Hey, I have my first article published in The Sun yesterday, entitled "Schools Debate Not a Zero Sum Game". It was originally rejected by another local daily. I've written various posts on national versus vernacular schools before, particularly from the perspective of where I should send my daugther for school in the coming years. However, this article attempts a balanced look at the important question of how the Government should be treating vernacular schools.
The recently launched National Education Blueprint 2006 by Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein focuses purely on “strengthening the national schools”, with vernacular schools representing just a statistic in Malaysia's education landscape. Vernacular schools are often neglected or treated with suspicion due to their ethnically Chinese or Tamil nature. There are widespread fears that the strengthening or even the presence of vernacular schools in Malaysia is antithetical to achieving national unity.
Chinese and Tamil educationists on the other hand, fear the strengthening of national schools will erode the future character and viability of vernacular schools. For many of them, every facet of the existing vernacular education must be protected at all cost. Otherwise, they fear detractors will pounce on any signs of weakness to destroy vernacular education in this country.
As a result, parties on both sides of the equation treat the issue of national versus vernacular schools as a zero sum game -- one party's gain is the other's loss. However, such views are certainly flawed and works against the interest of a multi-racial and multi-cultural country like Malaysia. They are bred through mistrust and hardened by years of negative experiences.
Even the Education Minister has admitted in an exclusive interview with Nanyang Siangpau that “people should not regard the various types of schools in the country as a hurdle to be cleared. After all, this is not a zero-sum game because multi-culturalism is an added advantage and a strength for the country.” In fact, treating vernacular schools as obstacles to national unity is akin to the fallacious argument that national unity can only be achieved through cultural assimilation.
Hence, the only way to break this self-perpetuating cycle of combativeness and mutual distrust is, well, to build trust. It is important for the government and its officials to gain the confidence of the guardians of vernacular education. They must fully believe in its rhetoric that “multiculturalism is an added advantage and a strength for this country”, and take concrete steps to demonstrate its sincerity to the people.
To a large extent, the Chinese and Tamil educationists cannot be blamed for their fear of marginalisation. The government's disbursement of RM1.4 million to 248 Chinese primary schools, or a meagre RM6,000 per school as hyped by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim in the vernacular press, pales in comparison to the RM709 million allocated to building 15 new Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSMs), and more for upgrades and repairs of existing MRSMs.
In addition, despite the consistent claim by the government that it will build more vernacular schools in accordance to the needs of the people, the number of Chinese primary schools have declined from 1,333 in 1957 to 1,288 today while enrolment has more than doubled from 310,000 to 636,000. At the same time, the number of Tamil primary schools has been reduced from 526 in 2001 to 523 in 2006 despite a 12.7% increase in enrolment from 88,810 in 2001 to 100,142 in 2006.
Vernacular school educationists are also, understandably, unconvinced by the “national unity” argument because the government has taken steps to build and expand MRSM secondary schools which are almost exclusive domains of ethnic Malays. Pre-university matriculation colleges which limit the intake of non-bumiputeras to 10% are also set up as an alternative to national two-year STPM programmes.
At the same time, it is important for vernacular schools to play up its Malaysian character to improve its perception amongst government officials and Malaysians in general. Instead of taking an overly defensive stance of protecting “mother tongue education”, it should perhaps focus greater on its nation building contributions and Malaysian character.
For instance, it should share its expertise in helping national schools get their stuttering mother tongue language programmes off the ground. This is an education policy which has been delayed by some two years already. By introducing such programmes in national schools, it will ensure that students will be able to preserve their cultural identity in multi-cultural environment. Strengthening national schools should hence not be seen as a threat to the survival of vernacular schools, but instead be treated as complementary to the very cause pursued by the latter.
Overall, the Chinese vernacular schools have for example, provided consistently high teaching and academic standards which has led to better educated Malaysians. It is for this reason, that many parents of all ethnic groups are increasingly attracted to these schools despite their typically overcrowded and under-equipped nature. Recently, at a Malay wedding, I was surprised to find out from a Malay parent who sends her daughter to a Chinese primary school in Ampang that the school had approximately 20% non-Chinese students in its most recent intake. Surely, there can be no better endorsement of vernacular education than its multi-racial character, which contributes immensely to our nation building process.
The emphasis of mother-tongue education in vernacular schools should not colour our judgement of their national unity contributions. Instead, its contribution to society should be judged by the quality of students, their patriotism to the country and in turn, their future contributions back to Malaysian society.
