This article first appeared on the Malaysian Reserve on 20 August 2019.
MALAYSIANS should accept and respect each other’s languages in order to implement a single stream school system, Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong said.
Liew feels there is no issue if national schools were to be the automatic school of choice for the people, but the people should no longer fear languages from other races as well.
“If the national schools are made to be the automatic school of choice, I do not see it as a problem — in fact, it is good for us as a multicultural nation.
“But first, we should reach the point where we no longer fear each other’s languages and instead, we should see it as the heritage of our country,” he said at the “Beyond 2020: Fresh Views, New Visions” forum held in Sunway University, Subang Jaya, yesterday.
“In terms of education, I think ultimately we have to come back to one important question which is, do we believe that we can only master one language?” he added. Liew also said it is important for people to change their perception in just focusing to learn a single language, as Malaysians are more than capable to master multiple languages even in schools.
“As we see today, there are more Malay students in Chinese schools than Chinese students in the national schools.
“At some point, if the population in Chinese schools has reached 50% of Malay students, it will become a national school one day, anyway.
“I think if we can resolve these questions, the issues on implementation of single stream schools will not arise,” he said.
Moving forward, Liew added that the country will be focusing on building and rebuilding Malaysia for the next 20 years.
“We are divided because not many people believe that we are very similar in terms of our needs, concerns and aspirations.
“So, being a multiethnic society, all we have to do is to understand that we have a historic role to play and create a multiethnic nation in a democracy,” he said.
Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, who were also present at the forum, said the single education system should have been introduced since independence — or in 1963 during the formation of Malaysia.
“For me, national schools should become the automatic school of choice in the next 20 or 30 years,” Khairy said at the forum.
“But the implementation is going to be tough, as we have politically missed the moment,” he added.
“Now that we have allowed vernacular schools (to exist), it is difficult to unravel it because the questions on the existence of sekolah pondok, madrasah and international schools will emerge soon.”
Nurul Izzah believes that the government’s indecisiveness on existing educational policies will take a toll on the implementation of single stream schools in the future.
The debate on education system arose following the Education Ministry’s announcement to introduce khat lessons as part of the Bahasa Malaysia module in vernacular schools.
This has led certain quarters calling for the implementation of a single stream school system, to avoid racial and religious polemic.
In another related development, Liew also said the Malaysian economy has stagnated due to the lack of job creations and investments.
He believes that Malaysia should focus on the job creation agenda to attract other countries.
Malaysia, he said, has a 10-year setback in investing for the people’s wellbeing due to corruption and a lack of expenditures.
Source: The Malaysian Reserve