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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

How Can We Unite Malaysians When We Have These Separate School Systems?

Q&A:  Alif Ba Ta Conference 2011 (Cont’d)

Q2:  How can we unite Malaysians when we have these separate school systems?

MBM:  The underpinning of the national education policy, articulated in the Razak Report of 1956, was that if young Malaysians were to learn in the same language, read the same books, and have a shared understanding of our history, then we would all idolize the same heroes and subscribe to the same values. With that common base and shared goals, national unity would be that more achievable.

It was a reasonable assumption. Tun Razak’s national schools were a vast improvement over the then existing vernacular schools which most Malaysian children attended. At least they would now know more about Tunku Abdul Rahman than Nehru or Chiang Kai Shek, and could speak the national language, a significant achievement.

Instead of building on that system we let it deteriorate. Today we are even more segregated then during colonial rule.

Many factors contribute to this sad deplorable situation, among them the increasing Islamization and the de-emphasis of English in the national stream. I elaborated on this in my earlier book, An Education System Worthy of Malaysia (2003) and elsewhere. Today young Malaysians may be reading the same books and learning the same facts but they are not doing it together, with the Chinese attending Chinese schools and Malays, national schools. That is the crux of the problem.

I have a different perspective. I could not care less if we have a thousand school systems as long as young Malaysians from the different races are learning together in class, playing together on the school fields, and participating in the same school plays and bands, then we would more likely end up as a nation less segregated and consequently more united. I would focus on making our schools integrated, that is, their student body must reflect the general community. How that is best achieved is for each school to decide.

To encourage that I would reward through generous state funding those schools that are fully integrated so they could enhance their programs further and attract an even broader spectrum of Malaysians. To me, even if a school were to use Swahili as the medium of instruction but it manages to attract a broad spectrum of Malaysian parents to enroll their children there, then that school should get full state funding. On the other hand any school that attracts only a narrow spectrum of Malaysians does not deserve any state support. That applies to Islamic as well as Tamil schools.

I am heartened by the increasing enrollment of Malays in Chinese schools. I prefer calling them Mandarin-medium national schools. They could further enhance their appeal to Malays by making their campuses more Malay-friendly, as with having halalcanteens. I am also not against bringing back state-funded English-medium schools provided that their enrolments reflect the greater Malaysian society. To me they would not be the “English” schools of old rather English-medium schools along the same line as that Swahili-medium national school.

I am no fan of a single school system, as many currently advocate. If perchance that system proves to be lousy, then the whole nation would suffer. As with everything else, we should encourage diversity; our future would be better assured thus.


Blogger bumi-non-malay said...

Bahasa Malaysia, islam Bias sillybus, education system have failed Malaysia like the Sultan -Agong did to Malaysian now with $1 Trillion Debt.... They Rulers dare claim they are there to look after the people...like bahasa Malaysia will make Malaysia progress.....Enjoy the $1 Trillion Debt while you Progress...its too late...Back to English in university, parliament, Court of Law,all over Malaysia orits over and sabah-sarawak can Sack malaya and continue the Path using English!!

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malaysia education is part of the huge problem but it's the discriminative NEP system that is setup to create barrier for all Malaysians.

1). How on earth can Malaysians be united when one race has all the privileges and benefits, right from the school level, university allocation, job opportunities and finally they are provided with all kinds of business opportunities based on racial profiling.

2). Malaysia is a trading country where English is widely used. Emphasizing on Bahasa Malaysia will do no justice to the future of the country

3). When national Schools right to University level, are breeding ground to brainwash students with irrelevant religious teaching

4)/ and many more.

3:51 PM  

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