Hence, it is critical for the government to have faith in its own rhetoric, that not only does vernacular education contribute to the richness of the Malaysian education system, it weaves the very fabric of our diverse multi-cultural identity. The government must take the first step to win back the trust of the vernacular education community by giving priority to their development via coherent and well-funded programmes, instead of handing out piecemeal breadcrumbs. As a matter of fact, continued neglect of the vernacular education system may ironically sow the seeds of national disunity, the very outcome which our government has been seeking to avoid.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, schools should not be places where we divide our children into different ethnic groups. It should be one school for all children, one education system for all. Therein lies the problem of vernacular schools. Even the term vernacular means 'expressed or written in the native language of the place or people'. It is divisive by definition. These schools tend to be exclusive rather than inclusive. And yet, there is so much we can learn from these schools. I totally agree that it's not a 'zero sum game', but we have to decide, and decide quickly, how we are going to level the playing field so that all schools, national or vernacular, becomes fair, with multiracial students and a standard medium of instruction, be it BM or english or both. I'm sure you'll agree with me when i say that this is currently not happening. However, it is because of the political interest in the vernacular schools, that i think they should be abolished. They have become more a token piece of political manouvering by what is essentially race based politics than an actual issue to be dealt with. It's almost like everyone has drawn his own piece of land and will give no quarter to the others. It's for that reason, that i feel vernacular schools do more harm than good. At the end of the day, it really isn't a zero sum game, but most political parties believe it to be so.
Remove NEP then this country will have a chance.
I agree with DKR. I don't believe vernacular schools should be abolished, nor do I believe should they be given shoddy treatment, but there has to be an emphasis on a truly MALAYSIAN education system.
Right now, we have Malay schools, Chinese schools, and Tamil schools. There are no true Malaysian schools. The national schools are hardly national at all.
Then when we look at our universities, we wonder why our students are so racially polarised. In the end, it comes down to the education system, and when there are few (if any) truly Malaysian schools, it's no wonder that there are few truly Malaysian students:
I couldn’t agree more with DKR.
“Chinese and Tamil educationists on the other hand, fear the strengthening of national schools will erode the future character and viability of vernacular schools. For many of them, every facet of the existing vernacular education must be protected at all cost. Otherwise, they fear detractors will pounce on any signs of weakness to destroy vernacular education in this country.”
Base on this alone, I don’t see the importance of protecting the existing vernacular education. It has nothing to do towards building a unite nation. Though, I agree that some vernacular schools produce quality students in our past exam oriented system, but that doesn’t mean national school didn’t do well, In fact, national exams top scorers came from the national school.
We also cannot deny that, this kind of separation in our education system had affect our racial unity, for example, students in their tertiary education are segregated based on their color, which suggest it is a direct effect of isolation from other races in the secondary education. Moreover, Id observed that school leavers from vernacular school have limited ability to converse in Malay which is very crucial towards racial integration as communication is very important. This is another major factor of racial cluster in our tertiary education system.
Although, MRSM and SBP are focused on bumi (though it is open now for non Bumi), we have to remember that this kind of institution is important towards producing a balance nation in terms of knowledge and wealth distribution. I want to put it this way although I can bluntly say that it is in our ‘social contract’ which is important for every Malaysian to understand. If MRSM and SBP are not in the edu system, I don’t see how underprivileged kids (not only bumi, but non bumi) from the rural area can turn their economic status upside down. We all know that an unbalance society is far more dangerous than protecting these vernacular schools.
If we want to help the poor Malays, then only open the MRSMs to the poor. The Malays are the majority of poor anyway, so they will still benefit.
Read what Bakri Musa has to say
Vernacular school is bad for unity but MRSM is good? In what way is MRSM good for unity anyway - lumping a single type of students together? Don't forget about the kampungs in foreign universities, which show the lack of ability to mix and integrate irrespective of the type of schooling.
Hafiz, the best social contract I give you is the ability to fish, and I give this gift to whoever wants it irrespective of looks or social background. But going round using your looks to claim superiority and demand for fishes is pretty pathetic. And certainly a cause of disunity.
Okay, MRSM might not be the best solution for this problem nowadays (though I dont really see how it can cause disunity, it use similar system to the national school) But it had contributed in the past by helping Malays to be back in the mainstream (still an ongoing process like JohnLeeMK said), Maybe a National school system is the solution now, but there must be a mechanism to make sure that people in the rural area benefit from this, so that there are equal opportunity for everyone, not just students in the urban area.
