Race-based education policy and polarisation

The fragmented education system has indeed “polarised” the minds of the different communities.

Narinder Singh, FMT

The Malaysian education system is nothing short of melodrama. We clearly suffer from the incompetencies of our leaders in handling the system from day one. We change education ministers but the irony is our education policies have changed far more often within the jurisdiction of the same minister umpteen times.

We never had a policy in place for more than a decade and thus never really assimilated the outcomes of a policy to full breath.

Our education ministers have become lame ducks and keep turning the pages the moment a pressure group nails an issue on its policies.

Education is the key to the foundation in any civil society. The power of cohesiveness in holding any society or community revolves around the components within the education system practised.

Unfortunately, we are definitely off tangent in instilling such ideology in our education system. We segregate and demarcate the different segments of the society under the disguise of championing the race and religious cards.

Racial schooling

Why in a population of only 28 million do we need to have raced-based schools? A fragmented delivery system within the education loop clearly has and will not enhance any form of unity among the different races in Malaysia.

It is baffling that despite vernacular schools insisting that they adhere to national policies in delivering the education system, then why the need for such schools which revolve around a particular mother tongue?

In all honesty, there are definitely other motives and suspicions that will linger on for no matter how they skew and spurt their arguments. It tickles the bone when vernacular school advocates put forth that they merely teach Tamil or Chinese as a subject rather than using their mother tongue in all other subjects.

If that is the case, then why build separate entities and disengage from the mainstream delivery system? Why not just integrate an extra subject for the Chinese and Tamil students? We can have parallel classes running during the same period allocated in schools for Chinese and Tamil language, Islamic studies, and even maybe other languages like French, Arabic or Japanese for those who may want to opt for other choices.

In a globalised environment today, any extra language skill acquired can only be an added asset for the students. But we do not need stand alone entities to do that like vernacular schools.

It is time to abolish vernacular schools. Historically, they came into play as a by-product of settlements during the British Occupation. We stubbornly held on to it and what we have today is an in-direct culmination of racial sentiments in these establishments. Deny as much as we want, but the fact remains that when one is put thorough a homogeneous system, the outcome can only be biased and it is due to conditioning.

Imagine a six-year-old being nourished for the next six to 11 years in a system where only one majority race exist. What do you expect if “racially inclined” thought process does not breed in the mind?

It is proven that the early formative years of education is the most vital and critical in carving the minds for future behaviour. In the same tone, why the issue of racial polarisation being heavily politicised by the opposition and even the government alike?

The fragmented education system has indeed “polarised” the minds of the different communities. This is the root problem in our society today. Every stakeholder shoves the blame on another for the racial discontent that we experience today. Nevertheless, they are nothing short of being hypocrites.

Take the bull by its horns if they indeed dare to look into the truth. The irony is at every change of guard at the education ministry, the game plan takes a twist.

Pacifiers come into play to immediately to calm the disgruntled parties. We may be the only country having such idiotic and diversified entrance requirements to public universities.

This is not at all helping the reconciliation agenda laid by the Prime Minister. With the growing number of naturalised Indonesians, they, too, may soon demand for “Indonesian schools” for their children; after all, it is within their rights, too.

Racially-oriented education will only blossom into race-based polemics in all levels of our society. Almost every issue nauseously has been skewed on the lines of race. Nothing has been left by our politicians.

Reformation or transformation means naught if we do not chew on the hard issues of excavating the rotten roots out from the education foundation. We do not see any political will power from both sides of the divide.

The opposition has a field day in bashing the government the moment a so-called racial issue crops up but we have yet to see any blueprints from them on how they can reform the mindsets of the different races.

Mere policies do not make reforms. It has to be embraced and assimilated into the system. Will they remove vernacular schools if they come into power? Do not count on your luck to reap beautiful and succulent mangoes if you had not manured and water the soil well!

Delivery system

Vernacular, national, religious and private schools all claim that they use the same education policy. If that is so, then why are we in the doldrums of racial segregation? There is a thing called “distortion” in message when different delivery channels are used for the same message; another fact that has either been left out or the authorities play ignorant.

We boast to have some best researchers and academicians in the social front, thus it is time a comprehensive and an in-depth study done as to why our community still has racial sentiments if they had gone through the same policies?

Why the deviation and by how many degrees have we gone off the trajectory? If we do not have this, then its time our politicians, NGOs and other advocates keep their gaps shut on racial issues and live with the realities.

Corrective actions can only be undertaken when we know where the fault line lies and the craters exist. Any attempt otherwise is nothing short of pulling the veil before our own eyes and then blaring the horns to clear the road. Misleading and fooling the masses in short.

Visit any tertiary education or even primary schools; you see groups of students socialising only with their own ethnic group. Having gone through the system, racial polarisation is indeed magnified multiple folds at tertiary level. We have race-based student societies, activities and even formal social gatherings.

Navigating a lost ship in turbulent waters is a nightmare for any captain. With no bearings and a faulty compass, we are steering a nation blindfolded and handicapped. Racial polarisation and sentiments gyrating will only brew into a perfect storm in a matter of time if we keep our current education delivery system.