One school system, 1 Malaysia
APRIL 9 — My father wanted to send all of us to Chinese schools.
Apart from learning Mandarin and being good at mathematics, he felt it was important that we know what it feels like to be the minority, in an otherwise homogenous Chinese environment. He opines that selfishness and bad attitude comes from complacency, and he was determined to keep us on our toes in such a school.
He is a no-nonsense disciplinarian who does not believe there are shortcuts to success. And he saw the need for Mandarin in our lives some 25 years ago.
My old pictures would be of me with extremely short hair, carrying a big bag with a water bottle in one hand to school, if it was not for my grandfather.
So that you know, my grandfather is Chinese.
Unlike my Dad, he doesn’t like the idea of sending his grandchildren to SRJK(C)s or SRJK(T)s for that matter. He felt that they stood as an obstacle to building this country. He doesn’t see why the Chinese need a separate school, and cannot play together with the other kids like him and his friends did in the ‘50s.
He felt that it was a form of discrimination, a systematic attempt to marginalise the Chinese Malaysians from mainstream Malaysian affairs, and a waste of time when they had to enter a “remove class” prior to going to Kebangsaan schools.
I remembered him saying (and my Mom keeps reminding me now) that he was a Malaysian with nowhere else to go, and this was his home.
So where does that leave me?
In an ideal world, I would only want to see one national school, where the students, teachers and administrators are not judged by skin colour or religion, but by merit of their ability to teach, learn and administer.
Where our education policy is crafted to create better Malaysians for a better future, by arming them with language skills, people skills, economic and science skills and not one that fosters suspicion amongst each other through religion and skin colour.
And until that happens, we cannot expect the non-Muslims to send their children to Kebangsaan schools. Which non-Muslim parents in their right mind would want to send their children to a school that warns Muslims about the threat of other religions, and that the non-Malays are a threat to the Malays?
To me, the government has no business engaging in policies that identify its citizens by race and religion. If such schools were to exist they should be fully funded and operated by private entities and NGOs. No to government-sponsored agama schools, MRSMs, SRJK(C)s and SRJK(T)s because you cannot support unity on one hand, and all these schools on the other.
What if the Kadazans, Ibans, Dusuns demand their own school? What if the Christians, the Buddhist, Taoist, Hindus, Sikhs want their own schools too?
How can you entertain one group without reciprocating on another? Where and when will the separation stop, and the government finally draws the line and sees everyone as Malaysians?
Before you send in rude comments and call me racist, I did say this would be great in an ideal world.
The situation in our country unfortunately is far from ideal.
I understand the anger vernacular school proponents have towards the government. In their eyes, the government seems bent on pleasing, and taking great strides in protecting one group while neglecting the others. Who wouldn’t be angry when it involves their children’s future?
And if the government is perceived to be incapable of taking care of their education, they should be allowed to take educational matters into their own hands by setting up vernacular schools.
I don’t envy those tasked to find a solution to this problem, because I don’t see one.
Unless we train Malay and Indian teachers in Mandarin and send them to SRJK(C)s, and the Chinese teachers in Malay and send them to Kebangsaan schools, and consciously do this over a few years and not flip flop like PPSMI, we may just start a difficult process towards a single school and put an end to this debacle.
Why is it difficult? If the non-Malays can learn Malay, I am sure we can train Malay teachers in Mandarin for the task at hand.
Of course to make this work, the government must also consciously remind themselves that they are a government for all Malaysians, and not just a particular group while refraining from making religious and racial statements that can harm this effort.
Maybe then and only then, we can bring up the subject of a single school again.
Bear in mind that although this seems within reasonable reach it may not be in the best interest of certain parties who prefer this status quo for their own political interest.
They need to play the role of our protectors after all, no?
Politicians aside, Malaysians too should realise that sacrifices are needed to move the country forward. We need to lose some for the country to gain more. We cannot all win, otherwise politicians will play to our sentiments and divide us even further. Bitter as it sounds, we owe the future generation a try.
Even if we may not make it in our lifetime, we shouldn’t miss the boat for the future.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.