Why National schools Cannot be the choice of All Malaysians

By Richard Teo

Khairy Jamaludin has become one of the latest growing lists of proponents that a unitary or singular school sysytem would be an all encompassing solution  to our current racial polarisation.. The introduction of a singular school system would means the abolition of vernacular schools.For some one of Khairy’s educational background it is indeed sad that he could not even be unbiased in his evaluation of the dilemma facing our present education system which has caused ethnic division .

The question is why is Khairy only focusing his attention on vernacular schools? What about Mara schools , religious agama schools and even tertiary university level like UITM where the students strictly only cater exclusively for one race.?
Is Khairy implying that only vernacular schools are the sole cause of ethnic polarisation and that Mara schools, Religious Agama schools and tertiary university like UITM are exempted from any blame for the ethnic division? It is really sad that someone of Khairy’s educational background can be so biased in his evaluation of the cause for such racial polarisation.
The simple and unpalatable truth is that ever since  Tun Razak became the second P.M, we had the misfortune of having Education Ministers who could not understand why National schools could not become the choice of all Malaysians. All of them were incompetent or were not interested in finding out the truth. In the end we had education policies that were ad hoc and flip flop. Even till now there is no clear define policies whether we should adopt English as a medium of instructions.
However, tribute should be given to our first P.M, Tuanku Abdul Rahman. He did not tinker with our education system when we got our independence. He was a visionary leader who knew the importance of the English language. and during his tenure kebangsan schools flourished.. I was a product of that era . The schools were populated with 50% malays, 40% chinese and 10% indians. There was camaderie in all our activities and we accepted each other as Malaysians. We did not look through our differences through any racial or religious lens.We did not bring religion to schools. Religion was something personal where individually we practice our faith at home.Each of us accepted our cultural diversity and each of us respected our religious beliefs. During this time, vernacular schools suffered enrolment problems since majority of Chinese and Indians and malays all opted for National schools.For practical and financial reasons one by one vernacular schools was slowly decimated without any govt forced closure.
The schools during this era was composed of different ethnic compositions.There was mat sallehs, chinese, indians and malays and through their own cultural diversity we learned to accept diversity, tolerance and respect of each others religious beliefs. All these we didnt learned from our school curriculum but through our impressionable minds we were able to acquire from our various  teachers of different origins.
Fast forward to present day, everything has changed for the worse. Religious practice of the islamic faith are conspicously introduced without care to the sensitivity of the other races.Prayers or doa are recited in classes and assembly. Almost 100% of the teachers  were of one race and they were employed because of their religiousity rather than their abilty to teach.Female students were compelled by some schools to wear the malay baju Kurung and some were even forced to wear tudungs.During the fasting month of Ramadam, schools canteen were closed and non malays were forced to fast with the muslim students. Some schools even disallowed students to take food in the school canteen since they view it as a sign of disrespect to the muslims.
With all these various display of islamic introductions in National schools it is little wonder non malays were avoiding the National schools like plague. Khairy almost strike the right chord when he said,’the overtly Malay and Islamic character of national schools  turn other ethnic communities away. ‘ But he glossed over this core issue which was the chief reason why chinese and indians turned their backs on National schools. It was often argued that the chinese wanted vernacualr schools because of the desire to preserve cultural heritage and language but this was only a mere excuse. Chinese enclaves from San Francisco to London did not see any chinese clamour for chinese language education. They were so willing to send their children to the english school system and in many cases even excel better than their english counterparts.
Khairy and the present Education Minister should examine National schools during Tuanku Abdul Rahman’s era and the present era to see what has caused the change in the choice of National schools by non malays.They should not behave like ostrich burying their head in the sands and think that it was the existence of vernacular schools which had caused non malays not to choose National schools