Sunday, August 30, 2009

Freeing the Racism Education

(Mingguan Malaysia, 30 August)
Dr. Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Senior Lecturer, National Defence University Malaysia

Education is one of the important element in the formation of a nation state. The form of education born will determine whether the national agenda is achievable or not. If the shaped of the education system is racist, then racism is the finishing.

So far, only Malaysia is the single country in this world which possess various educations according to race or vernacular. This is what being claimed by certain group as the Malaysian strength. Yes, from one angle it is a strength. But from another angle, we see when the government proposal to unify the education system based on 1Malaysia concept, without denying other people's rights to receive education on their mother's tongue, immediately this group would lodged a police report and accused the government as absurd.

I hereby applauded the attitude of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as indigenous people, as they do not claim school based on race. Otherwise, I do not know where is the national education heading?

This compromise must be acknowledged. Malay and the natives do not have their own school. What exist is a national school for all. This system has been globally practiced. If there is racism education in the system, it has been destroyed. All form of education is standardized to achieve national goals. For example, Thailand, Indonesia and other developed countries.

We should think ahead although bitterly unacceptable. After 52 years of independence, our education system is still not yet independent but is shackled instead. Every race is still idle in the education system cocoon respectively. Malays still believe on national education system for all, but persist in racism system, the Indian with Indian system and Chinese with Chinese system. Our life in fact is more separated and secluded.

For a start, let me begin with the study that I had been doing on the Chinese education system in particular, being the second largest majority. Generally, Chinese falls into two teams. One group is known as Hua Ch'iao (overseas Chinese) which is of China citizenship. Another was Ma Hua, considering themselves as Malayan Chinese, most born in Malaya consider Malaya as their country.

Wang Gungwu (1970), divided the Malaysian Chinese to three groups namely A, B and C. Group A can be categorized as the minority group compared to the others. They still maintained contacts with the politics in China, either directly or not, and is still concern on China's future. This group is not that dominant as group B or C.

Group B is made up of the stubborn group. Majority behave realistic and indirectly questioned heavily on the business politics and community organization. Most of them are very active in the non-government organizations (NGO).

They have in depth influence with the Chinese community, frequently pressuring the government. This is the ultra kiasu group which I always mentioned. This group is in the education organization (NGO), political and press.

Group C also has great interest in the country's politics. Wang Gungwu categorized them as not very sure of their own identity but loyal to the country generally.

The Gungwu's opinions were also agreed by Rita Sim and F.K. Soong, of the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP). According to them, there are two types of Chinese group from the overall total of 6.5 millions.

First group, representing 85-90 percent Chinese, with a background of Chinese racism, maintains three principles, joining the Chinese organizations, Chinese educated and read / hear / watch Chinese media. Meanwhile, the remainder representing the second group of 10-15 percent, is the English-speaking group or group which are English educated and are not Chinese educated. Most of them are Christians, Peranakan Chinese and join the Lions club and Rotary.

This categorization is already enough to prove Yew Yeok Kim's studies (1973, 1982) and Leo Suryadinata (1989) on the attitude of getting Chinese education and not Chinese stream. Chinese students which obtains English education (including national education) has less Chinese identity, mix easily with the other races and facilitate the national integration process. On the other hand, those who are Chinese school educated has the opposite attitude.

All these evidence obviously shows the society position and polarization in our country inherited from the current education system all this while. This system had influenced our life currently. Consequently, we have group placing their communal interests ahead of the national interest. The communal language presided the national language.

We take an instance of the Malay language in typical community school. The Malay language was only taught three times a week compared to the Chinese language which was taught daily. This does not include other subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Living Skills, Moral Education, Civics and Local Study which were also taught in the same language. I would like to suggest to the Education Ministry to increase the learning time of the Malay language subject, at least at par with the Chinese language subject. Otherwise, the position of the Malay language as the national language will have no meanings.

I am able to share this point of view because I had experienced a relatively wide interactions with the Chinese school. All my children had their primary education in the Chinese school. Co-incidentally, I was also the President of the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA), in one of the secondary schools with Chinese students majority who came from the Chinese primary schools (SJKC). I was further made to understand on my own race problems, especially the Malay language and educating of the mother's tongue language.

Generally, through experience and observation, the Malay language competence among the Chinese students is low. Therefore, the remove classes were created when they further their education to the secondary level. For those not in the remove classes, does not mean that their mastery of the Malay language is good. The Malay language is considered as a means to sit for examinations compared to the purpose for interactions and understandings as the national language. This is today's national education system dilemma.

Sometimes I am puzzled that which ever ways the government tried to unify the education system without denying the rights of every race, there are still strong oppositions. This oppositions being the prejudices that the government has an agenda to end the Chinese school systematically. This is the form of thinking after 52 years of independence.

Now, the education position of the Chinese has never been threatened but has increased instead, especially its financial position. In the SJKC my child studied, the financial statement for the year ended exceeded RM1 million every year. This shows that the supports indicated by the Chinese on their education as solid and substantial. Meanwhile the national education is increasingly threatened and eroded. Although various effort initiated by the government for a one system school without ruling out the rights of other race to learn the mother's tongue, however it was still being rejected.

In my opinion, if this is the current form of education, we are still not yet independent in the real meaning. Our thinking is still being shackled with racism thinking. Have a 52nd independence day celebrations.

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