The principal root cause of the serious racial polarisation in this country is the NEP, not Vernacular schools. That's the fact of it.
You can argue the whole day that the NEP is necessary, but that's a separate issue. Racial polarisation is perhaps the most serious cost of the NEP in this country.
The analogy is you can have 1001 reasons why you need to spend 100,000 Ringgit to buy a new car, but it doesn't change the fact it's going to cost you 100,000 Ringgit, which you cannot afford.
12 year old kids don't leave vernacular schools with racist outlooks. And the vast majority of them go on to National Secondary schools. In fact that's where the polarisation starts.
At some point during their secondary school education, most kids will have serious discussions with their parents and friends on their future prospects beyond Form 5. That's when a non-Bumi student finds out that their racial origin has a major impact on their future path. If they are very lucky to be from a well-to-do family, the parents have probably planned to send them overseas to UK, US or Australia. or altenatively to private local programs. All the others will have to struggle through the local University admission system, with major race-based policies.
Its government race-based policies which teach kids to be racists, not vernacular schools.
no wonder they park their funds in aussie, with PRs,
and discrimate others job applicants in private sectors....
at the end, the Land loss.
It is time to change,
if only the kampong folks majority can be changed.
if national schools mean
Chinese PARENTS, majority,
will send their kids there,
but not so-called MALAY-national schools.
That is !
How about English School in city areas?
(CITY middle-classes, across the boards, will LOVE it.)
but option of chinese, malay, tamil schools in RURAL areas,
the dilema solved,
but CLASS clash surface....
jet-send their kids
to private, international, UK schools,
not national malay schools!
that tell ALL,
If national unity is to be achieved, as Hafiz puts it, through the abolishment of vernacular schools and at the expense of Cultural identity and tradition, then I would rather vote for its continuation.
Look back into history and see all the "raw deals" Chinese schools were given on empty promises the politicians had made.
Once bitten, twice shy.
For those who don't have a clue what I am talking about, just ask the former board of directors of the Chinese Independent schools that has become National Type schools. Ask them about the promises and assurances and what finally happened.
Do any of you know the root cause of these problems to start out with? Then tell me why the vernacular schools are so sensitive and resilient went it comes to integration under one roof.
The government must first and foremost show sincerity and commitment in wanting to resolve this matter.
To DKR- it was never a political issue and I can proudly claim that, coming from Vernacular schools side. It's really a precaution not to be cheated again and losing our cultural identity.
They can built a thousand more MRSM for all we care. It was never our contention on fairness, blah, blah, blah. But all we are asking is that we preserve our identity.
Just leave us alone if you are not sincere about helping us....ok
I began typing out a response to kittykat46 and Hafiz, but then I realised it was getting rather long, so I just posted it on my site. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks.
Why do Chinese need to segregate ourselves in our own schools to preserve our identities? What does that tell you about our confidence in our ability to retain our roots? What does that tell you about our self-assuredness? What does that tell you about our mentality?
Like it or not, thanks to everyone - Malays, Chinese, Indians and even the lain-lain - 50 years after independence, we're all still not Malaysian. We have a Malaysian identity, but we deny it and cling to separate racial identities. If you want to cling to a racial identity at the expense of national unity, it's your business - but don't complain when the keris-waving Malays cling to their stupid ketuanan Melayu at the expense of national unity.
The idea of national unity by one group forcing the value onto another group is totally wrong and misconceived. Leaders and the masses are not always right and a lot of times they also have a different agenda than educating and developing the potential of each citizen.
Education is about creating opportunity and develoing the potential for our future generations. There should be minimum set of goals for all of us, and give maximum freedom at the local level to do what is best for them.
Our education policy had downgraded some of the best schools we had, robbed a generation of Malaysians the ability to fully participate in their children's education by changing the medium of instruction. We are creating road blocks after road blocks to slow down our kids, the end result is not a happy situation.
I will not support school systems that admit only one race by policy. If we want to help the poor, let us be honest and help the poor. Malays do not have the monopoly to be poor.
There are more examples of politicians leading a country/community to the wrong path than the right ones, are the politicians going to save us, or we are better off to give each group the right to choose and hope that more of them will get things righ than the politicians?
Interesting to see that the Chinese are very protective of their Chinese identity (i.e. "Chineseness") when faced with the prospect of being molded into a non-Western culture, as exemplified by their defensive attitude towards vernacular schools and barely concealed contempt towards the national-type schools.
More interesting to see that they have no problems embracing the Western culture at all. I think this is the "captive mind" theory at work.
