One single school system

By Kamal Amzan
June 09, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 9 — Why is it so hard to have a single education system?

With all the talk about unity, certain sacrifices must be made. If a unified Malaysia cannot be fostered in this generation, we shouldn’t miss the bandwagon for the next generation.

I’ve said this before, and let me say it again. Let’s start with our divisive schools.

In order to make a single school system successful, the government must build more schools. When we have enough schools to cater for a single session, we can then begin to teach extra languages and cultural studies in the afternoon. Those who claim that the vernacular schools are built as a mean to propagate and preserve their cultures can then be permanently silenced.

Mandarin, Tamil and later on Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh language lessons, cultural dances, religious studies can then be taught to wanting children in the afternoon, regardless of race and religion, by qualified teachers in the Education Ministry.

Don’t you think this will bring us all together, and at the same time tap the advantages of living in such a colourful, culturally rich country? Don’t you think our children will be the world’s envy for being able to speak, understand, tolerate and embrace and live in such diversity?

I think so.

And should the Education Ministry muster the strength to carry out such a reform, they must consciously allocate students and teachers in each school to ensure a balance, well proportionate representation of society. Apart from that, they must have the will and courage to oppose and deter bigotry in all forms. Administrators, teaching staff or students who are caught inciting racism must be dealt and punished severely to serve as a reminder, and then publicised as a deterrent to the rest.

Do we have any good reason to not have such an education system? Anyone?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration came up with the idea of a vision school, multiple ethnic schools in a single compound, sharing amenities i.e. football field, a hall and a canteen, but this was opposed by some chauvinistic NGOs who in my opinion have no business in multiracial Malaysia.

The Vision School was a good step forward, but the government lacked the will or b*lls to implement it. The government bowed down to myopic demands, and has not proposed anything similar since despite the 1 Malaysia hullabaloo.

Uniting a country takes more than just mere slogans. It takes more than just building shopping malls overseas and labelling buses and trains declaring the superficial reality of a united Malaysia.

It needs sacrifices by all segments of society. The Malays must be prepared to lose the MRSMs, the Chinese their SRJKCs, and the Indians SRJKTs. We must all lose for our children to win, and the nation to prosper and build on our differences instead of antagonising each other.

The government, the opposition and respective NGOs should sit down and draw lines that they should toe, and members do not cross at all cost. Those who do, well, we have ISA don’t we? Those who incite disunity and hatred should be treated as traitors to the nation and dealt with accordingly.

It takes guts, courage and political will to carry such a reform. We need visionary leaders and not those who cannot see past skin colour to lead this country. They need to make tough, painful, unpopular but necessary decisions in the name of national interest, instead of opting for popular political decisions that bring temporary happiness to a very selected, bigoted few.

Believe it or not ladies and gentlemen, there is no way we can advance this nation, grow its economy, significantly prosper and impact on the world stage without unity, no matter what the politicians say.

Let’s start with our children who were born without prejudice, and colour blind towards all mankind.

Together, we can chart a new beginning for a better Malaysia.

I offer no apology for saying all this and more.

  1. #1 by joshua711 on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 11:36 am

    Hi Mr Lim Kit Siang I totally agree with your statement. Now we can see that the federal always promoting the 1Malaysia concept but it just talking without taking action. If we wanna bring everyone together is through action making it reality that’s what we are looking forward! Although I’m just a 17 years old youth in this country, I can see that the effort of DAP trying to make Malaysian realize about the reality of present Govt. We really need CHANGE for Malaysia.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 11:56 am

    Just because 93% of Malays attend national schools, 90% of Chinese attend Chinese vernacular – therefore I single school system promotes national unity (at level when they are young). This is simplistic cliché. The Ministry Of Education in charge of school system has 90% Malays bureaucrats. Start having intergration – having other races there – at Ministerial level (in charge of formulation of policies for the schools) before you talk of school themselves.
    Whats the point to have national integration as key target of government policy when divisive communal politics and affirmative policies are key targets of communal parties UMNO MCA & MIC running the country? The left hand wants to unite what the right hand wants to divide? In the 1950s, 60s & 70s we had Malay schools, Chinese and Indian vernacular and English Schools but weren’t Malaysians more united then than now?

