Education is a vital component for a nation. It is the pathway to nation-building. Besides the seeking of knowledge, an ideal education system should strive for harmony and peace among Malaysians. In a multi-racial society, students should learn acceptance, compromise
National unity in most countries is best achieved through a progressive education system. In the local context, the government should do a lot more to make this achievable. The education system we have now, in a way, is polarising the races. Malaysia is so unique that it has schools and institutions of higher learning built exclusively for various races, social classes and even religion.
This does not exist anywhere else in the world.
It takes a unified and neutral education system for the country to unite its people. Education that is secular, progressive and balanced plays an important role in creating a tolerant and open-minded society.
From primary to tertiary, all educational institutions should see a mixed racial composition. This is the way forward for Malaysia to progress as a resilient nation.
Most of the senior leaders of today must have come from a system of education where all races grew up with tolerance for each other. It was a time when race and religion were put aside, and they intermingled with one another without snob or prejudice.
Friendship among the races was cordial and candid and never superficial. Till today, we see many alumni getting together to reminisce the good old days. Teachers were multi-racial and never had any prejudice towards their students. Many of them taught with dedication in rural areas where students were of a single race.
Students and society in general did not complain about the education structure as education was then a melting pot for all the races. Even those who went through English education did not make them less Malay, Chinese or Indian.
If the education system of a country fails to unite its people, then we could see society becoming divisive and less tolerant. We cannot ignore this if we want to progress in the borderless and globalised world of today and make the country move forward.
This has been voiced by many who want to see all Malaysians grow up united through a single progressive education system.
Malaysians go to private, vernacular, religious as well as national schools. Of course, it may not be acceptable to many to dismantle the system we have now. Nonetheless, the government could do a lot more to make national schools attractive to all Malaysians. The onus now is on the acting education minister, who is also the prime minister of the country, to take up this challenge.
If the education portfolio is too demanding to be handled by a single minister, then it would be ideal to have two deputy ministers, one to handle primary and secondary education,
and the other higher education.
Ministers chosen to handle both these portfolios should be persons with progressive mindsets, receptive to reformist thoughts, and with exemplary credentials in education, irrespective of ethnic background.
Moaz Nair is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.