Perlis mufti moots single-stream primary schools for all

Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says children should have a common shared experience, and then may go on to religious or vernacular schools later.

KUALA LUMPUR: Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has mooted the idea of changing the education system to a single-stream in primary schools.

“There will be no schools based on religion or race, so that they are given the experience of living together with all races,” he said today at a forum to celebrate 50 years of the Rukun Negara.

“We need all Malaysians at a young age to have no prejudice against each other. At the primary level, they need to be together so they have a shared experience. After that they may go on to a religious school or a vernacular school, but only after they are given the experience of living together with all races,” he said.

Asri explained that schools should be suitable for every Malaysian regardless of religion or race, adding that it should not emphasise religion as it may cause some to feel uncomfortable.

Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, mufti of Perlis.

He added that the proposal for single-stream schools was nothing new, as he had also brought it up with the previous Pakatan Harapan administration.

He said he had written a letter regarding the matter to former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former education minister Maszlee Malik.

“Sometimes, we’re so different because we do not have the experience of living together. If I have friends who are from different religions, then maybe that friendship will have an impact on me to have a positive outlook on others.

“At the primary school stage, children must be enrolled into a school of mixed religions so there will be no prejudice. Ahmad can befriend Ah Chong and they can become good friends.

“Nowadays, many just go to religious schools, while those who attend vernacular schools only go to vernacular schools: in the long run they will not have any experiences (with other races),” he said.

Asri said he would raise this matter again with the current Perikatan Nasional federal government.

In his letter to Mahathir and Maszlee in December 2018, Asri had criticised the country’s education system as distancing itself from the spirit of racial harmony among Malaysians.

He proposed that all children undergo the same schooling system at least from year 1 to year 6 of primary school.

Asri said he was aware his proposal might cause discomfort among those who fought for the establishment of religious and vernacular schools, but stressed the importance of the matter. “If we want to form unity in the future, we need to do this. We need this for future generations,” he said.