  3. #3 by monsterball on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 12:20 pm

    UMNO B love to divide and rule.
    They love to see Malaysian children divided into National school…Chinese school and Tamil school.
    Tamil schools are dying.
    National schools cannot beat Chinese schools in educating youngsters.
    The logical solution is to group all up.. and use the successful Chinese schools education system…starting with the right teachers..and no politics allowed.
    Whenever any good ideas that will prove UMNO B failures….they will never change.
    Change weakens their race and religion politics….thus weaken further their chances to win more votes.
    UMNO B is a government for double standards…to give false dreams and hopes to suckers…of their own race.

  4. #4 by pulau_sibu on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 12:22 pm

    The best school is the english system. that is why every one flocked to UK, Australia, NZ or America. our spm a+++ students also asked for scholarships to go overseas.

    If you have something that is the best, everyone will accept it, in fact looking for it, without arguing about race, religion and language.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 12:40 pm

    Not all can afford overseas education.
    And Chinese schools produces best English speaking Malaysians.
    Unfortunately alot of best Malaysian Chinese.. educated locally…with degrees…mostly medicine…call themselves doctors.. took up have opportunities to make money….and not serve the people.
    You can find all in MCA and Gerakan.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 12:52 pm

    While it is a fact….that MCA fought for Chinese schools. They do so to win votes.
    But most Malaysian Chinese are pariots and ignored politics…to sincerely educate their race.
    Now CSL claim MCA did a wonderful job…while DAP did nothing…for Malaysian Chinese.
    No use to prove CLS is talking nonsense.
    He will be the first to loose his seat..challenged by a DAP small timer…in 13th GE.
    Somehow….everyone in BN…is talking like Mahathir….full of sheeet stuffs…ignoring CORRUPTIONS and disunting Malaysians with CSL feeling proud to lend a hand to UMNO B kind of dirty politics.
    He has about 10% chances to be a multi millionaire after 13th GE.
    But 90% cocksure…he will dissapear for good after 13th GE..

  7. #7 by dagen on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 1:16 pm

    In theory single school system can work. But with 50yrs of bad and rotten record, people just do not trust umno at all. Umno gobermen may very well promise that other languages will be taught in the system. But no one would believe it. Umno is bound to back track and flip flop, as it has always done on most other issues. With ibrahim bin perkasa around, and umno being ever fearful of him, what would umno do if (actually an event certain) he were to object the teaching of other languages in the single school system?

    I for one say that in practice, umno would do something else. After all umno is popular for cakap satu macam, bikin lain macam; and somehow in the midst of it all billions would get siphoned out.

  8. #8 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 1:20 pm

    Sorry, the single school system you are think of is Sekolah Kebangsaan system.

    Long ago when I was in school (1988-1999), Sekolah Kebangsaan was the single school system for Malaysia. At that time 90% of all chinese parent sent their children to Sekolah kebangsaan. My mother remembers there were out cries to preserve the Chinese medium schools, which were closing down from lack of students (Which the BN-government refused to allow to reopen or relocate.)

    In the Sekolah Kebangsaan, I soon become introduced to concepts that permeate Malaysian society.
    -The Kuota System.

    -The uneven playing field; extra subject for malay students (Automatic 100 point handicap for any non-malay who wanted to be best student in class/form)

    -The subtle (and sometime not so subtle) push of non-muslims towards Islam. .

    And worse of all, the decline of teaching standards as the Education ministry played with the education syllables.

    So yeah, one generation after that, big surprise, Chinese schools are full of students again. And the Sekolah Kebangsaan (National Schools) are now dominated by Malays. And mind you, Sekolah Kebangsaan system is separate from the Sekolah Asrama, Sekolah Agama and MARA which are only for Malays.

    So yeah, Malaysia did have the 1 school system. It was called Sekolah Kebangsaan.

