The myth about vernacular schools being obstacles to unity

by Ravinder Singh
The Malaysian Insider
MAY 16, 2013

The myth about multi-stream schools being obstacles to unity keeps on being bandied about by racists who cannot see, or rather refuse to see, the wood for the trees.

The latest call for the banning of vernacular schools was by no less a personality than the pro-chancellor of Universiti Technology Mara (UiTM), Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad, at a GE13 post-mortem forum “Muslim Leadership and Survival” organised by the Federation of Peninsula Malay Students (GPMS) and the UiTM Alumni Association. This imagined, simplistic solution to improving race relations has been shot out by many people — politicians, academicians, administrators, etc — over the years.

It’s amazing how people in important positions try to shove their perceptions, or even falsehoods, on the masses by making them appear like facts. If there are listeners who believe these people, it is simply because the listeners have no knowledge of the issue at hand and so they think these important people surely know best. But do they?

Abdul Rahman had a long career in education, rising up to be director-general of Education. One of the posts he has held was that of director of Educational Planning and Research. He had also served as deputy eirector of Education in Kedah in 1966. I have a question for him.

When English-medium primary schools were converted to national schools, they were given new names such as SRK so-and-so. One such school in Alor Star was re-named after the Sultan of Kedah, i.e. SRK Tunku Abdul Halim. It must have been the best school to deserve this honour.

However, by the early ‘90s this school was one of the worst in Alor Star. It is unlikely that 22 years on, it would have gone back to its glorious days of the ‘50s. Once down it is very difficult to rise again, like Humpty Dumpty.

The question: how did a school that was the best when it was an English-medium school become one of the worst after being converted to a national school? Was any research or study done to find out why and how the decline took place?

This situation is surely not peculiar to this one school, but something common throughout the country. Even some Malay parents have lost faith in national schools and are sending their children to Chinese primary schools.

To cover up for the declining standards, a big fraud was committed on the nation by systematically lowering passing marks to keep the statistics showing that educational standards were being maintained or even improved. As a result, children have left schools without acquiring the basic skills of the 3Rs — reading, ‘rithmatic and ‘riting. Yet just a few months back we were told by the education minister that our schools are as good if not better than those in developed countries like Germany.

Unity is about relationships between people — whether they live in peace with each other or look upon each other as enemies. There is no evidence that all people who speak the same language always live in peace with each other. People who not only speak different languages, but also profess different religions and cultures, have shown the ability to live as brothers and sisters. So it is political humbug to demand that vernacular schools should be abolished for Malaysians to be united, unless “united” means not having one’s own mind to decide whom to vote for.

It is racism in its various forms that builds walls around people. Vernacular schools have been around since the 19th century and they did not build those walls. We have never seen the kind of racism that we see today. The rise of racism is directly related to political expediency. Racism is spreading because some people are immune from the law.

As an educationist, Abdul Rahman should step forward and explain how SRK Tunku Abdul Halim, which was the best English-medium primary school in Alor Star, become one of the worst schools after being converted to a national school. This is not an isolated case, but an example of how our schools have gone down the drain.

It would be very fruitful to look hard, and honestly, at this decline of our national schools than to scream the fallacy that abolishing vernacular schools is the way to national unity.

  1. #1 by seetee64 on Saturday, 18 May 2013 - 9:23 am

    Well, it works in Singapore and it works in Indonesia. Why can’t it work in Malaysia. Afraid that your children will be educated in bahasa melayu?

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 18 May 2013 - 9:40 am

    Its not only a myth that vernacular school stands in the way of unity, I will argue that GETTING RID OF THEM BY LAW DOES NOTHING FOR UNITY..All getting rid of vernacular school is pander to the waste of emotional negativity from the racist and by now evidence is clear in our country that pandering to them never really solves much of anything, merely an indulgence that drags everyone down…

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Saturday, 18 May 2013 - 6:05 pm

    Actually, it’s d like of UiTM, MRSM etc (exclusively 4 Malays only) which r obstacles 2 unity n should b abolished

  4. #4 by on cheng on Sunday, 19 May 2013 - 1:55 pm

    seetee64m, do singapore or indonesia hv a college or university solely for one race?? or 2 different matriculation system, or 2 different pricing system for public housing etc
    Switzerland have 4 different schools, yet their people are very united, Canada also hv 2 different schools, but they are united. India case , I don’t know how many languages?

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