KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Malay rights groups today demanded the Najib administration abolish vernacular schools for a single national school system, saying the variety of school systems can lead to misunderstandings.
The Malay Consultative Council (MPM), the umbrella body for the Malay groups, said such misunderstanding could have led to recent reports that two school principals had uttered racist remarks and added that the police should instead investigate the complainants.
“There should be no compromise when talking about vernacular schools. I urge the government to abolish all vernacular schools and replace it with a single system,” MPM secretary-general Dr Hasan Mad told a press conference here.
The national school system with vernacular schools for Chinese and Tamil students is guaranteed under the Education Act.
Another MPM committee member, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Hilmi Ismail, also claimed that their demands were not “unusual” as many other countries practised a single-school system.
“All of our neighbouring countries follow a standard system. Why must we be an extraordinary case?” said Hilmi.
The MPM also criticised MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek for his request last week seeking additional allocations for Chinese vernacular schools.
“Why give allocations to Chinese schools? Under the constitution, allocations should only be given to national schools.
“Why should Chinese, Tamil schools get allocations then? These schools should be abolished to pave way for a standard national school system for all races where Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, is the main language,” said Datuk Kamaruddin Kachar, another committee member.
Citing the recent case of two principals who were accused of uttering racial slurs in school, Kamaruddin claimed that students from vernacular schools who went to national schools had little understanding of the culture behind national schools.
“When this was reported, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin did the right thing by ordering an investigation... why is it that only the principal is being attacked and condemned? What happened to the student that caused the principal to lose (her) temper like in Kedah?
“Teachers are already stressed out with the behaviour of school children. Now just because a student was scolded by the principal for doing something wrong, it suddenly becomes an issue?” said Kamaruddin.
A principal in Johor and her colleague in Kedah have caused public uproar for uttering racially-tinged statements to their students in the past 10 days. More than 20 police reports have been lodged while the Education Ministry has set up a task force to investigate the allegations.
Johor school principal Siti Inshah Mansor sparked national outrage when her allegedly racist remarks were reported, following a failed initial attempt by the Education Ministry to placate parents.
The SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra principal had reportedly made the derogatory remarks during the launch of the school’s Merdeka celebrations.
“Chinese students are not needed here and can return to China or Foon Yew schools. For the Indian students, the prayer string tied around their neck and wrist makes them look like dogs because only dogs are tied like that,” Siti Inshah was quoted as saying in at least one police report.
The police are currently investigating the case under Section 504 of the Penal Code for provocation, which carries a maximum imprisonment of two years, a fine, or both.
On Friday, Muhyiddin also directed Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom to set up a committee to investigate the matter. Alimuddin had earlier said it was a misunderstanding that had already been resolved.
However, on the same day, another principal, this time from Sungai Petani, Kedah was similarly accused of racism for allegedly telling her Chinese pupils to “return to China”.
The Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Bukit Selambau head was said to have accused the Chinese pupils of being insensitive towards their Muslim peers by eating in the school compound during the fasting month of Ramadan, and ordered them to return to China if they could not respect the culture of other races.