    The Chinese, the Indians and Malays gave it ago. Unfortunately NEP, Ketuanan Melayu and declining education standards got in the way.

    As somebody who when through the KBSR and KBSM system, I did met a lot of people and made a lot of friends, Malays, Chinese, Indian, Sik,Thai and even a Eurasian.

    But I also got first experience Malaysia’s unique top down racism, in later years as UltraMalay emerged, racial slurs and a fight or two.

    I watched one of my Malay friends get hounded out of school by the Ustaz and HM just because she would not wear a tudung and wanted to wear a pinafore. She left and when to a more open minded school.

    I watched as the best and brightest Malays leave for MARA and other amazing opportunities. This included my best friend in primary school, (smartest guy I ever knew). And somewhere inside, I felt envy, which as years passed and the future resolved into a rather bleak one of few opportunities and stiff competition… I might sometimes say ‘Hate’.

    I digress.

    Do not touch the vernacular schools. BN-government killed the English Medium Schools. Then it killed the Sekolah Kebangsaan.

    There is no need for sekolah wawasan. Sekolah Kebangsaan are already national schools. Schools for everybody. They are NOT MALAY schools. Sekolah asrama and MARA schools are MALAY schools.

    Which unlike vernucular schools where anybody can join, only Malays may enter MARA and Sekolah Asrama penuh.

  9. #9 by bush on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 1:56 pm

    Why someone still talking about the fail system implemented in Malaysia.

    We have integrated all schools into one during our 6 years in secondary school by studying the Malay syllabus which make us “half past six” product. All students completed their secondary and university school locally not able to speak good English and resulting handicapped to complete with the world.

    The fail policy to integrate among the race is because of NEP that discriminate other. No the school problem.

    Agreed with Jeffrey said” In the 1950s, 60s & 70s we had Malay schools, Chinese and Indian vernacular and English Schools but weren’t Malaysians more united then than now?

    Please use the brain to think and not to follow blindly with what Mamak’s stupid statement.

    Tell us why all the Minister’s children send oversea for education?

  10. #10 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 1:58 pm

    /// Why is it so hard to have a single education system? ///

    Short and simple answer – NEP.

    Okay, the not so short answer. After decades of discrimination, affirmative actions and crutches, you have produced non-competitive Malay students (generally speaking) and the more competitive Indian and Chinese students. So, how to have a single education system?

    With such differences in ability, how to set the standards. If you set the standards so that Malays can have 7 As, then the Chinese and Indians’ grades will go into the stratosphere. If you set the standards as obtained in the US, UK or Singapore, then we might end up with negligible Malays doing well.

    In order not to handicap Malays further, if the medium of instruction is in Malay, then what economic value is the education worth? Can the graduates be employable other than in Malaysia and Indonesia? If the language of instruction is English, then again, you will have very bad results from the Malay students.

    So, how to have a single education system, when the whole country is run on a one-country-two-systems basis (sorry Hong Kong, for using this phrase)? When the university entry matriculation examinations are done through two systems with vastly different entry requirements?

  11. #11 by pulau_sibu on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 2:54 pm

    I don’t think MCA politicians are as good in speaking Mandarin or English compared to BM. People in China and people in real English speaking countries will think that the Mandarin and English of MCA politicians are quite broke.

  12. #12 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 3:30 pm

    S’pore could construct her nationalism through English. So do many other Non White countries: India, Fiji India Jamaica, Trinidad etc. It is an international linqua franca, language of international business, science, research & computing. Here it is derided by some as imperial language of Colonialists. The language for unity, it is argued is Bahasa. It is strange argument. How can language –whether English or Malay- entailing the twisting of the tongue and making peculiar sounds on way or another be so important to foster national unity, patriotism and loyalty?

    Lets me practical, these are things of the heart, the feeling of belonging within a larger entity/group in spite of diversity of race, religion or culture, a result of the shared experience and norms, growing up and working and living together, whether all these translate to good or negative feelings and a feeling of a stake and a loyalty to the national entity. It is not the peculair noise one makes through the mouth!

