.

Let me say one last thing, no one is advocating the wholesale reversal of government policies immediately. But what is being advocated is really a clear direction for long term solution i.e., set a clear process (and yes at least SOME Dateline) of removal of NEP, set a clear boundary/process of separation of religion and politics that will NEVER be crossed etc.

In other words, the best precription for national school integration? - just don't get in the way and stop those who try to shape it.

ChinHin said...

Kian Ming,

I just read up some of Adlan Benan Omar writing - this guy IS really sharp and funny.

Any more writing and speeches by this guy, I would welcome you pointing it out....

Anonymous said...

In reply to Johnleemk,

Instead of getting rid of vernacular school, funding and empowering the 10% Malay students in SRJK(C) to get what they want in their schools would do many times more for national integration than limiting anything SRJK(C) want to do. For example, why should Malay students in SRJK(C) have to get their religious classes elsewhere? Instead of trying to half-baked mother-tongue lessons in national schools, the money would be much MORE productive to SRJK(C) to provide the best BAHASA programs and encourage its use and I would argue mandating that all Malay students take these program..

This is not just putting the horse before the cart, its making a sick horse so strong, it pulls more than one cart along..

johnleemk said...

anonymous, that's a complete non sequitur. How does it follow that if we make life better for the 10% of Chinese school students who are Malay, it will address the fundamental societal problems caused by segregation of our schools? Unless you are proposing the abolition of all other public schools and turning the Chinese school system into the national school system, I just don't see how this solves the basic problem of lack of interaction.

jonoave said...

I knew my former secondary school (La Salle PJ) had a pretty good glory days; didn't realise it had that many outstanding alumnni members. ;) For the record, I support the concept of national schools and believe vernacular schools and boarding-tyep schools impede national unity.

For me, the notion or race only became prominent in Form 4, when almost all the Malays in my class left for boarding schools, leaving only 2. There was no distinctions among race or whatsoever, we all shared the same canteen and everything else together. Almost everyone know how to use chopsticks (even the Malay mee stall provides them) or eating with hands. There was no need for any unity and integration camp for us to "integrate" among ourselves.

When I came to public uni, the polarisation of race was well, point-blank obvious. Not genralising, but majority of students in public uni come from middle or lower class income, who studied either in vernacular (non-Bumis) or boarding schools (Bumis).

What I think is the the divisive barrier to mingling and interaction , is the mindset and perception. Like I come from a national school and a banana. I'm not that close to many Chinese, mainly because we just don't "click" that much. Their likes and preferences do interest me, and vice versa they're not really interested in my likes. Generally, we're on different wavelengths. Instead, I'm more at ease with my friends in debate, where we all generally speak English and most of us coming from national schools.

It might be stereotypical or discriminatory, but birds of a feather flock together. Just like students who are more academically inclined usually have similar-like friends. People usually hang with others who share the same wavelength.

Which is why I believe national schools are the best place to create a culture where mingling is natural and majority generally do have vastly differing wavelenghts.

In the future. vernacular schools , might be alright as the number of non-Chinese students there are increasing. As for boarding schools which is exclusive only to race, it definitely does NOT foster integration.

Anonymous said...

Johnleemk,

That is why you see only a single national system as an answer to national integration.

Its called the power of free will.

Those 10% Malay students numbering in the thousands, by choosing to do what they want and be responsible for it, will be such absolute proof of the possible ideals and disprove the current irrational fears, that it will influence so much more people than any system purposely shaped and designed by a few people for them.

Its the same way US spread modern democracy to Europe in 1800, the US won the war against communism/socialism, slavery was defeated, women suffrage.

Read Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America and do some thinking.

veii said...

Interesting to note that one among my 'alma mater's has been mentioned in this long comments list. I was from SRK Kampung Tunku, but I am not quite world debater or national leader material (hehe). But therein lies an interesting point of departure for my own story - back in 1982-1987, when I was there, that school was visibly more multi-racial than it clearly is today. There was not a significant, felt racialisation of any sort and the student body was probably quite reflective of Malaysia's, or at least Petaling Jaya's then. My close friends included Indians and some Malays.

I did not follow the bulk of my friends who had gone off to Sri Aman and Bukit Bintang afterwards. Instead I went off to Seaport where there were a lot more students, and more interestingly for me, students from vernacular schools (mostly Sungei Way, but with some from Yuk Chai, Puay Chai and Cheng Mo). But the bulk of the people that I mixed with, in the end, came from the primary 'feeder school', SRK Kelana Jaya. In fact, some of them had been classmates for a good six years before spending most of the five years at Seaport together. I was one of those immigrants who eventually assimilated into this millieu.

From Form 3-5, we were, more or less in one, same class. As it so happened, this was classified as the 'top' class of the school. In the third form we had Malays - boys and girls - in our class but then the Asrama and Maktab Sains trend, as mentioned by Kian Ming, took them out of circulation, leaving a strikingly all-Chinese line-up behind at the top of the class.

Ours was a small class - with about 30 students in contrast to the average of 40-50 for all of the other three science stream classes. I never felt that this was a natural set-up, but then we had all made it on the basis of our SRP results, and anyway our Malay classmates would have been with us, but for the other attractive options. Three of my classmates (non-Malay) went to Singapore on ASEAN scholarships, so it wasn't only the one group (Malays) who got upgraded.

Disciplinary problems came from bad boys (mostly boys, not so much girls) from all of the races. And they did, generally, come from classes lower down the ranks academically. In a large school (student body about 3,000-2,800 those days) you would be bound to face these problems, although given the strange way we were structured, our class circulated in a fairly privileged middle-classed environment, with some interaction with the other science classes and much less with classes from the arts stream, that was very tight-knit and tended to behave almost like a 'boarding school' within the larger blackboard jungle that was Seaport.

I think that given our dubious status as a 'gangster school' we did not receive yayasan boys or girls from the asramas, or at least none that I can recall. We did, however, have a sizeable number of Indians whom I believe came either from nearby squatters or the remnants of estates, but this group seems to have disappeared by Form 4. There were of course other Indians who were clearly middle-classed and did not belong in this category, but as I said, the anomalous streaming had left my class exclusively Chinese, save for a few transferees who were parked in our class by virtue of it being the smallest.

I do not really have an opinion to share, other than wanting to relate my story, which to me actually looks a lot like Kian Ming's up to the end of secondary school. All I'd like to say is that there is a wide variety of schooling experiences even within PJ. My secondary school, in summary, was a large institution, so large that it virtually operated as a multi-strata society with different norm-values for each stratum and progressively interacting less with strata further away from it socially. I do hope that I don't come across as a 'snob' - I just wanted to describe my experience as I see it.

Anonymous said...

JohnLeemk,

I realized that my examples may not be to your palate.

Other examples that may give you food for thought: Why is MCKK students so succesful but the many other residential schools patterned after it so dissapointing? Why did communism (started as Das Kapital in 1867 in England) spread so fast after Russia adopted it through similar agricultural economies that had to compete with industrial ones?

Power of free will. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Thank about it,
foundamentally,
when you have leader who utter to insist compensate certain community,
for another 500 years, for being colonised,
this nation will never progress and have unity among different communities, in this borderless flat world.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how National Unity can ever been attained while our government on one hand drafting plans to promote national unity among all racials in education. But on the other hand they impose separate legislations for the bumiputras and non-bumiputras, or so called the affirmative actions.

Affirmative actions are giving special privileges to the certain group (based on gender, race, disability, etc.) to encourage them to integrate or assimilate into the mainstream societies to create equal opportunities for every one. However the downside of the affirmative actions are it may increase racial tension by merely benefiting a privileged group while denying the same rights to the others.

The first step we can move forward to national unity is for the government to stop making public statement in regards to islamic ideology. It really frets the people who are non-muslims.

Anonymous said...

While we see clear biased implementation in public services and resources allocations, including education sectors.

We thus exist the resulting side effects of private sectors' services and manpowers which clearly lean toward certain community, with some having Plan B in line.

In reality, national unity remains a far vision, as we lack truly governing statemen.

