10 reasons why I defend the vernacular education system

MALAY nationalist opposition to Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools has made way for a misplaced rationalist opposition.

This time, three Malay organisations, which are chauvinist in nature, have filed a court case to put an end to vernacular schools in the country.

This is a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing approach that stems from the desire to ensure Bahasa Malaysia proficiency, and claims to see to it that vernacular school students are more competitive in the job market and a divisive and unconducive system to national integration is removed.

Below are 10 reasons why I oppose a judicial review of vernacular schools.

First, vernacular schools have existed for a long time, but formalised and integrated into the national education system only after independence.

Second, they are an integral part of the political bargain between Malays and non-Malays in the Alliance Coalition, and cannot be removed for whatever reason at the whim of some segments.

Third, vernacular and national schools are not opposed to one another. Students may attend primary vernacular schools for six years and later join national high schools.

Fourth, not all Chinese and Indian students attend vernacular schools before opting for national schools; it is the choice of their parents. A considerable number of such students attend national primary schools.

Fifth, there is no educational or political contestation between the two school systems.

Sixth, vernacular schools have seen an increase in Malay student enrolment in recent times. More than 20% of Chinese school enrolment is Malay students. These schools are preferred due to their good and sound education; the matter of language proficiency is not an issue.

Seventh, vernacular schools’ alleged lack of proficiency or national schools’ better proficiency is not evidence-based. The former’s students are just as competitive or proficient in Bahasa Malaysia as their national school counterparts. It is not about the nature of the schools, but the quality of students.

Eighth, the commitment and fervour to maintain vernacular schools are, in part, response to the increasing racial and religious polarisation in the country. National schools are viewed as the repository of majoritarian nationalism.

Ninth, the argument that vernacular schools are less integrative compared with national schools is untrue.

Tenth, racism is not a product of vernacular schools, but one of political system, which nourishes majoritarian nationalism and religious extremism. – November 25, 2021.

* Ramasamy Palanisamy reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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