I got no clue in what you mean. I also have no idea which director or what school you mean. Maybe you can post a link to the website which explains it all. Thanks.
I agree with you that we must have self-confidence in preserving our roots. But it will always be easier with help from all corners, right? Example our neighbours- while one integrated Cultural and language studies into their education system, the other completely took it out. Look at where they stand now.
There is a big difference between RACIAL and CULTURAL identities. I think you are missing the point here. "Bangsa" and "Budaya"- different, you know?
The issue is about preservation and not segregation.
I know the independence of Malaysia is the fruit of all races and of course I am proud of it. I for one am for the creation of a truly Malaysian Identity.
But John, what's a Malaysian Identity without cultural history and values? Where do we start by creating this so called "Malaysian Identity" if not from our own roots? My Grandchildren and their grandchildren will take a different route in finding their "Malaysian identity" (if they are still a Malaysian that is. But for me, fortunately I have my Grandparents and parents who have taught me well in preserving our Cultural value at home. To me, it is a fusion of many cultures to create the Malaysian identity.
My question is whether the government is sincere in wanting to do this. I was just reminding the friends of this blog that history has shown us the many failings of our politicians. Empty promises and false hope has tainted what was actually a good plan.
Show us a way, then by all means- abolish the vernacular schools once and for all.I like the way Tony puts it:
"Hence, the only way to break this self-perpetuating cycle of combativeness and mutual distrust is, well, to build trust. It is important for the government and its officials to gain the confidence of the guardians of vernacular education. They must fully believe in its rhetoric that “multiculturalism is an added advantage and a strength for this country”, and take concrete steps to demonstrate its sincerity to the people."
Bad implementation and lack of sincerity is what we are afraid of. Give us assurances in preserving our culture and do it with transparency and we will support all plan for any mergers. That's all we are asking for.
An why have you taken such an offensive stance when I did not even mentioned RACIAL in my posting? Cool down young man. Culturally, I was taught well and I am proud of it.
And one more thing, John- who's complaining about those keris-waving politicians? Where I come from, it was a non-event. We just felt they are just being naive and stupid.
Or were you the one complaining, John?
“Big Bird said...If national unity is to be achieved, as Hafiz puts it, through the abolishment of vernacular schools and at the expense of Cultural identity and tradition, then I would rather vote for its continuation.”
I’m sorry you feel it that way, and I understand your fear of losing the cultural identity, but I believe, by participation of all races in a national school system things will be different. National school can no longer be affiliated with Malay but the school constitute balance proportion of all races. I don’t think by participating in a national system, ones race will loose its cultural identity. I’m not even happy if that happen, we will lose our value as the ‘truly Asia’. Contrary, I think all races have the ability to mix and mingle in an environment that represents the true Malaysia at school where the kids spent their time the most. I totally agree with John’s comment on the external link regarding this, quote from him “What's most important is exposure and interaction.” Bak kata pepatah, tak kenal maka tak cinta, right? Just like what he had experienced when he was forced to assimilate in a foreign environment.
You’d also quoted Tony "Hence, the only way to break this self-perpetuating cycle of combativeness and mutual distrust is, well, to build trust. It is important for the government and its officials to gain the confidence of the guardians of vernacular education. They must fully believe in its rhetoric that “multiculturalism is an added advantage and a strength for this country”, and take concrete steps to demonstrate its sincerity to the people."
Yes, to break this mutual distrust is to build trust. And we are talking about building trust among the younger generation. Well, the best way is to let them mix. And yes, multiculturalism is an added advantage but it will be a disadvantage if we cannot understand other culture because of the isolation.
Although I am an x-SBP student, I am fortunate, had a chance being a student in a truly primary national school where my class had equal representation from all races, which enable me to appreciate peoples from different races. So when I continued my study in our local university, I did not found its hard to mix with different races though it does look like a weird things to do, as majority tend to cling only to their color.
I also understand the frustration of non Malay regarding the ‘true’ equality. An anonymous commenter argued that “if we want to help the poor, let us be honest to help the poor”. Well, I believe in true equality and it’s true that Malays have privilege in education though it has been slowly changed like the introduction of meritocracy system, which we can’t deny had affect Bumi admission to critical courses in public universities. Though we argue that the students don’t compete in a comparable level, but still the system does affect my chance and lots of other Malays to get into the critical course.
Do you think majority of Bumi are happy with this? No. But I and lots of my generation feel it is alright since the competition should be fair regardless of our special rights in the constitution because we had built a mutual trust on all Malaysian.