Anonymous said...

i tend to agree quite a lot with johnlee..'s postings. philosophical considerations aside, i'm still trying to make sense of my children's experiences in a national school.

for eg, my year 3 daughter sits sandwiched between a chinese boy (the few still to be found in a national sch) and an indian boy.
they got along so well showing no signs that racial prejudices or stereotypes are getting in the way of their innocent friendship.

my year 1 boy is however surrounded by only malays and indians. the handful of chinese have congregated to one class only (supposedly the best). still he hangs out with sis's friends and they stand out in the recess crowd for being the malaysia that should have been.

my only lament is how long will this last? for i used to have a chinese for a best friend, in sch, so long ago. so did my elder daughters. in fact, they used to play and trade cards in each others homes.

but come uni years, (and in my daughters' case during lower sec sch) we all go our separate ways.

i blv in giving chances to the underprevileged provided they are qualified. why do u think oprah built a fancy sch in south africa if not to give the black gals a leg up in life?

as for scholarships, do pple realised that straight As malay students from urban day schools (who'd rather give up their residential sch places to their less advantaged kampong cousins)are nowadays left preety much in the lurch.

they go nowhere. not even in the local unis esp for top motch courses lk medicine, dentistry . dont believe me? check out a matriculation centre of a kl sited uni and u'll find hoardes of 10As urban malay kids from DAY school, dreading the day when they have to make do with a lesser offer for a lesser course, courtesy of the upu.

and these kids are from ordinary malay flys with hardly much left over at the end of the month. so how? just bcuz we dont have the mca ed bureau/star to highlight our plight in a systematic fashion, doesn't mean it dont exist.

johnleemk said...

Those 10% Malay students numbering in the thousands, by choosing to do what they want and be responsible for it, will be such absolute proof of the possible ideals and disprove the current irrational fears, that it will influence so much more people than any system purposely shaped and designed by a few people for them.

To be frank, I don't understand what you're saying. Face facts. A majority of non-Chinese will never be comfortable with sending their children to what are literally called "Chinese schools", and furthermore, under a segregated school system, achieving true national unity will be a difficult, if not nigh-on-impossible task.

You seem to have this rosy idealistic picture of a Malaysia that will somehow be united if only we can dump the discriminatory policies of the government, while ignoring a very potent reality: Over 90% of the students in national schools are Malay, making these "national" schools Malay schools. Similar figures exist for Chinese and Tamil schools respectively. We have segregated ourselves according to race. How do you expect us to be united when we insist on segregating our children?

Other examples that may give you food for thought: Why is MCKK students so succesful but the many other residential schools patterned after it so dissapointing? Why did communism (started as Das Kapital in 1867 in England) spread so fast after Russia adopted it through similar agricultural economies that had to compete with industrial ones?

You seem to believe that the non-Chinese are completely rational creatures who will send their children to Chinese schools once they see that Chinese schools are superior to "national" schools. Clearly, you are living in a different country than me, because I cannot conceive of more than a handful of non-Chinese, especially Malays, who would be this open-minded. Man is governed by emotions, not rationality.

After all, if we were completely rational, communism would work. It's because of emotions like greed that economic systems relying on man's goodwill fail. Similarly, base emotions will prevent the non-Chinese from ever entering Chinese schools in droves.

And anyway, as I've noted before, though the academic superiority of Chinese schools is indisputable, it's probably overestimated. For one, the Chinese population is drastically urbanised and often mroe economically better off - two variables which are consistently correlated with superior academic performance. And for another thing, our examination system is pretty damn useless at actually testing anything more than the ability to regurgitate canned answers, so I wouldn't wholly rely on it as a measure of academic competitiveness.

DKR said...

I'm just going to quantify my posts in the previous topic in relations to this topic. I don't think that the maintainance of JUST the Chinese school system promotes national disunity. I believe that it's the case that the promotion of ALL VERNACULAR schools are ONE of the things that promote national disunity. We should all be sending our children to the same schools to learn the same things. Anything else just promotes division. I agree with johnleemk when he says that this doesn't necessarily mean that national schools promote unity. That is a more complex problem that requires the adressing of different isuues. Problems arise because, now that we have travelled down a certain path, it is becoming increasingly difficult, almost impossible some would say, to back down and choose a different path. Everyone must agree to give up some of they're perceived ideals and work towards a common goal. And this becomes difficult if we are all so entrenched in our clan like mentality.

There are many other factors as you have mentioned that promote national disunity, but in the previous post the discussion was limited to the Chinese vernacular.

Also, without sounding harsh to you, your evidence is anecdotal and there would be many different people with different experiences, namely me. However, each of our own ideals are derived from our past experiences and emotions. I, personally, have had a great experience by going to an SM and a SRK and met and mixed with many an intelligent person, be it Malay, Chinese or Indian.

eu said...

I will send my kids to a school (regardless national, chinese, malay, etc.) if the school themselves have following programs:

- Promotes diversity, which has all races helped each other and worked together side by side

- Promotes multi-language environment. Even English comes in priority, i still want my children to be given an opportunity to learn other languages, Mandarin being quite attractive nowadays when many countries like US, UK, EU are putting this as one of the recommended courses, and other languages like french, german, spanish, etc. if possible.

- Religion-free and open-minded campus. Religion is spiritual & very personal belief that should be cultivated in family. I want my children to gain knowledge, learn critical thinking, explore innovative ideas in school with their teachers and classmates, not to be molded into an old school believer.

- More inter-group discussions, inter-school programs, humanity programs among all students from various backgrounds/ethnicities. I find high school students these days have spent most of their free time in computer games, movies, music, fashion, shopping malls. Not that these activities should be banned, but I'd like them to get involved in more humanity projects or voluntary programs, to be more conscious in what's happening in the real society.

- Quality teachers that are willing to play fairness and stimulate student interests.

Anonymous said...

I have not said that vernacular school itself promote national unity, at best I said that its a valve that prevent national disunity from getting worst.

My contention even is that the 10% Malay students are doing more for national unity than anything ELSE that the government has planned or this idea of single national school system can achieve. Just to make sure people don't make another flying leap, I did not say that the 10% Malay students can singular do everything or even most thing. It is quite likely their positive effect will not be enough. But that is not their failure or the vernacular schools failure. It is the failure of the rest of the system, education or otherwise which would have been inevitable even if the vernacular school system get wiped out..

So what I am saying is that the vernacular system and particularly the 10% Malays in the system is one of the brightest hope. There may be other brighter and even better hope (I believe MCKK would be if it had remained independent and the government did not mess it up, for example) but not in what the government has in mind for the national schools or vision schools etc..

Anyone who believe that the government has the answer for national unity is naive. Government don't unite people, they or rather politicians try a lot but the fact is government can only encourage the wishes of the people to unite and can do more harm if they try to force it in a way they don't want to, which is what happened with the national system and would be worst if there were not the vernacular system.

PJBoy said...

Great to hear all these stories which pretty much mirror my own. I did my primary in Kampung Tunku and secondary in Bukit Bintang Boys PJ in the 80s and 90s - same as Adlan Benan though I had no idea he came from the same schools until I read this blog.

I - a Chinese - too played with all races - Indians and Malays and mixed parentage during primary school years. I guess having a common and neutral language - English really helped. Religion was also never a dividing factor.

When I got to Bukit Bintang the environment was vastly different. Kampung Tunku in those days at least was a largely English speaking school drawing mostly middle class English speaking pupils from around PJ. But BB had pupils from Yayasan as well as pupils who came from Chinese speaking backgrounds

I didn't have much to do with the yayasan boys - they stuck mostly together and had their own little sub-culture. I didn't mix too much with the mainly chinese speaking students either. So I mixed mostly with the English speaking kids who thankfully came from all races - Malays, Indians and Chinese. But race and religion definitely became much more a divide than in primary school. Agama class was the worst - all the Malays would be taken into a separate class where who knows what they were taught while the non-Malays would do their math homework.

Fortunately, the school's Christian heritage was left more or less intact. I hear some horror stories of other missionary schools where the headmaster or headmistress ordered crosses taken down or forbade any religios society other than Islam to meet at school.

In form 4, some Malays dissappeared. I had no idea what these MCKK or MARA schools were. I didn't think much of it then. Some bright Malay pupils remained behind though they definitely had the good grades to go to these asrama type schools. I never did ask them why they did not go. I wonder...

A few Chinese students also dissapeared - mostly to migration to Australia or ASEAN scholarships to Singapore where many have remained.

