ADUN SPEAKS | Malay nationalist opposition to the vernacular schools, Chinese and Tamil, has given way to a misplaced rationalist opposition.
This time around, three Malay organisations, basically chauvinist in nature, have filed a court case to abolish the existence of vernacular schools in the country.
Although a wolf in sheepskin approach, the move to abolish the vernacular schools stems from the desire to ensure Malay language proficiency, make the vernacular school students more competitive in the job market, and more importantly, remove a system that is divisive and not conducive to national integration.
There are a number of reasons why I vehemently oppose this move for a judicial review of the vernacular schools.
First, vernacular schools have been in existence for a long time; it was merely formalised and integrated within the national education system after independence.
Second, vernacular schools were an integral aspect of the political bargain of the Malays and non-Malays in the Alliance coalition.
The vernacular schools just could not be removed just because some segments want them to be abolished, whatever the reason.
Third, vernacular schools and national schools are not opposed to one another.
Students spend attend primary vernacular schools for six years before they go on to the national schools.
Fourth, not all Chinese and Indian students attend vernacular schools before they move on to the national schools.
It is the choice of the parents.
A considerable number of Chinese and Indian students attend national primary schools.
Fifth, there is no political or educational contestation between the two school systems.
Sixth, the enrolment of Malay students attending vernacular schools has increased in recent times.
More than 20 percent of the total enrolment in Chinse schools are from the Malay community.
Good and sound education are the reasons why Malay parents prefer Chinese to national schools.
The matter of language proficiency is not an issue.
Seventh, the lack of proficiency in vernacular schools or better proficiency in national schools is not based on evidence.
Vernacular schools’ students are as competitive or proficient in the Malay language as their counterparts in the national schools.
It is not about the nature of the schools but about the quality of students.
Eight, the fervour and commitment to maintaining the vernacular schools is in part a response to the increasing racial and religious polarisation in the country.
National schools are simply viewed as the repository of majoritarian nationalism.
Ninth, the argument that national schools are more integrative compared to vernacular schools is simply not true.
Tenth, racism is not the product of the vernacular schools, but the very nature of the political system that nourishes majoritarian nationalism and religious extremism.
P RAMASAMY is Perai assemblyperson and Penang deputy chief minister II.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.