Friday, August 19, 2005

New University Subject: Ethnic Relations

It has been reported in the New Straits Times today that a new subject "Ethnic Relations" will be introduced to our public university students this coming December. As part of the syllabus, historical milestone events such as the racial riots of May 13th, 1969 and the Kampung Medan "incident" of 2001 will be included to provide perspective to the racial relations and developments in the country.

It is understood that the marks for the subject will be based on practical coursework (60 per cent), which requires multi-racial group participation, with 40 per cent on examinations. The strong bias towards practical multi-racial course work is indeed encouraging as you will never be able to achieve the objective to reduce racial polarisation in universities through textbooks.
"This is to explain to them the reasons behind those incidents and give undergraduates an idea of how important racial integration is," said Dr Zaid Ahmad, head of the Government and Civilisation Studies department of Universiti Putra Malaysia. He said undergraduates would also be required to undertake assignments in multi-racial groups.

A copy of the guidelines on the subject revealed that students would also be instructed on Islam Hadhari and its effects on ethnic relations, and receive an overview of the nation’s various cultures and religions.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Centre for General Studies director Prof Dr Abdul Latif Samian agreed that community work was a good way to teach racial integration. "Lecturers should also arrange field trips to places of worship to get a better understanding of the different cultures," he said.

As highlighted by Universiti Utara Malaysia vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Nordin Kardi, the subject will certainly not guarantee that students would be better integrated, "but these efforts are needed to bridge the gap among undergraduates of different races".

I fully support the teaching of the Ethnic Relations in the Malaysian universities to help curb racial polarisation. In fact, I will strongly support these Ethnic Relation studies and activities being carried out at primary and secondary school levels. This subject, which may be a compulsory but non-examinable subject should replace the irrelevant and often abused "Moral Studies" subject taken by non-Muslim students for SPM.

My only and major concern will be how these "sensitive" historical events will be portrayed in the "textbooks" and whether they will be the "sanitised" version. An attempted politicisation and revisionism of the historical events will not only result in the objectives of teaching the ethnic relations subject not being met, it may actually cement the racial polarisation through perceived bias and injustice in our education and administration system.

This new subject also raises an interesting question - how are privilege Malay institutions such as Universiti Teknology Mara (UiTM) going to conduct their multi-racial project assignments? Not to mention the fact that institutions such as Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman are practically all Chinese (read post on "Political Universities"). Is it time then to stop all these political and race-based university programmes?


clk said...

The Govt must really "walk the talk" if it wants to improve and encourage genuine race inter-relations.

How would one read when on one hand politicians speak of improving race relations during the 4 major religious festivities and then see how the same politician speaks during an UMNO convention?

Worst still, improving one race is a national agenda whilst improving all races is deemed a subject of national sensitivity?

Why must it always be "I gain you lose" rather than "we gain we lose"?

Anonymous said...

read the book 1st before you want to voice up ur opinion. don't jump trough have 6 element to be count but why because of one element should be ruin the whole book n critic our minister? think again. this is not bout racism.

meor khairul said...

i just read these blog bcoz next semester i will take these subject.
to me the clash between the ethnic is not because of lacking of is no use program and policy been undertake by the govt itself to improve the unity and integration among the various races an religion in the country if the inequality still incurred. the malay always got the special right bcoz has been stated in the federal constitution. but what the other races get?? all the policy the government make in term of education,economy and so on are side to the bumiputera.
so the best way is the govt should establish a special right also to the other races which is equal with the bumiputera itself. however the right of bumiputera should not been touch.
by doing these the jealousy among the other races with the bumiputera can be eliminate.