Things pretty much got worse during University days in the US. I was amazed at the number of Malays on Telekom/JPA/Petronas scholarships. They typically were sent to Indiana University to do a one year pre-U course before going on to university. I did not meet even one single Indian or Chinese who got these scholarships. Once I bumped into a elderly lady wearing a tudung at University. We struck up a conversation. She said she was attached to some sort of Malaysian education/diplomatic thing and was at my Uni to check up on the Malay students. I remember her saying to me: "Malays are not violent, tak macam orang Jawa". (Malays are not violent unlike the Javanese). I politely nodded my head and left it at that. I still wonder how the conversation steered in that direction and why did she choose to tell me that.

I also remember discovering the internet newsgroups at that time - soc.culture.malaysia was full of fire and brimstone between the Malay and non-Malay students scattered across the globe. A lot of pent up frustration was released there.

It was a shock of course to come back to Malaysia after the US. Yes, they have racial problems here and there but by and large, people are very keen to be seen as non-racist. Most take pride to judge people not by skin color but by what you are as a person. Of course, official policies make it illegal to discriminate based on racial or religious origins.

Anyway, just wanted to share my personal experience and hope it sheds more light on the issues facing Malaysia.

anutahu said...

I m chinese study in Jit Sin B SRJK(C) & later JIT Sin SMJK (C)in Bkt Mertajam with 99% of the student is Chinese. My command in mandarin & Bahasa Malay is very much better than in English. I learn about non-Chinese religion & culture in both primaly & secondary school & I really respect them as I wish the non-Chinese also respect my Chinese culture & belief. I never hate Malay or India nor hv any bias againt them eventhough I hv no direct interation wih them. Off course I do wonder, suspiciuos & confuse when I was in secondary school & some racist issue brought up by UMNO from time to time from both Malay(Utusan malaysia) & Chinese newspaper ( nanyang press) BUT I still do not hv any ill-feeling with other race as I strongly believe that if u want other to respect u , u must first respect people. However, once I left SMJK Jin Sin after form 5 & further my study in BKt Martajam High School (BMHS)bcos SMJK Jin Sin did not offer form 6 in art-stream. I start feel the unfair treatment & discrimination toward Chinese. First is I realise that there is no chinese style cooking food (even halal & pork-free also no allow according to one of the canteen stalk owner) serve in canteen. All canteen food stalk is own by Malay. I think Chinese is only allow to sell drink (there is 2 stall,one operate by Chinses & one by Malay).(half of form 6 student is Chinese, smart Malay is in MARA already after form 5) I start wonder if we can respect Malay not to touch non-halal food & Indian no taking beef(the canteen however selling beef food stuffs), why Malay cannot respect our life style to allow some Chinese stall with proper segragation(why they sell beef knowing that Indian agaist it). We also not welcome to hv our home-brought food in canteen & the school also not allow us to hv it in the classroom & not offer any solution to us at the end we hv to hv it like begger at the road side outside the classroom or under the tree shed(I wonder y they & school mgt domined by Malay, HM is Malay, never thought of the non-Malay problem.) Duirng the assembly, will start with long doa (5 to 10 minute) & we are force to stay there waiting for them to finished the doa. Why cant they allow non-muslim to go back to classroom first & they can hv their doa as long as they want.
On every friday, we almost force to wear songkok & Malay sarong(they call it encourage but they start collect $ from us, if we don't pay the teacher showing "face" to us, luckily some parent protest then the BMHS mgt that time stop the pactise) Why cant they respect our choice of clothing? We r more than willing to wear it voluntary but not by force, I respect if other non-Malay wear Malay traditinal clothing, that is their choice but don;t force & scold us saying that what is wrong to wear Malay clothing. I think RESPECT each other is the key word. Malay especially those in power shall learn to respect Chinese !

anutahu said...

I m chinese study in Jit Sin B SRJK(C) & later JIT Sin SMJK (C)in Bkt Mertajam with 99% of the student is Chinese. My command in mandarin & Bahasa Malay is very much better than in English. I learn about non-Chinese religion & culture in both primaly & secondary school & I really respect them as I wish the non-Chinese also respect my Chinese culture & belief. I never hate Malay or India nor hv any bias againt them eventhough I hv no direct interation wih them. Off course I do wonder, suspiciuos & confuse when I was in secondary school & some racist issue brought up by UMNO from time to time from both Malay(Utusan malaysia) & Chinese newspaper ( nanyang press) BUT I still do not hv any ill-feeling with other race as I strongly believe that if u want other to respect u , u must first respect people. However, once I left SMJK Jin Sin after form 5 & further my study in BKt Martajam High School (BMHS)bcos SMJK Jin Sin did not offer form 6 in art-stream. I start feel the unfair treatment & discrimination toward Chinese. First is I realise that there is no chinese style cooking food (even halal & pork-free also no allow according to one of the canteen stalk owner) serve in canteen. All canteen food stalk is own by Malay. I think Chinese is only allow to sell drink (there is 2 stall,one operate by Chinses & one by Malay).(half of form 6 student is Chinese, smart Malay is in MARA already after form 5) I start wonder if we can respect Malay not to touch non-halal food & Indian no taking beef(the canteen however selling beef food stuffs), why Malay cannot respect our life style to allow some Chinese stall with proper segragation(why they sell beef knowing that Indian agaist it). We also not welcome to hv our home-brought food in canteen & the school also not allow us to hv it in the classroom & not offer any solution to us at the end we hv to hv it like begger at the road side outside the classroom or under the tree shed(I wonder y they & school mgt domined by Malay, HM is Malay, never thought of the non-Malay problem.) Duirng the assembly, will start with long doa (5 to 10 minute) & we are force to stay there waiting for them to finished the doa. Why cant they allow non-muslim to go back to classroom first & they can hv their doa as long as they want.
On every friday, we almost force to wear songkok & Malay sarong(they call it encourage but they start collect $ from us, if we don't pay the teacher showing "face" to us, luckily some parent protest then the BMHS mgt that time stop the pactise) Why cant they respect our choice of clothing? We r more than willing to wear it voluntary but not by force, I respect if other non-Malay wear Malay traditinal clothing, that is their choice but don;t force & scold us saying that what is wrong to wear Malay clothing. I think RESPECT each other is the key word. Malay especially those in power shall learn to respect Chinese !

Anonymous said...

I just want to add something on this idea of 'shared experience' especially since there are a few who agree that it should be one idealized national system.

Firstly lets tackle the issue of goal of a more neutral national system. Forget that no one has actually ever succeeded anywhere in any public school system in any country, is it realistic given the Islamization policy and more importantly the ever growing income and wealth difference between the bumiputeras?

Most people can understand how Islamization affect the neutrality of the education environment. One must understand it is inherently a result of Islam influence in state power. Unless secularity is made clear, this can only continue.

Secondly, the stark reality is that gap of rich and power between bumiputera is NOT going to decrease. This is because its a modern economy trend everywhere AND in Malaysia, its compounded by the big role of state and undemocratic political system in our country.

Why is the wealth and income gap important? Because from the get go, the education formal and informal is different, the social norms are different etc. Every study indicate that wealth and income gap are exaberated in school because firstly students don't control their lives, its competitive and students are immature and goes through a lot changes. Its only after school, when those student gain independence and control of their lives that that difference is actually mitigated.

So the twin effect is almost gurantee that the idea of a neutral national school environment is a dream.

So lets move to this idea of a shared experience. Why is our national policy making this almost impossible? It is not an accident that we have more fond experience in primary school than in secondary and latter in college. As we grow, we understand the realities of lives more, so adult politics and social world become more real to us.

But lets it make it more simple. Let take two immature secondary student of equal talent but different race. When one student understand that he has to get much more better grades than the other person to even just get the same things, then his experience is obviously different like having to work harder, less time to indulge etc. but what is most damaging is that the unfairness of it all will differentiate every experience that he shares with that other person.

So the idea of having a 'shared experience' in national school is just flawed fundamentally. Some of the students of elite schools like LaSalle may say different because they share that rare elite experience that protects them from the national policy. If they take away that elite protection, then I guarantee you that they will realize that all those wonderful shared experience are all differentiated by the awareness of our national policy. Even among them they talk of Islamization that their elitism is not protected from.

Lastly, shared experience are very strange things. I once did an experiment of asking about a dozen couples who went to see 'The Titanic'. When you ask the men what they like, their first response was the action and scenes were great. When you ask the women, they said they love the love story. ALL couple had the same reaction. Two people can do the same thing but not share the same emotional experience because of who they are.

