GEORGE TOWN: The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) has shot down a list of demands by Malay rights group Perkasa to “foster national unity” through an overhaul of the education system.
Perkasa deputy president Sirajuddin Salleh had called for vernacular schools to be scrapped, and the status of Bahasa Melayu to be strengthened through the abolishment of the dual language programme (DLP).
He also urged the government not to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), the standard test for independent Chinese high schools, over fears that it would segregate the Chinese from the Malays.
However, PAGE chairman Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the group’s demands, in the name of fostering national unity, could have the opposite effect.
She said Malaysia is made up of many races and the country’s strength lies in its colourful diversity. The education system, she added, reflected this spirit.
“Therefore, to seek an imaginary and supposedly perfect single education system in the belief that it will unite the people is yet to be proven and goes against the grain of that multitude and diversity.
“To impose national schools on all Malaysians would mean to phase out every other type as well – Chinese, Tamil, religious, tahfiz, international, and residential, among others – to ensure complete unity.
“Are we prepared for this or will some schools be exempted?”
If a single education system was introduced now, she said, there would be more disunity than unity.
“It could come at a very high cost,” she told FMT.
She added that it was crucial for the government to ensure the quality of the country’s national education system is improved.
“Children should be armed with inquisitiveness, creative minds, problem-solving skills and an array of language fluency.”
Threat to ethnic harmony
Sirajuddin had reportedly called for the government, politicians and community leaders to re-examine Malaysia’s education policies so that they would “nurture and ensure national unity and stability”.
He said a single-stream school should be created to inculcate a sense of togetherness to eradicate racism, with Bahasa Melayu as the main medium of teaching.
He said other languages like English, Mandarin, Tamil and Arab could be taught within the system.
“The DLP should be done away with as it would threaten ethnic harmony as it relegates the status of Bahasa Melayu to an optional language.
“Also, the UEC, along with the existence of independent, private Chinese high schools, would threaten ethnic harmony if they are recognised by the government and if its graduates are allowed to enter the civil service and public universities,” Sirajuddin said.
But Noor Azimah said the DLP was about respecting the choices of students’ parents. She added that it was an optional programme open to all schools.
“It was never about relegating the national language. In schools which have adopted the DLP, the main medium of instruction still remains the mother tongue.”
She added that students needed more exposure to the English language to become proficient, as international research had shown that the current syllabus is inadequate to ensure operational proficiency.
On Perkasa’s demand that the government withhold recognition for the UEC, Noor Azimah said it was a Malaysian-made assessment recognised worldwide.
She said perhaps what the civil service requires is a more “diverse range of competent Malaysians running it”.
“China is poised to trade with Malaysia in a gargantuan way. What the civil service now requires is a pragmatic approach towards dealing with China.
“One way is to allow the UEC to be recognised in our local public universities,” she said.