Dong Zong must build bridges, not fences

Dong Zong (the Chinese schools associations) and Jiao Zong (the Chinese education movement) are collectively known as Dong Jiao Zong.

The Chinese educational group Dong Zong has long been considered to be the champions of preserving the Chinese education system in our country.

As a Malaysian Chinese, although I am grateful for their efforts in preserving the Chinese education system, I would urge Dong Zong to adopt a less confrontational approach, which has been heightened in the latest khat issue.

I feel Dong Zong has recently been adopting an approach which champions only their cause in the eyes of the Chinese community, whilst neglecting the larger picture.

Let me use two examples.

First, in the khat issue, opposition was based on the perceived effect of khat in threatening the nature of the vernacular education system, with one main reason cited as being an additional burden to the school and students.

Even after the government had announced that it would not be included in the examinations and would take up to six pages, they continued along this vein until the government announced it would be reduced to three pages, and teachers given the flexibility on how it is taught.

I think the increasing technical difficulty of the syllabus content is a bigger burden. There was once a KBKK (Kemahiran Berfikir Secara Kritis & Kreatif) question published at primary school level requiring the application of linear algebra, which was not covered in the syllabus.

Currently, Dong Zong have switched the focus to ‘Islamisation’. While this may be a valid concern in the eyes of some, it only adds to the impression that their only interest is to exclude khat, no matter what.

Furthermore, actions which make accusations against another religion are not helpful towards trying to improve inter-race relations. We used to laugh and scoff at certain individuals who claim that people’s faith could be affected by simply looking at the crucifix. I believe we have just indicated, to this group of people and some other groups, that we are no different from them.

My second example is Dong Zong’s attitude in handling the UEC issue.

While I applaud their effort to hold the current government to their promise of UEC recognition, I propose that more effort could be put in to ensure that the government is able to recognise UEC with less blowback from the non-Chinese community. For those who read between the lines and follow the news, it should be clear that the UEC recognition issue is mainly due to the fear of the unknown by a portion of the Malay community, which includes officials within the Education Department.

Dong Zong could have a role in this matter, which I have yet to see widely reported in the news. Dong Zong’s approach is focused on the Chinese community, while leaving the effort to bridge the Malay and Chinese communities solely to the government.

We should look at the larger picture (about which I have my own thoughts, covering not only UEC, but the overall education system including tahfiz schools), and not just fight to garner the support of one particular community, an approach that feels more like the actions of politicians, whom I regard as being different from statesmen.

In closing, I apologise should I have misunderstood Dong Zong’s efforts. I believe, however, it is high time we as a community start to reach out to our non-Chinese colleagues in clarifying to them the many issues which are of concern to us.

We should learn to listen to their views as well, in hopes we can find a compromise. The strength of a proper democracy is in allowing for people of different opinions and backgrounds to co-exist, and to find a suitable compromise.

Sue Chuah is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.