A 2nd look at 1SekolahPosted: May 22, 2009
Khoo Kay Peng is probably one of the many who have blogged about their reservations about the 1Sekolah idea. His second posting on this issue can be found HERE.
Like myself, he did not go through vernacular education, and as a result, like myself, he is more fluent in the Malay language than in Mandarin.
There are a couple of points that I’d like to quote from his post:
A language is just a tool to help us communicate and understand each other. It is not a social glue which helps to bind us together. Examples are aplenty of societies speaking the same language but still trying to kill each other in battles and conflicts.
I was envious of my friends who were educated in vernacular primary schools. Almost 98 percent of these students continue their education in national secondary schools. Most of the vernacular schools provide an opportunity for students to learn three languages at least. Some of my friends, very successful ones, are conversant in more than two languages including their mother tongue which gave them a headstart in the huge Chinese speaking markets.
I would like to say that I think these are very valid points.
Language, in the end, IS just a tool to help us communicate and understand each other better. But it is also my contention that without this tool, whatever else that needs repairing cannot be carried out.
Language itself is not magic. Like Khoo rightly points out, it doesn’t miraculously bring people together, and we can all live happily ever after. Having the people of Malaysia all speak the same language does not solve our problems.
But in my mind, it helps start mending some of the distrust that is so blatant in our society today. (It would also help if people started being more courteous and aware, by speaking in a common language when there are non-Chinese speaking people around. It’s not about being subservient. It’s just common courtesy.)
The second point that I’ve highlighted here is about the advantages that some students of vernacular schools have. Here, again, I believe that he is right. Being overseas, I have come across countless persons who envy Malaysians for their ability to speak in multiple languages.
All the more reason why I think that Malaysian students should be schooled under one roof, without the differentiation between national schools and vernacular schools.
Walski left a suggestion in my previous post, saying that national schools should also include language options. While all students would be taught the syllabus in both Malay and English (for selected subjects), it should also be made compulsory that students choose to learn another language. Be it Mandarin, Tamil, French etc. I think the Education Ministry would be well-advised to look into this as a serious possibility.
Looking at the entire issue without thinking of it racially, it cannot be denied that students who have been through vernacular schools have the advantage of being exposed to an additional language, when compared to those who go through national schools.
Why do we not give the same chance to those who go to national schools to pick up a third language?
The other point that most people make is about the difference in quality between vernacular and national schools.
I can speak only for the Chinese-medium schools, because I have had no exposure to anyone who came from Tamil-medium schools.
The difference in quality is there.
Of course, there are multiple good national schools out there. Otherwise, it would be a sad day for education in Malaysia. But in comparison, on an average, Chinese schools probably have better facilities, better school buildings, and to a certain extent, more dedicated teachers.
Most Chinese schools are better equipped, not because they are receiving more funds from the government, but because they still function like when they were operating without government funding. They still carry out fund-raising activities, they still get donations from the community (those who can afford it), and they use these resources to improve what they already have.
Chinese schools started as community projects, back in the early 1900s. The schools, which were then probably just singular classes with 20 students and one teacher, were set up by the community, for the community. They grew in size and number when the demand for such schools increased.
Chinese schools, till today, are still treated as part of the community.
In comparison, the few good national schools are overshadowed by the many more that are in shambles. Some have developed a certain undesirable image for themselves and, in the spirit of mankind that loves to stereotype, this paints black paint over the others that might otherwise be pristine white.
As a whole, I think the entire education system needs a rethinking. Our exam-oriented sytem, along with our biasness towards the Sciences, our discrimination of the Arts, the rigidness of the classroom, and other such issues need to be brought out and discussed in the open. And we need to be honest about the issues that plague us all.
As a dynamic society, there is a very real need to be constantly revising the policies and practices we have. Education is a very good place to start.
Post-script #1: Like I mentioned in my previous post, I may not agree with a lot that is written on Demi Negara. But the basic idea behind all the layers is that there should be one school for all. And that is what I support.
Post-script #2: I was able to find out about the history of Chinese schools in Malaysia through a book titled “The Chinese in Malaysia”, which is a book made up of different articles written by different people. The relevant section of the book was under the article: “Chinese Schools in Malaysia: A Case of Cultural Resilience”, by Tan Liok Ee.