With a single national education system in Malaysia, its a pipe dream between the races.

Anonymous said...

Anutahu - when were you in High School? I have links to the school and as far as I know there has been a Chinese half to the canteen for quite some years now, although Muslims are discouraged from patronising it and there has been talk, I think, of turning the canteen over to bumiputera operators only. The Islamisation and Malay-isation bit is, sadly, very true. I have not seen another school where prayer time is so strictly enforced.

Interestingly, like in a lot of other national schools, the staff room is also unofficially segregated! They also have an interesting streaming policy where every class has to have a predetermined racial composition (5:3:2) - I guess it's good preparation for applying to university where competition is between races rather than among the applicant pool as a whole. It does breed resentment among the non-bumiputera student population though.

johnleemk said...

But lets it make it more simple. Let take two immature secondary student of equal talent but different race. When one student understand that he has to get much more better grades than the other person to even just get the same things, then his experience is obviously different like having to work harder, less time to indulge etc. but what is most damaging is that the unfairness of it all will differentiate every experience that he shares with that other person.

But will it contribute to disharmony? It contributes to discontent, no doubt, but it prevents the terrifying problem of chauvinism and bigotry from arising, because interaction ensures that demonising other races is impossible. How can people be susceptible to racial propaganda when they have known people who don't fit these stereotypes?

The reason our society is so easily divided is because most of us rarely encounter those outside our own race in a social setting. The result? Polarisation.

With a single national education system in Malaysia, its a pipe dream between the races.

No, it's not. It can succeed, provided the education system is actually neutral in terms of race and religion - something that would not be too difficult to accomplish if we could get politicians to stop using our schools as a political football.

Anonymous said...

' But will it contribute to disharmony? It contributes to discontent, no doubt, but it prevents the terrifying problem of chauvinism and bigotry from arising, because interaction ensures that demonising other races is impossible'..

By this argument, there should not be disharmony in jails and no chauvinism, bigotry..

The sword cuts two ways with interaction. Given free choice, it promote good will, forced, it can be deadly which is why prison is the way it is. As as a final note, the overwhelming verdict with America's experiment with busing and desegregation in school (the so called Brown Vs. Board of Education debate) is that forced desegrgation made things worst but voluntary integration by breaking down legal and informal barriers to entry of institution, jobs etc. set the pace for performance of blacks in America and improving race relations.

johnleemk said...

By this argument, there should not be disharmony in jails and no chauvinism, bigotry..

What a ridiculous analogy. Since when was prison a social setting?

Given free choice, it promote good will, forced, it can be deadly which is why prison is the way it is.

Precisely - which is why the abolition of segregated schools can only be accomplished by creating sufficient incentives for a majority of all communities to send their children to one unified school system, instead of splitting them into parallel school systems according to race.

As as a final note, the overwhelming verdict with America's experiment with busing and desegregation in school (the so called Brown Vs. Board of Education debate) is that forced desegrgation made things worst but voluntary integration by breaking down legal and informal barriers to entry of institution, jobs etc. set the pace for performance of blacks in America and improving race relations.

Since when was this the overwhelming verdict? Are you suggesting that the SCOTUS should have ruled that "separate but equal" was acceptable in Brown? Are you suggesting that the Whites should have been permitted to keep their schools closed to Blacks because choice is paramount?

Say Lee said...

A problem that I have in reading the posts is there are far too many anonymous posts with the same pseudonym, anonymous, such that following the logic of arguments can be difficult.

But that's a small sacrifice compared to the great post, and even greater comments.

My first comment relates to the use of "segregated schools" to denote national and national type vernacular schools. Now, "segregated" is a highly emotive word that may cloud rational thinking. Furthermore, neither the national nor vernacular schools are segregated by decree. The parents have choices. That the students would gravitate to their schools of choice (or rather, the parents’) results from the exercise of these rights. The resulting pattern of student composition is hardly an indictment of the vernacular school system.

Secondly, perhaps some of us are according too much a disruptive role a six-year sojourn in the vernacular primary school system plays in national unity. Granted these are the formative years of students' development, but then again their thoughts and perceptions are hardly set in stone when they enter secondary schools. Furthermore, the after-school and at-home environment plays an equally, if not more significant role in shaping a student’s sense of where one is in the grand scheme of things.

As per my own experience, there are benefits that are neither negative as far as national unity is concerned nor well-understood by students who have not had the experience of doing so.

And yes, my point is it is the system-wide indiscriminate application of the affirmative policies that is a much bigger bane to improving, or dare I say, achieving national unity than the 6-year of vernacular primary school system. And it follows then that converting all vernacular primary schools to national schools is only an attempt at fixing the symptom, rather than the root cause, of the present state of affair.

At this juncture, I can’t help feeling encouraged at the development in our big neighbor as regards the status of Chinese in that country.

Anonymous said...

'..Since when was prison a social setting?'

The question is how many teenager say their life feel like a prison these days?

' ... SCOTUS should have ruled that "separate but equal" was acceptable in Brown?... that the Whites should have been permitted to keep their schools closed to Blacks because choice is paramount?"

Voluntary integration mean an ideal that people should want to join and participate. It does not mean people can be kept out of institutions, opportunities. Actually its the reverse, it means that if people choose to join to participate, no institution, formal or otherwise can prevent/deny them. It is against 'separate but equal'.

LLK said...

I went to primary school with Adflan Benan, and later to Bukit Bintang with him. As a Chinese I admire him for keeping his friendship with his Chinese schoolmates from primary and secondary school right up to his univbersity years. I remember him as a fair and hardworking headboy. I know he later became headboy in an English college in Oxford. I suppose the thing about Adlan Benan is that he does not care about race and he can fit into any environment. He also does not treat me differently to his Malay friends from MCKK. I wonder how he turned out like that - is it parents or school system?

johnleemk said...

My first comment relates to the use of "segregated schools" to denote national and national type vernacular schools. Now, "segregated" is a highly emotive word that may cloud rational thinking. Furthermore, neither the national nor vernacular schools are segregated by decree. The parents have choices. That the students would gravitate to their schools of choice (or rather, the parents’) results from the exercise of these rights.

I certainly agree that, as you say, our schools are not segregated, at least de jure. The problem is that they are segregated by de facto. There's no other way you can describe it when the composition of Tamil schools is 99% Indian, Chinese schools 94%, and national (in reality Malay) schools a similar number.

The resulting pattern of student composition is hardly an indictment of the vernacular school system.

Indeed - it's an indictment of our education system as a whole. Our education ministry has failed to build a school system with a balanced ethnic composition, and permitted it to deteriorate to the point where most students grow up without school friends from anyone but their own race.


Secondly, perhaps some of us are according too much a disruptive role a six-year sojourn in the vernacular primary school system plays in national unity. Granted these are the formative years of students' development, but then again their thoughts and perceptions are hardly set in stone when they enter secondary schools. Furthermore, the after-school and at-home environment plays an equally, if not more significant role in shaping a student’s sense of where one is in the grand scheme of things.


Absolutely - but as one commentator I have argued this with before (who ironically supported vernacular schools) noted, in modern and urbanised settings, people hardly ever interact with people in their own neighbourhoods or the like. The fact is, most children spend a third of every weekday at school, and that is going to be where a major impact is made on their lives.

Also, by omitting the impact of the Malay boarding schools, we have forgotten to note that our secondary schools are selectively segregated. The best and brightest Malays, the ones who will do the most to dispel the negative stereotypes many have of their race, are shipped off to the segregated boarding schools (the MRSMs can hardly be called integrated when the quota for non-Bumis is at 10%). What you have left in national secondary schools is the bottom of the barrel, and ironically they do even more to cement the negative stereotypes that may have unconsciously taken root in students' minds from elsewhere.

And yes, my point is it is the system-wide indiscriminate application of the affirmative policies that is a much bigger bane to improving, or dare I say, achieving national unity than the 6-year of vernacular primary school system. And it follows then that converting all vernacular primary schools to national schools is only an attempt at fixing the symptom, rather than the root cause, of the present state of affair.

I think this is a rather micro view of the problem. IMO, the segregated school system is more than a symptom - it is also a cause. It forms part of the vicious cycle that is breaking apart our society instead of uniting it. We need to cut the feedback loop.