  13. #13 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 3:39 pm

    Who knows one day, not too long, Cambodia will beat us in progress. The economy in Cambodia is beginning to flourish, and its residents have a strong desire to learn English. Strange many young applicants for jobs have more than one degree. Ask an engineering graduate why he took accountancy diploma or degree – a not so usual combination – and he’d say the second college providing accountacy taught in English and he’s more there to learn English than how to crunch numbers. And his asking salary is so low (by our standards) whereby we can 2 for 1 in terms of his qualifications and certainly a lot in term of his passion and commitment to work hard to better himself and help development of his country! Now why wouldn’t entrpreneurs and investors go there in time to come???

  14. #14 by Loh on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 3:43 pm

    ///Don’t you think this will bring us all together, and at the same time tap the advantages of living in such a colourful, culturally rich country? Don’t you think our children will be the world’s envy for being able to speak, understand, tolerate and embrace and live in such diversity?///–

    After they finish their SPM, it would then be known to all that the scholarship awards are based on race and not merits. Do you think that they would then embrace each other and accept that birth is more important than hard work?

    Millions of Malaysians are living and working overseas, and they did not go to the same schools with those they have to work with. It is not necessary to be in the same schools growing up together to know one another.

    Had the English medium schools not been abolished, and had NEP never existed, then the qualify of the teachers could at least be assured. NEP produced half-past six teachers, and most of them are in the schools where the parents hesitate to send them to. There are now at least 70,000 Malay and Indians in national type Chinese schools. The parents of these students choose to send their children to the schools where they are at an disadvantage, initially. But they overcome the difficulties through hard work, and these students might have to be classified as non-Bumi else they are no match for those coming out of the national schools.

    If the education standards of some of the schools are poor, the solution lies in school management and teachers training. If racial polarization is the reason for removing vernacular schools, the reversal is easier achieved by removing NEP. But politicians survive on NEP. So racial polarization would remain whatever happen to the education system.

  15. #15 by waterfrontcoolie on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 4:39 pm

    I would certainly agree with the writer to have a single type of national school but plenty of changes are required. In the first instance, the quality of national type schools have always been questioned. The system has too many teachers from a single community. The national curriculum must be spelt out clearly because at the moment we still have teachers who waylaid it for their personal agenda.Do remember in the 60s not many parents wanted the national type schools. What make them change?? We need an answer to this.

  16. #16 by hvpl on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 5:41 pm

    A fine but idealistic article. Idealistic because the basic issues cannot be agreed upon so that this idea can proceed.

    What are the basic issues?
    1. Language of instruction. English, Malay, Tamil or Mandarin?
    2. Educational standard. To ensure the Malays (generally speaking) is able to achieve a reasonable pass or set to international standards & risk them failing?
    3. Forget the other issues. The authorities will talk until the lembu come home and there will be no agreement on these 2 basic issues under the present regime.

    So, what is the point of this article of so many words that cannot offer a solution to these 2 basic issues?

  17. #17 by dagen on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 6:29 pm

    The possibiliy of having a single school system is gone forever with the emergence of china, the rapidly growing importance of mandarin as a global language and globalisation. Now that india has awaken, the importance of english language would surely receive a large additional dose of endorsement. So I say single school system in malaysia is as good as dead.

    If umno was fairer, more diligent, govern more and politic less, and not caught in corruption and power craze then umno could have operated a successful single school system decades ago. By now the system, I am sure, would be well oiled and running smoothly.

    So stop dreaming umno. Be realistic. Single school system is out of question now.

  18. #18 by ktteokt on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 10:24 am

    Whilst Chinese primary schools are finding difficulties in having more such schools, National primary schools are blooming up everywhere and there is even one ABANDONED National primary school I know of located in Taman Desa, off Jalan Klang Lama in Kuala Lumpur. Why is this school abandoned? The school is now overgrown with plants and the buildings are breaking up! Why waste such a good location? If the National school feels it is not a suitable location for it, then let a Chinese school take over. Why leave it abandoned for years???????

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