PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Youth Council (MYC) has lauded the education ministry’s intention of encouraging cross-cultural programmes in schools and universities.
Its president, Jufitri Joha, said students might otherwise miss out on learning to interact with those raised in cultures different from their own.
“The Chinese in the vernacular schools will stay among themselves until university and the Malays in the religious schools will do the same,” he said. “There will be no chance for them to understand the significance of living together in diversity.”
He denied that MYC had proposed the introduction of a school subject that would enable students to learn about various religions, as reported by Bernama.
The news agency quoted him as saying: “We see that this idea will be able to bring the different races closer together if introduced at the school and university levels.”
Jufitri said it was a suggestion made by a participant in a discussion held at Masjid Jamek, which was attended by youths from different religions.
The discussion focused on issues relating to the first principle of the Rukunegara, belief in God.
Jufitri said suggestions made during the discussion had been submitted to the Department of National Unity.
Education minister Maszlee Malik said the ministry feared that there would be more negative than positive results from exposing students to a variety of religions.
However, he said there should be more cross-cultural programmes between, for example, vernacular and religious schools.
Jufitri agreed, saying students from the different schools did not currently have an avenue to meet and interact.
“There should be avenues such as interfaith youth programmes and cultural exchange programmes,” he said. “The youth council can be made into a platform for youths from different religions and races.”
Tunku Munawirah Putra of Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) said subjects on religion should not be turned into a sensitive issue if the objective was to gain knowledge and reach mutual understanding.
“Of course there will be dissenters and those who find ways to manipulate the issue to suit their agenda,” she said.
She maintained that the idea should be encouraged as long as the objective was clear.