Can we re-look both the VERNACULAR and AGAMA school system?
I am for ONE-STREAM school system but not on the expense of quality education. Any move to change must be done sensibly and the transition period must be managed with extra care and planning. For example, if the vernacular or agama schools are producing better citizens as compared to our national ones - say in terms of life skills and discpline, learn from them - let them lead if we must. Choose from the very best. Home bred ways, besides learning from other countries like Finland.
Furthermore, even if we have a single stream school system, due to location, we will still likely have schools that are filled with kids from a particular ethnic group – say in Kedah and Kelantan. As such, it is important that we ensure the tenaga pengajar (teachers and principals) and school administrators are represented by all our ethnic groups including Sabahans and Sarawakians for schools in the Semenanjung. These teachers and administrators will act as a channel, role model and informal teachers who can share their ethnic culture with the school population via special extra-curricular activities and festive celebrations.
The following is an article from my book The Middle Path published in May 2012 about the subject concern.
WHY HAVE ONE-STREAM SCHOOLS
What do you mean by one-stream schools?
We now have national schools and vernacular schools - schools that use Mandarin and Tamil as their medium of teaching. We also have Agama schools as well as International private schools.
However, I suggest that we work towards forming one- stream schools where all our children can learn together. For this to happen, there needs to be a change in our schooling system. We need to come up with a two-session structure perhaps where all students go to school together in the morning session, then learn the vernacular languages and other important skills in the afternoon. This way, Mandarin will not just be limited to the Chinese students, or Tamil to the Indian students - our children can learn all four major languages including Arabic if they are interested.
Why have one-stream schools?
Because Unity is our most important goal.
As children go through their socialisation process, it is crucial that they do it in an environment that is truly representative of the Malaysian society. Beyond what they learn in school lessons, the actual process of socialisation, mixing around with others around them, is the most influential learning process our children will go through. We must ensure that they get to know each other from a young age – that they interact with each other, learn to get used to each others languages, cultures, practices, smells, behaviours … and if they have to quarrel because of differences, it should all be part of the socialisation process from when they are young.
Whatever it is, we are a multicultural society – we cannot allow our children to grow up separately. This is one of the greatest recipes for disunity. If children grow up surrounded only by their own race, they will be ill-prepared to deal with the reality of Malaysian society. They may become maladjusted people when they enter the workforce.
This is why I suggest that we encourage more multiracial neighbourhoods so children can grow up together at home (as I have explained in the previous chapter). In the same way, we need to work towards one-stream schools so that they can grow up together in schools and practice supporting one another as they learn together.
Are you saying that those who go to vernacular and private schools are not capable of Unity?
No, it is not a generalisation that applies to all who go to vernacular or private schools - there are many who still have a healthy sense of Unity. In any situation, there are always some who are able to rise above the circumstances. But I am suggesting that having separate school systems does not prepare a conducive environment for most of our children to grow up knowing each other as one.
How can we work towards schools that are conducive for our children to study together?
We need to deal with the quality of our national schools; the system, approach, and the teachers. Many send their children to Chinese schools not simply because of language, but more so because of the quality of education. When we work towards setting up one-stream schools, we need to carefully look into the quality of the school system and the quality of teachers. Maybe we can even learn from the Chinese school system, transfer technology of how they mould hardworking and effective students. The leaders and technocrats from the Chinese schools should play an important role in revising the structure of national schools. We need to study how to organise the school system to allow students to learn history, mathematics, science, languages, arts, drama, sports, culture… all the important aspects of development.
As far as possible it would be best if we have teachers from all races. The school environment must be a microcosm of the diversity in Malaysian society for children to go through a healthy socialisation process that will prepare them to know, appreciate and love our various cultures.