We should understand Bumi patriotism on the social contract issue; the privileges are there because the ‘pribumi’ had given the nationality to people not originally from Tanah Melayu. And I respect this judgment not because Im a Malay but because it is plain logic. I think we all should too, thanks to non Bumi who respect this though I think it is hard to, my million thanks. Maybe Malays tend to become insecure in letting go this special privilege, because of the suspicion resulted from isolation. And the best way to reduce this is via assimilation from the younger generation, give Malaysian youngster an opportunity to understand other cultures, and later I hope the trust will build up.
God create us to be different so that we can learn from each other, look at others strength and learn from them. Malaysians are very lucky to live in this multicultural environment.
"To me, it is a fusion of many cultures to create the Malaysian identity."
Agreed. But your whole post totally ignores the crux of my question: why is it necessary to segregate ourselves in schools for different races to preserve a particular cultural identity? And how is this conducive at all to the creation of a Malaysian identity?
"My question is whether the government is sincere in wanting to do this. I was just reminding the friends of this blog that history has shown us the many failings of our politicians. Empty promises and false hope has tainted what was actually a good plan."
I don't care about the government anymore. They have proven themselves to be capable of ruining even the best ideas.
I just want to know why there are people who will defend the right to voluntarily segregate themselves from other Malaysians at any cost, while claiming at the same time that they are as Malaysian as anyone else.
"An why have you taken such an offensive stance when I did not even mentioned RACIAL in my posting? Cool down young man. Culturally, I was taught well and I am proud of it."
What offensive stance? There's a difference between blunt and offensive. I don't enjoy dancing around my points and making them vague with unnecessary verbiage - I go straight for the jugular.
As for the question of race, you were talking about preserving the Chinese culture, and that's clearly a racial issue, like it or not.
"And one more thing, John- who's complaining about those keris-waving politicians? Where I come from, it was a non-event. We just felt they are just being naive and stupid."
Congratulations for ignoring my main point. Kerismuddin was an example of stupid leaders who seek to disenfranchise Malaysian citizens of their rights by classifying them as inferior to the Bumiputra. Maybe you didn't mind the Kerismuddin event, but I'm sure you mind it when people call you a second-class citizen. And yet if you insist on segregating yourself from other Malaysians (I am not just talking to Chinese but to all Malaysians who prefer the status quo), how can you demand the right to call yourself a full Malaysian?
it is inappropriate and shame
to still identify any community as
as well as
different treatment in public or private sectors,
in this globalised world.
Points noted. Let the future behold come what may.
There is no such thing as privileges (only special position) in the original constitution of 1957. All these bullshit privileges only come into existense after the incidentof May 13,1969, and these privileges are supposed to last for only 20 years.
Yes, it is true that the first generation of non-bumi that migarted from foreign countries should be grateful to the bumiputera for giving them the citizenship. But after 5 dacades of contribution the 'debts ' should have been paid off.
Without the contributions of these 'pendatang' many of the bumiputera would still be living in the jungles.
In my opinion, the second and third generation of non-bumi should be considered as bumi also, just like what Indonesia has done to the Indonesia Chinese.
Hi Tony, I feel we should be able to transcend the politics and rethoric to create more choices. Should there be just two choices for our children? Can we make more choices? Here are my thoughts and experiences.
I come from a rural area. In terms of SPM results, my school was amongst the last out of the hundred so secondary schools in my state. My best friend was a Malay, and my next best friend an Indian. I have since mingled freely with others, whether they are Sings, Indons, Thais, Europeans or even homosexuals. So yes I am thankful that I attended a national school, because it taught me how to integrate freely with others.
In the ideal world, vernacular schools are not necessary in Malaysia. But then neither is MRSM. When the rulers blatantly and intentionally practises injustice and discrimination, then it is not unexpected that every quarter will guard their interests zealously. The irony is that due to this mismanagement, the quality of national schools is even worse off whilst there are some new converts to vernacular schools (I am one).
