There are four issues in the debate on the Unified Examination Certification (UEC).
First is the use of the Malay language as the medium of teaching, which Malay groups say UEC violates.
Second is the status of SPM as the only recognised entry requirement to public universities through the government matriculation programme.
Third is the question of Bahasa Melayu and History as a necessary requirement of unity.
Fourth is the content of the History subject that is said to begin with a 200-year immigrant influx, not a 2,000-year Malay presence.
On language, critics of UEC should realise that most subjects at research universities are taught in English. How did this come about? Three reasons: ranking, Mahathir and money.
In the 1990s, public universities became enamoured with rankings. Since one of the criteria was an international student population, universities began to open their doors to foreign students.
I was teaching a class of 70 students, two of whom were from Iran, when the order came from the top management to teach in English. I had to speak English to a group of students brought up with SPM and STPM.
Then, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Maths and Science should be taught in English. The university I worked for obeyed.
With universities now strapped for cash, more foreign students are allowed into the institutions where the teaching force is paid for by Malaysian taxpayers.
Even at UiTM, I am told all subjects except those on Islam are taught in English. I ask the Malay groups: where is the supremacy of Bahasa Melayu?
Why come down so hard on UEC when universities themselves violate the language requirement?
My department’s meeting minutes were in English to accommodate foreign staff, again for ranking purposes. Assignments at public universities are submitted in poor English, and plagiarised too!
Where is the relevance of the SPM entry requirement? Public universities allow foreign students to come in without SPM? Am I to understand that Malaysian children who take UEC are not allowed into public universities despite their parents paying their taxes? Where is the logic and justice?
Critics say not learning Bahasa Melayu and following the History syllabus is against nation-building. This is an extremely poor argument.
I recall some Malay politicians using offensive language on non-Malays. There were also some who said non-Malays cannot become elected representatives, while others consider them unclean.
So how does a language like Bahasa Melayu build unity? Language is not the core of unity; good universal values and well-mannered dispositions are, in any language.
On the content of the History subject, let us just remind ourselves that we live in a global village. If there are Malays who want to live in the cocoons of Ketuanan Melayu, they are risking their children’s future.
China is exporting workers and engineers and solving its unemployment dilemma by outsourcing its brain power to others. Where would the Malays be with their Bahasa Melayu that hardly anybody speaks?
It is as if the Malays have been left on a desolate island in the middle of the ocean. They will not grow nor can they leave that island.
The history of other nations and civilisations is as important as our multiracial history, and if we are to survive for the next century, everyone must forego some of their cultures’ history.
Malay groups must rethink their position carefully. Is it right to refuse recognition of a certificate that has been acknowledged by the whole world but restricted by the narrow confines of Melayu and Malaysia?
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.