I do not for one instant think that by abolishing vernacular schools we would be accomplishing much. By sowing the seeds of discontent, we would create a lot of potential for social unrest and harm efforts to integrate. A better step would be to reform national schools, and to work towards desegregating the secondary school system first. By attracting non-Malays back to national schools, and forcing our secondary schools to end their de facto segregation, we'd have already done something to end the feedback loop.

Anonymous said...

I once transfered to school in Johor and most of the student are chinese and the first thing that I remember is that one teacher has been beaten up because he warn this kid not to die his hair into red colour, I also get to know that his father is a local Ah Long. I wonder whether their grandfather is communist, though I dont want to speculate, however, I transfered to another school three months later. Lucky me!

Anonymous said...

i dunno if all this talk abt the religious/moral or rather islamic elements in public schools being divisive really holds that much weight.

i say so because i went to a methodist school in seremban which has a church which overshadows pretty much the rest of the school. and we have to squeeze past this church to get to classes.

and every thursday morning, at least 85 per cent of the class will be off to chapel (compulsory) while we muslim students stay behind in class unattended.

neither my parents nor i feel that i shd get out of there and go to another school. now, how wld mny here react to it, if theres a big mosque standing in the sch compound? and yr children are "segregrated" while the rest of the population go hv their morals uplifted?

at least, now the children attended moral lesson while the malays go to agama.

my sisters went to convent schools where the nuns prowled the grounds. i dont hear protests and pulling out of children to "less religious infected" schs.

so how ah?

hani said...

the answer is simple if u choose not to have the complex ones.

the chinese cannot accept the "religious" elements in national school, they complain a lot.

the malays can accept the "religious" elements in convent or other missionary school, they dont complain much.

the above two contradiction exist bcoz the malays are taught in subliminal way, of which i think this is ingrained in their social system that they must be accomodative towards others.

bertolak-ansur... orang tolak2, kita beransur2.

but not the chinese. their social psyche is of survival nature. being passed on from their ancestral career of tin-miners, albeit under Long Jaafar and the likes. (hey.. is it this how they get the Ah Long nick... from Ah Long Jaafar..)/\.

so, the real issue here is not whether tehre are religious elements or not anywhere in d school system.

It is the question of ACCEPTANCE. The chinese think that they are kiasu and too stubborn to accept others, and complain a lot.

On the other hand, the Malays are accomodative. They accept a chinese readily. There are many chinese shops in predominantly Malay area, flocked by the Malays. But can u find a Malay shop in Chinese kampung baru for instance ?

Indian ? They are out of question. Whether to accept or not, the first thing that they need to do is to behave. If we send them all to Mauritius or Bronx, we can reduce the crime rates to more than 60%. That is the priority that shd be underatken by theircommunal leaders year in year out.

We heard about the whole indian family somewhere in the country are ion the wanted list for involvement in criminal activities... pretty sickening huh..

Regards
- Green Lady under the Big Tree

hani said...

the answer is simple if u choose not to have the complex ones.

the chinese cannot accept the "religious" elements in national school, they complain a lot.

the malays can accept the "religious" elements in convent or other missionary school, they dont complain much.

the above two contradiction exist bcoz the malays are taught in subliminal way, of which i think this is ingrained in their social system that they must be accomodative towards others.

bertolak-ansur... orang tolak2, kita beransur2.

but not the chinese. their social psyche is of survival nature. being passed on from their ancestral career of tin-miners, albeit under Long Jaafar and the likes. (hey.. is it this how they get the Ah Long nick... from Ah Long Jaafar..)/\.

so, the real issue here is not whether tehre are religious elements or not anywhere in d school system.

It is the question of ACCEPTANCE. The chinese think that they are kiasu and too stubborn to accept others, and complain a lot.

On the other hand, the Malays are accomodative. They accept a chinese readily. There are many chinese shops in predominantly Malay area, flocked by the Malays. But can u find a Malay shop in Chinese kampung baru for instance ?

Indian ? They are out of question. Whether to accept or not, the first thing that they need to do is to behave. If we send them all to Mauritius or Bronx, we can reduce the crime rates to more than 60%. That is the priority that shd be underatken by theircommunal leaders year in year out.

We heard about the whole indian family somewhere in the country are ion the wanted list for involvement in criminal activities... pretty sickening huh..

Regards
- Green Lady under the Big Tree

Anonymous said...

green lady

i dunno what ur ranting about. esp the mauritius/bronx bit and indian family etc ... malu lah.

if u continue like this, others will jump on the bandwagon and said the malays commit a - z of heinous crimes.

so stop it. lets live in peace and harmony.

the seremban ex-acs anon

student said...

Green Lady is spouting nonsense, although what do I know, I'm just another kiasu Ah Long chap. I probably had communists as my ancestors too. Still, it could have been worse - if I had some Indian relatives I would be in Mauritius by now, althogh given the good diving there that might not be half bad... :)

Anonymous, who attended a Methodist school, is missing the point. Firstly, what has the location of the school to do with anything? I would also like to point out that the reason most mission schools are situated beside churches is that they are built on church land, with the taxpayer contributing little. I'd say that one should be grateful for the quality education one has received at the very least.

Secondly, not only is any religious activity which is non-Islamic banned (or 'not encouraged', hint hint) at this time (I suspect (s)he he was in school a good few years ago), but I would argue that some semblance of Christian religious activity is essential for a Christian school to remain true to its ethos. After all, if it is as essential for SMK(A) (Islamic religious schools) to have a Muslim character (and I think it is) then obviously a mission school must have a Christian one. However, the secular schools (your regular SK/SMK) must be free from any form of religious partisanship, and it is this which gets so many non-Muslim parents riled up, as they had not signed their kids up to a religious-themed education when they registered them. I think many people have overlooked this vital point.

And by the way, I have the highest respect for missionaries who sacrificed everything to serve the nation's children - it is sad so many do not appreciate them, but yet are quite happy to continue riding on the success of the education they provided.

johnleemk said...

Sorry, I missed this:

Voluntary integration mean an ideal that people should want to join and participate. It does not mean people can be kept out of institutions, opportunities. Actually its the reverse, it means that if people choose to join to participate, no institution, formal or otherwise can prevent/deny them. It is against 'separate but equal'.

Of course people have the right to segregate themselves from society by choice. But they do not have the right to expect the government to support them in this effort. Something is very wrong when our entire education system is predicated on the concept of voluntary segregation. The Malays voluntarily go to national primary schools, and voluntarily go to Malay boarding schools, while the non-Malays voluntarily go to their respective primary schools and then to the "national" secondary schools. Just because this is voluntary doesn't make it right.

Anonymous said...

dear student

dont be so quick to say that ive "missed the point". do i know that the school was built on church land? (duh!!!!!) have u seen the acs sban sch?

still, we have no qualms of attending such sch. was i ungrateful for going to such a sch (duh again !!!!!!)

anyways, lk u say the religious practice i mentioned (chapel) was the norm when i was in sch (yes, some time back). but the point is, why shd it detract from the fact that religious/moral instructions in sch is not all that bad? how many hours do they take up in a week anyway? the way i see it, the young cld do with a little bit more exposure to religious/moral/civic instructions.

u sounded lk i dissed the religious/moral characters of such sch. i dont.

dont be so scared of doas lah!

Anonymous said...

dear student,

also not accurate to say tax payers contribute little to the running of such schools.

no teachers, no sch mah. also in providing "modal" for school to continue running its business of providing education.

in fact, they get more than what some schools in ulu kenyir are getting. so, chill lah

Say Lee said...

Well, John's "entrenched" advocacy on doing away with vernacular schools at the primary level has always been consistent. And as I see it, about the only way that he can be possibly shaken from this "belief" of his is for him to live through the same experience that I've undergone, which is of course moot.

I can't help feeling that he would have seen the light, so to speak, if he was given the opportunity to learn his own mother tongue in an immersive environment at the primary school level, which will in no way negate his ability to make friends from all races at the post-primary school level, provided that he is not disillusioned by so-called "injustice" the perpetuation/propagation of which is ongoing on a parallel track distinct from what is going on at the 6-year vernacular schools at the primary level.

At the same time, I'm frustrated at my inability to convince him that what he has gone through is a choice that he, or rather his family, has made, but to deprive those who come after him to exercise that choice, which is what his advocacy will amount to, is another thing.

