SCHOOLS: One single system is better

Email Print 28 August 2012 | last updated at 07:46AM

By Syed Azauddin, Gombak, Kuala Lumpur 0 comments

RITA Sim, in her article “Strengths and weaknesses of Chinese schools” (NST, Aug 16), could have meant well but her arguments do not quite support the conclusions she arrived at and the intentions she sought to justify.

Children nurtured in national schools are less likely to grow up being ignorant of their ethnically distinct peers.
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As she said, Malaysia is “unique” in Southeast Asia in possessing a vibrant network of Chinese schools that are a part of the national education system. And we are the only country with a parallel educational system incorporating national, vernacular and private schools.
Is being “unique” so special that we, Malaysians, need to ensure its continuity?
Since independence, Malaysia’s national aspirations have never been to be “unique”, but principally to build a harmonious and united society among our multi-ethnic population.
No Malaysian will deny that after more than 50 years of independence, national unity is still fragile. One has to only look at our neighbours, Indonesia and Thailand.
Indonesia, despite numerous racial groups and dialects in its multitude of islands, is one united nation. It has one education system with the sole language for teaching being Bahasa Indonesia.
As a result, one cannot distinguish between an Indonesian of Chinese origin and a native, except from their physical features.
The Chinese are still the richest ethnic group, but they speak the Indonesian language in their daily interactions and they have integrated well among the masses.
Similarly in Thailand, the original Chinese immigrants have integrated with the Thai “natives” well. In fact, in their political history, two of their prime ministers were of Chinese origin.
No nation in the world, except Malaysia, tolerates multiple systems of education.
Even France, besides having a single education system, does not tolerate school uniforms which do not reflect “French identity”.
Differences in language, culture and religions in a nation is the centrifugal force, which has the potential to prevent meaningful unity. The school system adopted by such a nation would either accentuate this force or weaken its strength.
The idea of nationhood is fundamentally a belief of shared destiny and a sense of belonging by all its citizens. National schools, with all their imperfections, are clearly superior in creating awareness of these values and perspectives.
From both a national and parental viewpoint, national schools serve as a much better platform for a child to grasp the idea of a Malaysian society.
If we accept that the environment is capable of influencing the beliefs and behaviour of children, then we must accept that children who are nurtured in national schools are less likely to grow up ignorant of their ethnically distinct peers.
Consequently, with cross-cultural experiences, they are more likely to develop crucial skills in effectively engaging and communicating with a wider mix of people.
With an overwhelming number of students in Chinese schools belonging to one ethnic group, how can we continue in such a way when such schools do not have the fundamental facilities and environment to encourage inter-racial interaction?
We have to look at it in the context of the national aspiration of our multi-ethnic country.
With more than 600,000 students in Chinese schools, of which only about 80,000 are non-Chinese, no amount of effort or funds can possibly change the psyche of these students to be “more Malaysian than just Chinese” in the foreseeable future.
Let’s face it. The Chinese school system has existed since pre-independence days. It suited the British colonial masters well as it was part of their “divide and rule” policy.
All advocates of Chinese education have said that Chinese schools have to exist to safeguard Chinese culture.
Integrating the Chinese minority into the “Malaysian culture” is never part of their agenda.
We have produced generations of Chinese Malaysians superior in their own culture, but unfortunately more inward-looking and chauvinistic, and lacking faith in all that is done by the government to solidify national integration.
Can we say with some conviction that we really need this in our nation-building?
Our schools should be a microcosm of the real Malaysian society. Perhaps a solution to all these “dissatisfactions” is that we should have one single school system where all the languages of the major three ethnic groups — Malay, Chinese and Tamil — are taught without infringing the requirements of our Constitution.

Read more: SCHOOLS: One single system is better – Letters to the Editor – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/schools-one-single-system-is-better-1.130268#ixzz24u4CyFzI

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