Educationist denies that vernacular schools obstruct unity

Vernacular schools are popular in Sarawak among Bumiputera parents. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: An educationist has defended vernacular schools against claims that they are an obstacle to national unity.

Jonathan Chai, the president of the Association of the Boards of Management of Aided Primary Schools in Kuching, Samarahan and Serian, said the allegations were unfair.

“It’s sad that vernacular schools are often made the scapegoat,” he told FMT.

He spoke of national unity as a “complex issue” influenced by many factors and said there was no room for over-simplification.

He said it would be too naive for anyone to presume Malaysians would be united only under a single education stream.

“Instead,” he said, “we should try to fix the fundamental problems and remove the factors which cause racial disunity in this country rather than pick on vernacular schools at the expense of our future generations.

“In the end, education becomes the ultimate victim of politicking.”

Commenting on recent commentary by social psychologist Ananthi Al Ramiah, Chai said he agreed that the proposal to abolish vernacular schools was irresponsible.

In the commentary, Ananthi said such a proposal was a “drum beaten periodically by Malay leaders who want to remove the ability for native Mandarin and Tamil speakers to be educated in their mother tongues”.

She said these calls were neither pragmatic nor contributory to nation-building.

Chai also commented on Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg’s recent statement that a third of the 60,000 children studying in Chinese primary schools in Sarawak are Bumiputera.

He said: “Bumiputera parents send their children to Chinese schools because they just want their kids to have the best education.

“Because of the racial composition, vernacular schools are a good platform for their children to mix around. Such meaningful exchanges would be instrumental in shaping a harmonious society.”