However, moving on, I would like to hear whether there are people who have switched sides, meaning those who have regreted going through the vernacular schools or likewise the national school system, to share their experiences.

This will surely add flavor/fervor to the discussion beyond the entrenched views of John and mine.

student said...

To the Anon who replied to me:

Firstly, I didn't single you out as being an ingrate, as nowhere in those last few sentences did I label you as such - I am sorry you took it the wrong way. However you have to admit there are many who are.

Nevertheless, I am afraid you still do not see the basic premise:

A Christian school cannot have a Muslim ethos, much as a Muslim school cannot have a Christian one.

I would go so far as to say that school principals, such as the one who used to head Light Street Convent Primary in Penang, are committing a sin by trying to change school characteristics to suit their own beliefs. If anything, we should be bringing back Chapel and Religious Instruction for those who want to attend. I cannot see why so-called Christian schools are not allowed to do this, or why those who are so against their traditions are appointed to lead them. Bear in mind that the schools still rely on their affiliated churches to an extent, rather than solely depending on government aid, and I cannot see why a religious group should continue to support a cause where its basic tenets are not allowed to be practised.

"but the point is, why shd it detract from the fact that religious/moral instructions in sch is not all that bad?"

As for this point, I personally have no quarrel with doas or any other such practice, but they have no place in the secular schools. Full stop.

I say it again: a secular, non-denominational school must be (by definition) just that, just as a religious school has religious characteristics, and this is why the prayers must stop in the regular schools. Outward displays of piety do not substitute for real 'values' education (more on that below).

Your average SK/SMK, which was not founded on religious grounds, CANNOT be seen to favour one religion over another. In the secular sphere, i.e. pretty much most of public life, religion must be a private affair. We already have Pendidikan Islam - we do not need to swing the pendulum even further in that direction, even if you think it is no bad thing, because like I said, a secular school must be for all. If you want more emphasis on religious education, that is what the religious schools are for. I don't hate Islam, or any other religion, by the way.

Incidentally, you speak of religious and moral education like they are panaceas for all the ills our pupils commit. Well, I used to teach, and I can tell you that 'values' education must be by example - no amount of formal classes can replace this. If we really want our pupils to grow up as upstanding citizens, their parents and teachers should be the first to set an example, and I am sorry to say that I have seen too many teachers who are deadbeats and outstanding examples of derelictors of duty: the ones who sleep in the staff room when they should be working, the ones who don't bother to go to their classes, the ones who are outwardly pious but who have more than a few 'secrets', the ones who spend more time in the canteen than any other place in the school. This is what we should be working on, but we are sadly barking up the wrong tree.

Anonymous said...

dear student,

there's a saying abt burning the mosquito net becuz of the bed bugs. so, just bcuz the teachers/administrators are personally not as pure as the driven snow, one ought to do away with religious/moral or civic instruction?

how can a child's general education be so impoverished by adults' sceptism?

surely we dont want a child to come out through these formative years just living by the ethos of securing string of As, getting into the best unis and then the 3 or 4 Cs (cars, condos etc)?

not that these goals are bad in themselves but surely a more well-rounded individual shd be the aim.

i know people will then cite instances of "failed" individuals or give this or that anecdote to show failure of such goals, but a national education policy shd have a moral facet to it.

as for doa, it is just a wish for the day in sch to be blessed by the Almighty. given the national religion being Islam in malaysia, the doa is recited in malay. i know in a certain sch in pj, the Almighty is referred simply as Tuhan.

So, what's the problem? surely almost 50 years on, we have some semblance of toleransi!

student said...

Hello Anon,

Thanks for the banter - it's nice to have stimulated some debate, and glad to see it hasn't degenerated into name-calling or anything similar.

I am not sure where the bit about getting strings of A's and getting 4 C's came from. I merely wanted to illustrate the point that we can have as many Pendidikan Islam/Moral classes as we want, but that is never going to be the same as showing the pupils the nilai-nilai murni in practice. In some circles not practising what you preach is called hypocrisy - we can tell them all about diligence, but what do you reckon the pupils will think when they see dear Cikgu snoring away in an armchair in th staff room? (I kid you not, this actually happened.) And of course a holistic education has a moral dimension to it - everyone knows that, but I think we have failed (just look around you), despite being one of the few countries with Moral as a subject. I'm a young(ish) chap, by the way.

But that is merely a diversion from my main thesis - tolerance or no tolerance, we cannot have the secular, non-religious character of the average SK/SMK eroded just because some parties desire to impose their belief systems on others. People by and large ARE tolerant, but the line is there, however much some people choose to ignore it. I can even accept a non-denominational prayer in secular schools (where God is just referred to as God, 'Tuhan') but not where it leans heavily to one religion. And by the way, Malay is just as much my language as any other Malaysian's. It is not the sole property of our Muslim brethren (but I would still be against sectarian prayers even if they were to be said in Swahili).

Interesting you should talk about 'toleransi' though. Where is it when non-Muslim religious societies are forbidden to be set up (note that I think it is fine to have societies based on language and religion - they do not alter the fundamental characteristics of our secular schools)? Or when only one religion is allowed to be taught, even in schools set up by another? When the school chapel is shut down, but a surau is OK? Or when canteens cannot sell pork, but can sell beef? Or when certain heads of Christian schools, no doubt misguidedly appointed, declare that the school's heritage is 'unclean' and needs to be cleansed with daily doas? Or when they pack away Christian symbols, even though they have been there since the school's foundation? How about if we replaced all the doas with Hindu mantras or Buddhist sutras, do you think you'd be OK with that? (Again - not that I advocate ANY sort of religious prayer in secular institutions, but just for example's sake. And yes, I do have a religion.)

Where is the tolerance there, and is there not a problem? (Since you ask whether there is one.)

I am sorry for using Christian schools as examples a lot of the time, but there are so few schools set up by other religions. I assure you also that I am not anti-Islam - if I were a Muslim I would still have the same views. That is just an unfortunate consequence of rationality ;)

Very best wishes,
Student

Anonymous said...

dear student,

im very sure the mantra can be in swahili if that sch is in swahilian-speaking africa. (irregardless of whether it was set up by some monks, angelina jolie or oprah). but the sks are in malaysia where the national language is Bahasa Malaysia.
(btw glad that u consider bahasa as yr own too. wonder if this sentiment will continue for much longer, given the fragmented sch system we have in msia.)

i agree that daily prayer can be non-denominational as has been illustrated by a sch in pj.

as for "leanings" and "imposing beliefs on others", its very SEDUCTIVE (especially fr those so inclined)to think of sks in that light. but if the student population comprises almost entirely of one race, is it a surprise that the activities will mirror the interests and needs of the student population?

it is also untrue that certain societies are forbidden. this particular school (an sk, mind you!)in pj for instance has a persatuan bahasa tamil, persatuan bahasa cina, persatuan bahasa melayu, persatuan pelajar islam, christian union, young catholic society, persatuan bahasa inggeris, kelab leo as well as a host of other programmes to cater to the school population's diverse needs.

fyi, the christian union organised bible studies, praise and worship week and etc while pergerakan puteri islam organised celebrations for the prophet's birthday.

like i say u can keep the anecdotes coming but i have firm belief in an education that does not forsake religious/moral elements in the quest for material "trophies - the 4 C

so, looks like we have to agree to disagree.

goodbye

student said...

You make it sound like I am against inculcation of noble values in education - rest assured I am not. I am merely saying that we are going about it the wrong way - as is evident, we have failed. After all, if outward piety is all that is needed then the theocracies (think Iran, Saudi Arabia) should be the most moral states around, which they are not. At the risk of being offensive (which I don't want to be) I do wonder if this is how our Malay/Muslim brethren think of their non-bumiputera counterparts, that we are against 'morals'? In any case, how can we only cater to the values of one group but not others? Surely that then results in a zero-sum game, where the 'immoral' half cancels out the 'moral?

I am sad you choose not to see that the anecdotes represent all that is wrong with the system. Oftentimes what is permissible, such as the setting up of groups, depends on the whims of those 'in charge' - and our system is impotent to rein in their beliefs, in fact actually encourages them. Unless and until stories such as the ones I have told can no longer happen can we be said to have achieved tolerance (which, in any case, shouldn't even be the goal - it should be acceptance).

