MALAY nationalist opposition to the vernacular schools, Chinese and Tamil, has given way to a misplaced rationalist opposition.
This time around, three Malay organisations that are chauvinists in nature have filed a court case to abolish the existence of the 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 schools students more competitive in the job market and more importantly remove a system that is divisive and not conducive to national integration.
However, there are a number of reasons why I vehemently oppose the move for a judicial review of vernacular schools.
- Vernacular schools have been in existence for a long time and was merely formalised and integrated within the national education system after the country’s independence in 1957.
- Vernacular schools were an integral aspect of the political bargain of the Malays and non-Malays in the Perikatan Nasional coalition. Vernacular schools should not be removed just because certain quarters want them abolished for whatever reason.
- Vernacular schools and national schools are not opposed to one another. Students attend primary vernacular schools for six years before they go to national schools for their secondary education.
- Not all Chinese and Indian students attend vernacular schools before they move to national schools. It is the choice of the parents, and there is a considerable number of Chinese and Indian students who attend national primary schools.
- There is no political or educational contestation between the two schools system.
- The enrollment of Malay students attending the vernacular schools have increased in recent times. More than 20% of the total enrollment in Chinese schools are from the Malay community.
- 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.
- The fervour and commitment to maintain vernacular schools is in part response to the increasing racial and religious polarisation in the country.
- The argument that national schools are more integrative compared to the vernacular schools is simply not true.
- Racism is not the product of the vernacular schools, but the very nature of the political system that nourishes majoritarian nationalism and religious extremism. – Nov 25, 2021