PETALING JAYA: PAS member Salamiah Md Noor has come under fire for her recent remark that vernacular schools should be closed down as they do not unite the races, with politicians and an academic saying there is no proof that such schools are a cause of disunity in the country.
PPBM Supreme Council member Tariq Ismail, DAP politician Dr Boo Cheng Hau and professor Teo Kok Seong of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said the education system alone could not be blamed for any lack of racial unity.
Tariq told FMT that unity was a mindset cultivated right from the home.
“It takes more than just the school for unity to prevail. It is the attitude and a willingness to learn from others and accept them for who they are without force feeding them what one thinks is right,” he said.
He said vernacular schools have a right to exist but added that these should be privately funded.
Government allocations should be used to improve the skills of government teachers and upgrade national schools, he added.
He said national schools had been politicised to the point that children are “totally confused when they finish schooling and became adults”.
National schools should become more competitive than vernacular and international schools, and learning a second language must be made compulsory, he said.
Tariq added that if national schools could be made better than vernacular schools, parents would prefer to send their children to national schools.
Salamiah had said that vernacular schools do not reduce the gap in understanding among races, and that Mandarin should not become a second language for Malaysians.
Boo however noted that vernacular schools are attended by pupils from various races.
“For instance, there are now 70,000 non-Chinese going to Chinese schools where Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia and English are taught. Interracial understanding is actually taking place in vernacular schools.”
He urged Malay parents to encourage their children to learn other languages such as Mandarin, English and Tamil and that of other native populations, saying multilingual education would promote unity.
“In South Africa, Canada and the US, the monolingual education system has been abandoned and a multilingual system akin to that practised in Switzerland is in place, and it shows an enhancement in unity.”
Teo meanwhile said it would not be easy to abolish vernacular schools in Malaysia.
Anyway, he said, disunity could not be solely attributed to the education system.
He added that claims about any link between disunity and vernacular schools, especially Chinese schools, are “sketchy and unconvincing”.