And believe me, it's not only in the monoracial SKs where intolerance is happening. I grew up in one of the most multiracial states in the country, where the SKs are truly multicultural - it didn't stop the imposition of one set of beliefs on the entire population. Or perhaps this is the moral element that you so espouse, but which alienates half the population?

I pray that one day we will be able to return to the unity of the 70s and 80s, and that the eyes of those who insist on bigotry will be opened.

Say Lee said...

I've lived through the 1970s (adolescent) and the 1980s (adult) and I can attest to the time when religion was just a part of life then, a very personal one.

I grew up in a small town in the midst of a bunch of chinese and malay childhood friends in the neighborhood (in the 1960's). We lived across from a barrack of government officers' quarters whose residents were primarily Malay.

I played with their children in their compound and frequented their homes. We communicated with a smattering of Malay, English, and even Chinese dialects. Those were the carefree days when we saw each other beyond our race.

Then my family had to move away after my secondary school days, and we lost touch.

Just another anecdote. But aren't life experiences built on a series of personal anecdotes?

Anonymous said...

dear student,

"or perhaps this is the moral elements that you so espouse but which alienates half the population" ... tsk, tsk, tsk

now, now i wonder why i kept wondering if u read and understood what i wrote. u know the non denominational prayer, the varied activities wh cater to various student needs etc etc.

there u go abt saudi arabia and iran. i shant even bother ...

lk i say u go on thinking wht u want then.

ttfn (tata for now) in case u think thats name-calling

student said...

Nope,very much clued up about abbreviations on the Net. No need to be petulant either - your second last sentence has hints of a sulk behind it (I may be mistaken) :)

Sadly you see only what you want to see. Obviously what you mention is good, I am all for it (because you think I am not - you have confused the secular, non-denominational worship, with which I have no quarrel, with that of overt Muslim prayers, and conflated it with my allusion to the extremist states. Let me say it again - secular, non-denominational, good. Bias towards one religion in secular institutions, bad. I realise now it is simple explanations which get through more easily, and I apologise for being wordy.). But you do not see, or choose not to see, perhaps due to lack of experience of such happenings, the virulent undercurrents which make up the basis of my anecdotes. We wouldn't be complaining if the secular institutions remained secular and non-denominational, obviously. I wonder why you find it hard to accept that extremism, amply exemplified above, is being bred in our schools?

Again, loud and clear - no quarrel with non-denominationalism, but major problems when one faith is exalted over others, when in fact no faith should be in a secular institution.

Perhaps it is more simply put - this is bullying, plain and simple. We can force the children into a single, unified system, but unless and until the excesses of which we speak are curtailed, national unity will remain a pipe dream. In one of the more multiracial SMKs I taught in, I saw resentment in the 13 year-olds - it is surprising how cynicism is bred so early on in our system. Let this fester, and it won't be long before the concept of 'nation' is totally destroyed - in fact it is already crumbling. The question is, do we want to remain blind to this and bury our heads in the sand, or take action now?

Weep, weep poor country. I rest.

Anonymous said...

dear student (is that you? were you waiting for me?)

thank you for giving me a good laugh this morning ... petulant, now that's something that i've never been called before. well, we learn something new everyday ... about ourselves and others.

my dear boy/girl (and i say this affectionately on account of the good laugh), no need to surmise that i misunderstood or failed to understand yr point cuz that's condescending. (what if i do know where u'r coming from)

condescending = bad
exchanging opinions = good
(that para's too wordy)

no, i dont find it difficult to understand that extremism's brewing amongst us in ALL schs. All things considered, racial superiority is being nurtured more successfully in the non-denominational uniracial schs than in the sks.

let me relate some experiences i've had with my classmates previously from non sk primary ... but i wont cuz it feeds on my angst, among other things.

i think we need to be more humane etc etc all the religious/moral/civic content in an education system.

to surgically remove these elements, so to speak, and let our schools operate in a sterile environment just becuz some people took things into their hands too literally (re yr examples), is not a good solution either.

but then u'll have yr take on that matter, no doubt.

yes, weep malaysia weeep. i dread what the next few years will hold.

(btw, do u keep irregular hours as i do ... i thought you are a teacher.)

Anonymous said...

Oh I wear, and have worn many hats in life - and it was a privilege to be called Cikgu, a very big one indeed. Still, one must move on, although one tries to contribute where one can. And no I don't lurk in wait for anyone, it's just a consequence of being in different time zones on different days and having a quite a bit of free time, although this comes in bursts for me, and is due to end in a couple of days. So I guess this will be my final post on this topic, although I am sure you will see me around in the future. Still, thank you for patronising me, it was a truly delightful experience. I am just a little bit sorry I don't think I got my points across as well as I would have liked - these things are easier face-to-face.

Interesting you should speak of racial superiority - a truly disgusting concept, because if I recall correctly you advocated shipping the Indians off to Mauritius to decrease the crime rate. I am no supporter of vernacular schools, although I also respect the notion of parent choice. If I had my way our schools would follow the Singapore model (well, except for the SAP schools) - and they are far more vibrant than ours, with their pupils getting much more exposure to the world around them. What our policymakers don't get is that it isn't the mother tongue thing that makes Chinese and Indian parents shun the SKs. Lots of parents want to send their children to SKs but are put off by what they hear is happening inside them - and they do have a right to know. If I had kids I would never send them to an SJK, because I don't believe in their way of doing things, but I sure as hell won't put up with an environment where my child cannot be treated equally either (it might have to be an overseas education then I suppose). But a large segment of the population think as you, and the policymakers do and wish to avoid the real issues, to everybody's detriment.

You choose to skirt round the problems and say that it's not all bad, we can live with a few 'incidents'. But make no mistake, as cancers spread if not checked, so will the thinking that it is OK to bully the minorities. No amount of pussyfooting can be effective - what we really need is to face the problems head-on, no holds barred. Surgically, if you will.

Till we meet again on the forum (and I'm sure you will, I'm rather too opinionated for my own good;)), I leave you with the question: look deeply in you, and ask yourself whether what we are doing now is truly moral, in the real sense of the word? And if you were a member of a minority, would you be OK with what is happening to your children now? Be honest. Goodbye (for now).

Anonymous said...

as this will be a final response to you too, i think u owe me a very big apology for accusing me of wanting to ship people to mauritius.

i, in fact, stop that particular "green lady" or something lk that from further rantings.

as for being a minority, i used to be a minority some place else too. as for morally right or wrong, i accept the state's way then too.

babye

student said...

Sorry, my apologies - there are too many Anon posts on here and I must have got confused.

Much more to say but no time - but just rest assured I will be praying for all the closed eyes and ears to be opened.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

"I'm all for strengthening the national school system - improving the quality of teachers, making them less Islamic, better teaching of Pupil's Own Language (POL) and so forth. But unless many of the other entrenched institutions in this country (such as elite all Malay or almost all Malay secondary schools and boarding schools, inequalities in the allocation of scholarships and university places, and so on) are addressed concurrently with the issue of Chinese and Indian primary schools, we are being unfair in placing all or most of the blame on Chinese and Indian primary schools as the main cause for national disunity."

Hi Kian Ming,

Why such a shallow minded attitude of making the school less islamic? To hear it coming from the so called educated person from you is even more perplexing. What has "less islamic" got to do with getting a better education system. Good independent schools in UK are very religious eg. Eton etc. But that doesn't stop them achieving excellence. Don't let "islamiphobia" clout your judgement and view on other religion. I sent my two kids at an international islamic in Gombak. Very...very...very...islamic, I can assure you that. But, hey what they have students from Korea, China and some "mat salleh"! My kids interact well with other foregn students. They made friends with very religious Christians or Buddhist students, yet they still pray five times a day. So please don't make your narrow view on religion cloud your judgement. And I assure you people like Ben (Adlan Benan as we know him in Kuala Kangsar) doesn't have the steorotype thinking like you...

semuaboleh said...

My son's Science teacher (he is in Year 4 of Sekolah Kebangsaan where Science is taught in English now) keeps on posting this question to her students
"WHOSE knows the answer?"
Thank God, my son speaks fairly decent English to know that her English is wrong.

Shouldn't the teachers be soundly educated/trained (at least to speak proper classroom English) before they go out to educate our children?

Anonymous said...

