The Case for Vernacular Schools.

This article is in reference to Mukhriz Mahathir's statement yesterday.

Mukhriz: Close down vernacular schools
Syed Jaymal Zahiid Dec 1, 08 5:43pm

Jerlun member of parliament Mukhriz Mahathir today slammed MCA and Gerakan leaders for ‘overreacting' over the Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) issue.

He blamed the vernacular school system for the polarised society which caused the poor understanding of the Malay supremacy concept among the non-Malays.He was of the opinion that the disunity in the community arose from the different education system and proposed that a single education system be implemented to foster greater unity.

The son of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the issue of Malay supremacy was blown out of proportion due to the poor understanding of both those who spoke in favour and against the concept."I still hear statements are being made about the Ketuanan Melayu concept by BN component party leaders and this have hurt Malay hearts, especially Umno," he told a press conference in Parliament."When these leaders are making this kind of statement it shows that they know nothing of our history or maybe they are trying to act as heroes to their community," he added.Both MCA and Gerakan are senior partners in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition headed by Umno.

According to Mukhriz, the term Ketuanan Melayu simply meant the sovereignty of the Malay rulers as well as the special position of the Malays in the country."The term Ketuanan Melayu simply refers to the sovereignty of our Malay rulers. When we address them, we call them Tuanku (your highness) and all the races do acknowledge this and they practice it."The concept does not indicate that we Malays are the masters and other races are slaves. The Malays, especially in economy, do not feel like they are the masters," reasoned Mukhriz.

'Component party leaders inviting backlash'

Mukhriz, vying for the Umno Youth chief post in the March party elections, was referring to the Chinese-based MCA's deputy president Chua Soi Lek who had described the Ketuanan Melayu as a Malay supremacy concept that implied a master and servant relationship that he felt was unacceptable.Delivering a speech last week, Chua had also said that the Chinese community can accept "Malay leadership but not Malay supremacy".

Chua was then backed by the president of another Chinese-based BN component party Gerakan, Dr Koh Tsu Koon who had issued a statement calling for Umno to replace the concept of Ketuanan Melayu with the "Malay special position" concept.Mukhriz blasted both Chua and Koh for making such statements and said that these leaders were only inviting strong criticism from their Malay counterparts."That kind of statement shouldn't be coming. They are inviting reactions by making such statements and we should be focusing on fostering unity instead of making such divisive statements. We have our limitations," he said.He further said that it was prerogative that Umno spoke up against "such exaggeration".

He added that the Ketuanan Melayu concept has been widely practiced and accepted as exemplified by the special Malay position enshrined in the federal constitution and other government policies.He also blasted the president of another BN component party, PPP's M Kayveas for issuing a threat to leave the coalition should the Internal Security Act not amended before the next general election."What he said is disrespectful towards the spirit of BN and I am very disappointed with his behaviour," said Mukhriz.

Close down vernacular schools

Mukhriz, who had previously come under fire from his own party for criticising the leadership of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also offered an explanation on why the misunderstanding about the Ketuanan Melayu existed. He attributed this to a polarised society caused by the current education system. The Umno Youth chief aspirant suggested that the best way to handle this was to foster greater unity and integration of all races at a young age and it has to start with the schools. But he is bound to invite criticism from various quarters with his suggestion that the government did away with the vernacular school system which he felt was divisive. He wanted all students to be streamlined under the Education Ministry and a singular education system be introduced.

"The government can foster greater unity by streamlining all the schools under one education system where the medium of teaching, besides Science and Mathematics, are taught in Bahasa Malaysia."We can make it compulsory that the Chinese and Indians study their own language in their mother tongue while these two languages can be optional for Malay students to learn or we can make it compulsory for students to learn at least three languages," he suggested.

When suggested by reporters that his proposal would most likely invite resistance even from leaders and members of BN, the Umno Youth chief aspirant said that he was only proposing in the name of unity."My suggestion has no other ulterior motives apart from to unite all races," he said. - Malaysiakini 1/12/08

I do not want to touch on anything else on this article except the points about vernacular schools.
Mukhriz contends that vernacular schools contribute to the further racial animosity. I fully agree. 110%. Vernacular schools do contribute to worsening inter-racial relationships because children grow up in an environment surrounded by people only of their racial background. (Although is becoming less the case with inner-city Chinese primary schools.) The crux of the issue here though is not "unifying the student population under the Education Ministry." The crux of the issue here is the quality of education. I am very sure that no educated Non-Malay parent wakes up one day and decides that "My child MUST go to a vernacular school." out of the blue.

It is a calculated decision weighing the pros and the cons. So let's go over the pros and the cons in as far as the current national schools and the current vernacular schools are concerned. As with any fair comparisons we'll give each of the pros a +1 and the cons a -1. (Btw, I attended national schooling from primary through to Form 5.)

Vernacular Schools.
  1. Teachers are 100% dedicated to teaching and are capable educators.
  2. The student is able to learn his mother tongue effectively.
  3. School administration is professional and competent.
  4. Massive community support for schools.
  5. School is proactive in encouraging non-curricular achievement.
  6. School is not racially stratified.
  7. Discipline is enforced without fear or favour to all students regardless of race.
  8. Syllabus focuses on Science and Mathematics.
  9. Overall academic achievement is higher.
  10. School and teachers put academic achievement as the highest priority.
  11. Independent Board of Governors.

National School.

  1. Facilities are good (West Malaysia only.)
  2. Students learn English from Standard 1.
  3. Students learn Science and Maths in English.

Vernacular Schools.

  1. Students are exposed to only one racial group.
  2. School is too academically orientated.
  3. School is too competitive and does not give students room to grow as individuals.
  4. Herd mentality is very strong.
  5. Facilities are poor.
  6. Funding is always lacking.

National Schools.

  1. Teachers are lackadaisical and not dedicated. (Not all but most.)
  2. Mother tongue education is non-existent. (POL Classes are an insult to our intelligence.)
  3. School administration is a springboard for headmasters to enter politics.
  4. UMNO agenda is pushed by the administration.
  5. Poor community involvement.
  6. No independent board of governors.
  7. School does not encourage excellence in extra-curricular activities.
  8. School is extremely racially stratified. (eg. Head Prefect must be a Malay. etc.)
  9. Discipline is meted out according to race.
  10. Syllabus is inconclusive and heads nowhere.
  11. Overall academic achievement is poor.
  12. School puts emphasis on academic achievement but implements it poorly.
  13. Overt political inteference in many schools.
  14. Many have been converted into permanent BTN camps to indoctrinate, not to educate.
  15. Religious zealots have turned the schools into Islamic schools.

The numbers do all the talking don't they. National School score a dismal -12 and Vernacular Schools score a 5. Although Vernacular Schools have a long way to go in as far as improving the quality of education is concerned, they in the right side of the educational paradigm. National schools are heading in the wrong direction and as long as they are run similarly, they will remain to do so.

In the 1960's, most students attended National Schools. Vernacular school enrolment was poor. This was a concious effort by parents as the National Schools at that time were run professionally by Kirby trained teachers who taught an efficient syllabus that was relevant to the needs of the students. All of that is out the window now.

If the government wants vernacular schools to die out, rather than banning them and pissing off a whole section of the community (anyway banning them is unconstitutional.) they should improve National Schools. Once the national schooling system is back to it's best as it was in the 60's vernacular schools will die a natural death as parents will flock to national schools to give their children the best education they can afford.