Schools not the only cause of racial polarisation — Ravinder Singh

Posted on February 6th, 2014

JAN 6 — The forum in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week in Kuala Lumpur yesterday is reported to have agreed that National schools are the breeding ground for racial polarisation and the education system is the root cause of the problem plaguing the country now. Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim told an audience of about 65 at the interfaith forum titled "A dialogue for harmony", that it was all about Malay supremacy in schools now.

The rot is not just in the schools. They are only a cog in the bigger wheel of “Malay supremacy” that has driven wedges between peoples of different races and religions who had been living harmoniously for decades in the past. Some other obvious cogs are the Biro Tata Negara, Perkasa which is financed by the government, academics like Ridhuan Tee, the AG’s chambers that are seen to be biased in acting against certain racial rabble-rousers despite having the law at his disposal to do so, Jakim with its incendiary sermons, and politicians who have personal interests above those of the nation.

Noor Azimah is said to have proposed that "the only solution is for the glory of national schools to be returned, which means we need more subjects in English in national schools, because right now, national schools are Malay schools and nothing more."

I don’t know whether she has been correctly quoted for it is naive to believe that merely having more subjects taught in English would stop the schools being “breeding grounds for racial polarisation”.

Even re-converting the national schools to English Medium schools will not make a change as the change depends not on teaching in English, but on the school heads and teachers and other people and politicians behind them.

I daresay that even National schools can be as glorious as the English Medium schools of the 50’s and 60’s if only factors like the following were strictly implemented:

 

  • the teachers and head teachers running these schools were as good as of those days,
  • the schools had a good mix of teachers of all races
  • school heads were appointed purely on professional merits and not as political rewards, and these positions were not reserved for Malays only. The best master-teachers, of any race, should head the schools. 
  • All important positions in the Education ministry, at federal and state levels,  were filled by professional teachers of not less than 20 years classroom experience and who had been outstanding classroom teachers and school administrators,
  • there is no political interference of any kind in the running of the education ministry and schools, e.g. preventing teachers enforcing strict discipline in schools, for without good discipline, there can be no quality in education. 

 

Persons do not make good teachers, school administrators or policy makers at the Ministry simply because they have paper qualifications even as high as PhDs. Things are made worse by politicians like education ministers who have no on the ground classroom experience, or put political interests above the national interest of racial harmony.

Teaching, especially teaching the very young, i.e. during their formative years, is a very highly skilled and morally responsible job. It is here that the foundations of inter-ethnic relations are built. This is the group that is most vulnerable to indoctrination which may be very subtle as illustrated by Sisters in Islam executive director Ratna Osman who said her sons were told in school that they could not mix with non-Muslims.

It needs a very strong political will to take positive steps to undo all the damage that has been done in the name of political expediency. Things that can be done more easily should be done straightaway, e.g. stop the fiery sermons that creature polarisation, disband the BTN, stop Perkasa, certain academics and the small groups of racial bigots who go about spewing hate-words and putting up banners to create ill-will, etc. 

Undoing the damage in the schools will take a very concerted effort as the adults responsible have first to be reformed, before they can reform the children, the next generation of Malaysians.

Let us not falsely believe that teaching more subjects in English is the solution to address racial polarisation in schools. 

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

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