I think students are becoming more segregated due to vernacular schools. Thats expecially apparent in universities when they suddenly have to mix together. I am of Malay-Chinese parentage and have always straddled the racial lines. And i find that chinese students from chinese schools are especially clannish. But what is worse is that they dont seem to know how to interact with people from other races. A malay friend of mine was invited over to dinner with a bunch of university friends who were all from chinese schools. They not only were extremely reluctant to order non-pork dishes (which are more expensive in chinese restaurants here in the US)they also made nagging comments on why he was being so difficult about not eating pork. And they were the ones who had invited him out!!
i truly wish that there was no differentiation by race in malaysia but i firmly believe that one of the things that has to go is this idea that we need segregated schools to maintain our cultural identities. what we need are national schools and people are free to learn mandarin or tamil if they want and certainly no one is going to stop celebration of new year and deepavali. but im looking at those petronas ads right now and not seeing the parallel in my interactions with malaysian students here in the US when the differences suddenly become more magnified. Cant we all just be malaysians?
First of all, I'll have to assume that you posted the above comment yourself, and not someone else masquerading as 'Hafiz'.
I appreciate your participation in my blog with your comments.
However, I absolutely fail to understand why you have moved somebody's racist comments, actually all 10-15 of them, here to my blog - saying that they belong here. I think it's absolutely disgraceful, and I would never do any such thing to your blog.
I've taken the step to delete your comment which essentially "copied and pasted" all the ugly comments onto my blog. You should note that I've been diligently deleting comments from the idiot who goes under various monikers like vovo, samp, san, yuking, etc. diligently over the past year or so because I do not agree with his negative racist behaviour.
I hope that you do not and will not fall under the same trap as he did.
I moved the comments here, bcos I thought it should be posted here (where the issue is being discussed), and not in my personal blog where I wrote about Shin Chan and Music (very unrelated with the comments).
Well, now I understand why they post it in my blog instead, as it will be deleted here.
Sorry, you'd felt disgraced with such action. I was not thinking clearly after reading 22 'hate' comments in my blog and some of the blog linked to mine. My apology.
Just to say that MRSM doesn't really provide education for rural malay but to city folks as well.I study in a national secondary school in KL and most of my Malay friends who grow up in cities and have good financial background go to MRSM.It's a school that provide education to best Malay student,not just rural malay.
Abolish vernacular schools.
To achieve national unity is not to segregate but to unify. We are talking about education where one learns and achieve academic results. Race comes from our family not school.
I'm a Dusun from Sabah. Should we have Dusun schools then? Let it be that we learn our mother tongue as only a subject and not make it into a school system.
Studying in Sabah i never had any problem having close friends to malay, chinese, indians and many other races. I studied in a missionary school and we had the normal national school system.
If we know that chinese schools are more disciplined then let it be that we adapt the chinese disciplinary system.
We learn our culture and beliefs from our family. Even if we do not know our mother tongue it wont be shameful as we are proud of our race. Dusun language is one of the endangered language now, but what can we do as it isnt used elsewhere other than my home village.
I would like to learn dusun somehow but im now focusing on my academics and it isnt in dusun. Learning different language is indeed good but do not make as an excuse for a political agenda in which just because of chinese or indian language we want to put aside national unity.
abolish vernacular schools and focus on national schools where we can make the system better than the present. adapt good systems from vernacular or the present national school then we shall all benefit.
Put aside our ego and work together despite our differences.
'Bahasa Jiwa Bangsa'
1. All schools, regardless whether they are national or vernacular, should use only 1 language for teaching, learning and instruction. Bahasa Malaysia is, I believe, the obvious choice as it is our National Language in the first place. Remember that unity is based on mutual trust, and trust is based on commonly shared values. When all of us speak the same; perfect Bahasa Malaysia, sans dialects and slangs, I believe we will be able to overcome our cultural biases and mistrust. I have quite a few of Chinese and Indian friends who speak Bahasa so naturally that when we talk, we don't sound like a Malay talking to an Indian or a Chinese talking to a Malay etc. We all sound the same! But the most wonderful thing is that all of us became more at ease with each other.
2. Then, all schools must also offer mother-tongue languages as elective subjects open to all students regardless of their ethnic origins. This way, it doesn't matter whether the school system is vernacular or not, they can still learn these languages equally well in any setting. Adding to this, all schools must have qualified language teachers that can teach these languages.
3. Remember 'Tatarakyat' subject? Revive this subject and make it compulsory too. The curriculum must be redesigned to showcase cultural backgrounds, customs and traditions of all ethnic groups in Malaysia. This will ensure that no one gets left behind when it comes to learning about their cultural heritage. Of course we can't cover all, and we shouldn't just leave it all to the school system to educate our children about our own customs and traditions. This is where parents and families will need to be involved to further educate their children about their own customs and culture.
I think this is our best chance to foster in our children a spirit of national unity sans ethnocentricism.
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