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Don't make vernacular schools the scapegoat

  • Vernacular education will not undermine national unity nor the dignity of any ethnicity, and its existence should therefore not be questioned, or become a scapegoat of any party.

Sin Chew Daily

The Malay Dignity Congress held on Sunday made several proposals to the government on culture, religion and education, arguing that prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said during the press conference after the congress that he would seriously consider and explore the proposals as they reflected the feelings of the Malays.

Tun Mahathir's response was received with thunderous applause from leaders of PPBM, Umno and PAS, as well as education minster Maszlee Malik and economic affairs minster Azmin Ali, who were present at the congress.

Earlier, representatives from Universiti Putra Malaysia and Sultan Idris Education University (UPSI) at the congress also urged the government to implement mono-stream education system in the country, making Bahasa Malaysia the only teaching medium at all primary and secondary schools, and that vision schools should be introduced progressively.

One of the proposals made at the congress was to amend the Education Act 1996 to make Bahasa Malaysia the only teaching medium in primary and secondary schools nationwide.

On this, the prime minister said, “It is an appeal, but that does not mean the government will accept all the appeals.”

The inclusion of this appeal in the Malay Dignity Congress agenda has drawn tremendous concern from the Malaysian society, in particular the non-bumiputra communities.

Last September, the “Congress on the Future of Bumiputras and the Nation” organized by the government adopted the resolution to implement mono-stream education system in a bid to revamp the country's education based on the national education policy. The move drew the ire of Dong Zong and Jiao Zong which issued a statement to express their “non-compromising” position on this matter, as multi-stream education had been in practice since the dawn of nationhood -- with BM, Chinese and Tamil as major teaching mediums at three different language streams at primary school level -- to meet the needs of mother tongue education from each of the major ethnic communities. This has been a fundamental right enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

In view of this, implementing a mono-stream education system is unconstitutional and violating the fundamental rights of different ethnic communities of the country.

Among those attending the two congresses held last year and this year are political leaders, scholars, representatives of political parties as well as institutions of higher learning. These people are supposed to be intellectuals well versed in the country's Constitution. Unfortunately they have made the unusual and inappropriate proposal to the government to implement mono-stream education system.

The Malay Dignity Congress was held in high profile under the umbrella of the Pakatan Harapan government which has been strongly advocating reforms, civilization and democracy.

While making any appeal on behalf of their own community, perhaps these people should do it in a more cautious way so as not to infringe the rights of other communities, “implementation of mono-stream education” being an instance.

The Federal Constitution protects the right of Malaysians from different ethnic backgrounds to receive mother tongue education, and this has nothing to do with the dignity of any ethnicity nor will it undermine national unity. As such, its existence should not be questioned, nor should it become a scapegoat of any party.

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