Shaun ~ Malaysiakini
I refer to the Malaysiakini report Mukhriz: Close down vernacular schools.
While I am no supporter of Dr Mahathir Mohamad or his son Mukhriz, I am in agreement with them on the need to abolish vernacular schools. However, I have to disagree that the schools are the primary reason for polarisation (our politicians take the honour for that) and for the misunderstanding of the Malay supremacy concept (a concept that can only deemed as vacuous and tepid nonsense).
In Chinese or Indian vernacular schools, it is obvious that the majority of the students will be Chinese or Indians in the case of the latter. That being the case, they will only mingle among themselves. Over a short period of time, perhaps there is not much harm but multiply this by six to twelve years and the side effects will be very visible and apparent.
However, racism would not necessarily be the right word to use. It is more likely that most of them have difficulty in conversing with people of other races as they are more comfortable and proficient in their own respective languages.
That being said, we cannot be so naïve to assume that this is always the case. I vividly recall being labeled a communist by a group of Malay classmates back in Year 1. It did not bother me as I did not understand what the word meant then, and I doubt they did either. In all likelihood, the word was picked up at home.
Non-Malays are no different. Being a Chinese, I have been privy to a lot of racist rhetoric against Malays and Indians. If you are Chinese, certainly you have heard statements regarding how much greater this country would have beeen if the Chinese were in charge. I know I have. Just imagine how these thoughts might evolve in racially polarised groups.
Of course, these are not just circumstances surrounding vernacular schools. Do not forget that we do have educational institutions that admit only Malay students, UiTM being a very recent demonstration of that. However, when it was recently suggested that its doors be opened to other races as well, we had Umno and other groups to thank for the irrational riposte that followed.
It was immediately obvious that the loudest reply would come from the Chinese. And disappoint they did not as Ong Tee Keat and Lim Kit Siang came out with guns ablazing immediately. However, to a certain extent, I can symphatise with them but on different grounds.
I used to go to national schools during my primary and secondary years. Most of us educated in such schools can probably agree that the conditions of these schools were largely poor and shabby. Equipment for science classes used to be insufficient, sporting facilities were lacking and although I had some very good teachers, the less said about the most of them, the better.
While I have not set foot in a national school for some years now, I doubt that the conditions have improved significantly, if at all.
Compare this against Chinese schools. There are quite a number of such schools around my neighbourhood and they have been developed to such an extent that they are no longer recognisable when compared to day when they were first opened. And no, this is not a single instance. Most of the Chinese schools that I have come across will tell a similar story.
They all appear better-equipped to educate compared to most national schools. And ultimately, I think that this is major reason behind the uproar. Parents want the best for their children to ensure that they have a future as bright as can be. The increasing number of non-Chinese families sending their children to Chinese vernacular schools is proof enough.
I do believe that if this very factual perception is corrected, we will not see such apprehension in the Chinese community. And this perception can only be corrected by revamping our education system extensively to make it relevant once again. But sadly, even education is now politicised.
Language is now the latest battleground. Instead of being arrogant, we should accept that Bahasa Malaysia is unsuitable for the teaching of all subjects. Malay literature and history, yes, but science and maths, subjects which are ever evolving with new terms and concepts, most certainly are not. Bahasa is ill-equipped to deal with these changes as it is not developed rapidly enough in my opinion.
And then, there is religion. One day recently, feeling nostalgic, I drove by my secondary school and noticed that very little had changed. With the exception of a very extravagant surau that is.
The education system should be viewed as the long-term plan and the foundation that will determine the direction of a country. However, it is one area that has been neglected intentionally for too long for the purposes of political gain, leaving the vast majority of the population susceptible to propaganda.