I m from malay primary and secondary school. When I entered University Science Malaysia Engineering Campus, there was a university that 50% malay and 50% chinese (depend on course).
Its ok for me to make friends with chinese. The annoying this is, the chinese is always talking in mandarin and kantonis even in the study group. If they were talking among them its okey for me. But in study group or in discussion, it was very annoying. And it feel like they were talking something bad behind my back.
My roomate is chinese, 2chinese and 1 malay. It not to annoying to stay with chinese. It ok actually, no big deal with them because my chinese rumate cant talk kantonis and mandarin (only understand the language) so their talk in english with me.
So my opinion is the malay and chinese cant get along not because of culture but the language.
Why must talking in chinese if we talk in community that have malay and indian ppl. I respect Indian because when they have study group with us they talk in English or Malay. A language that can be understand by both member.
Some chinese are very understand this problem, but others still make other ppl annoy.
Maybe Malay student need to study mandarin as their third language.

Anonymous said...

Jumping right back to the beginning, thank you to Kian Ming for highlighting the effect of the 'disappearing Malays'. I never really thought of it.

I was lucky to have had a good experience with Malays in primary school, and always tried to keep it that in mind when confronted with stereotypes about Malays (though how successfully I don't know).

I was very aware that my Malay friends had mostly disappeared in secondary school. In primary school (late 80s) I had lots of Malay friends and we all got along very well.

Then in secondary school (early 90s), sadly most of them went off to the "sekolah asrama" and we never saw them again.

In Form 1 my class was almost all Chinese from Chinese schools. In Form 4-5 (science stream), there were only a few Malay boys and no Malay girls in my class. The rest were Chinese and Indians.

And that was it for me. After form 5, I went overseas to study.

I have always regretted the lack of opportunity to make good Malay friends, especially in later years when there are lots of things to discuss and it would be good to get their perspectives (in primary school, we were mostly concerned with playing catching or hopscotch and not too much with the state of the country).

Having returned, it's tough to start from scratch, and to admit you know a lot less about Malay culture and how they think than you are supposed to.

Anonymous said...

NEP is unfortunately race based.

So long as a father favours his first son over the second, true unity will be hard if not impossible to achieve.

By perpetuating NEP, what are we teaching our children about our principles, and through our policies about our values as a harmonious multi-cultural nation?

Pat Lu said...

Dear all

We can't change the past. However, we can learn from it. Lets move forward at this forum by putting our thinking caps on, to propose next steps to improve the Malaysian Education System for the sake of our children's future. Can do? :)

Below is one small step taken, FYI...

--------- Forwarded message ----------
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007 7:43 AM
To: 'assunta@yahoogroups.com'
Subject: Demolish Statues, Destroy Crosses in Missionary Schools says UMNO MP Parit Sulong


Dear all

Please take time to read below and forward on…

Pahlawan Volunteers recommend that UMNO sacks these two MPs with immediate effect to restore public confidence in the Government the rakyat voted in.

Below is the translation of the hansard, pages 143-144, at the Third Meeting of The Fourth Session of Eleventh Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) on Monday, 29 October 2007 as seen at http://www.parlimen.gov.my/hindex/pdf/DR-29102007.pdf

Tuan Syed Hood bin Syed Edros [Parit Sulong]: Yang Di-Pertua, I would like to touch on a matter regarding the Ministry of Education, which are Christian missionary schools like Convent, La Salle, Methodist, and so forth. I was made to understand that the Board of Directors at these schools are partially administered by churches in foreign countries, for example in the Vatican City. I was also made to understand that the application to build a ’surau’ in some of these schools had to go through the approval of these Board of Directors whereby they are partially administered by the church. Therefore, it shames me that the school administrations are still controlled by the church. I was also made to understand that many Muslim parents send their kids to these schools, and that they have complained that sometimes, the school is started with church songs. I do not know if this is true, but what I discovered from these parents are the display of religious symbols. I feel disappointed that in an Islamic country, Malaysia, if I go to a convent school, the statue of St. Mary is displayed in the front of the school.

Datuk Haji Mohamad bin Haji Aziz [Sri Gading]: [Stands up]

Tuan Syed Hood bin Syed Edros [Parit Sulong]: Please proceed, Yang Berhormat for Sri Gading.

Timbalan Yang di-Pertua [Datuk Dr. Yusof bin Yacob]: Yes, Yang Berhormat for Sri Gading.

Datuk Haji Mohamad bin Haji Aziz [Sri Gading]: I am not shocked at all, Yang Berhormat for Parit Sulong. It’s not just a simple question. The question is, why has this happened? One. During the last Hari Raya, I was told by a father, when Aidilfitri was celebrated, these types of schools were not closed. Thank you.

Tuan Syed Hood bin Syed Edros [Parit Sulong]: Not only statues, but fellow Yang Berhormat, go and see for yourselves, Christian crosses are displayed in front of schools. I do not understand the Ministry of Education, did the officers not see that, or is it our policy to allow such a thing? Nevertheless, I, as a responsible person to my religion, race, and country, I state my views that these statues need to be demolished, these crosses need to be destroyed and church influences in these schools need to be stopped. Also, the funds that are collected at these schools. Do we have a report? If possible, the ministry should reveal the funds for these schools. I was made to understand that these schools are also sponsored by the church.

Translation taken from:
http://www.darnmalaysia.com/2007/11/23/morons-of-parliament-demolish-christian-statues-destroy-the-crosses/

Also read the public comments from old boys and girls from mission schools nationwide at the above link.

The duo’s irresponsible and unsubstantiated comments clearly demonstrate their glaring narrow-mindedness and TOTAL IGNORANCE of the following; thus distracting and sabotaging the way forward and urgent progressive steps being taken by the Government to arrest the decline in competitiveness and to rebuild the nation:

1. The Constitution of Malaysia (Read Part II, Articles 11 and 12 at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Malaysia)

2. Absolute no idea how mission schools are run and conducted in the best interest of the nation-building.

3. Among the distinguished old boys from mission school Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St John Kuala Lumpur, or St John's Institution are Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Education Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, just to name a few.

4. Mission schools are not fully Government funded, but categorized as a "sekolah bantuan modal" or Government aided school. This means that for many needs including school building projects and maintenance, the school would have to find its own funds.

5. The Government’s stand on mission schools as announced in the various media as seen at Assunta Alumni’s news archive on mission schools at http://www.assuntaalumni.com/media/missionschools.html

PETITION: Respect the Ethos and Character of Mission Schools
http://www.petitiononline.com/assunta/petition.html
Please note that the above Assunta online petition is still ON (initiated early April 2005). Subsequently, we wrote to the Minister of Education and relevant education departments on 15 June 2005. We hope to see this redressed before school resumes in January 2008 and as we are going to celebrate Assunta Golden Jubilee next year:

Please sign the petition online if you have not done so. All past students of mission schools and the public are also encouraged to sign the above Online Petition. Just state the year you left school and school attended. A gentle reminder: Please do not flame at the online petition as we’ll be submitting to the relevant authorities again if need be. Flames will be deleted, positive and constructive comments are most welcomed.

Please forward this on. Simply because…

WHEN THEY CAME

First they came for the socialists,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left
to speak for me.

- Pastor Martin Niemöller (victim of the Nazis)


Assunta Spirit Alive!

Pat Lu
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/assunta/

Me. Moi. said...

Just my 2 cents,

I went to primary school in kampung where electricity does not even exists. Then offered to sek men asrama penuh in 1 religious school in Klang valley. you see i came from a full MALAY environment.

i went to uni, i befriended aussies, singapore chinese, taiwanese chinese, even have a close fren from chinese hong kong.

I worked in singapore for 10 years right after graduation and work with NO malays. my bosses singaporean chinese and hong konger chinese said i am the best malay they know ever worked with them. but that is not the point.

the point is : is your will, your background, your attitude. not your school.

Anonymous said...

Malaysia along with quite a few countries of South East Asia , is going nowhere in this world without equality . This is equality in the constitution , and everyday life .
This has been proved time and time again , wordwide ,and also any country which is not democratic ( Malaysia is not in that people who govern are often not elected)
Look around the world at racists societies and see if any one succeeds .
Also it can be seen from history , that religion , state and legal system have to be seperate independant bodies .
Malaysians who are open minded and experienced , are the ones who are no longer in Malaysia , and from what I see more and more are leaving .
Countries like Singapore and India are no example to follow . Unless ideas change , South East Asia will be left out of world advances and development .