Multiracial Education Under Fire in Malaysia



Jumat, 02 Agus 2013 18:52 WIB

Multiracial Education Under Fire in Malaysia

Malaysia, education, multiracial, ethnic, Malaysiakini

Malaysia’s multi racial education system is under threat.

Ethnic minorities – such as the Chinese and Indians largely voted against the ruling coalition in Malaysia’s recent election.

And now some senior state officials are blaming the multi-lingual education system for causing a divide between the majority Malay and the Tamil and Chinese communities.

It started with this speech by a former court judge, Datuk Mohammad Noor Abdullah, calling for Tamil and Chinese schools to be abolished.

“Following the constitution our country should have  national schools, there are national-type schools, and there are Chinese, Indian and private schools. It divides the people.”

In Malaysia, parents can choose to send their children to a national Malay language school, Chinese or Tamil school. What language students learn in has always been a heated issue in Malaysia.

Former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad recently called for a greater unity in the education system.

“We should have less separation in the schooling system, for example we should have a national school where everybody will attend, of course we will preserve their language, it will be compulsory to learn ones own language but, go to the same schools, I think the chances of integration and keeping Malaysia stable and peaceful would be better.”

But Tamil and Chinese educators insist having children learn in their mother tongue is not the reason why there is racial disunity in Malaysia.

“You must look at the policies of the country which discriminate certain race, discriminate certain language, discriminate certain type of education, that causes disharmony and disunity among the races,” says S. Pasupathy is the President of Tamil Foundation in Malaysia.

Beh Jing Qiang is a student at a private university who went to a Chinese school before entering a private university.

He has mixed views about making all students go to Malay speaking schools.

“In a good way, you can mix with other race of friends, but in a bad way if we can’t choose the language that we want to learn that would be quite bad. If we are forced to learn malay and English only that will be bad for us, nowadays there are quite a lot of people that don’t know to speak and write in Mandarin.”

Supporters of Chinese and Tamil schools say they will fight to preserve the right to teach their children in their first language, says Pasupathy from the Tamil Foundation.

“You must understand you learn a language not just to learn to read and write, language is the soul of the person so the language comes with the embodiment of the cultural belief surrounding it. The cultural embodiment comes together with it and besides learning the language for a communication purpose they also understand and appreciate the cultural linkage of the language to that particular race.”


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