15 May 2013

After GE13 - vernacular schools in Malaysia debated again

I didn't read the news on Sunday, 12 May 2013 as it was Mother's Day, and I was just too busy with this, that and the other.

Until a reader (and online friend) asked me what I thought of the Star's article entitled Single-stream schools will unify nation.

This is a difficult one. Really.

But to start off. The government, and people in general, should really, really leave education out of politics.

Why is this issue of vernacular schools being brought up again, being brought up now, so soon after GE13? Is it to find a scapegoat?

Come on. No matter who you are, you know what you've done, you know whether it's a fair win, you know why votes went the way they did. Now it's just time to move on. Isn't that what PM Najib said? The results are in. Nothing has changed. BN won. Now just go and do a good, clean job in governing the country in the 21st century.

Back to vernacular schools. Chinese vernacular.

Much has been written on it, and there are loads of research material, high level thinking stuff (which I haven't read) arguing one way or another about the value of preserving mother tongue teaching. Some quick reading can be found here:Vernacular education in Malaysia    National vs Vernacular schools  Why vernacular school issue keeps resurfacing

I send my kids to a Chinese vernacular school. So? Does that make me bad? Make me disloyal? Rubbish!

Sekolah Kebangsaan

I myself, am a product of our "good old" Sekolah Kebangsaan and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan system.

Good because I obtained a decent education; mastering both English and Bahasa Malaysia to a more than conversational rudimentary level. Religion was not forced down our throats when I was in school. My school was multi-racial.

Old because the system I was educated under is no longer what is being used today. Our education system is like some fashion show, full of catchy acronyms - KBSR, KBSM, KSSR, KSSM. (I wonder if there is a whole department dedicated to creating acronyms in the Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia)

Our government just can't seem to leave education well alone. First, we are taught to speak Bahasa Malaysia a certain way, pronouncing the "a" with a soft sound. Then, some academician recommends that we speak Bahasa with a "baku" sound, emphasizing a stronger sound "AH" with all words ending with "a". Make up your minds!

For a decade, our government perhaps advocates English while in the next, it almost completely destroys a whole generation of Malaysians' proficiency in English. And then the unemployable graduates of today ask why they can't get a job when they have a local university degree. Ask the government.

However, since I went to a national school, as a Malaysian-Chinese, I am illiterate in Chinese. Illiterate. I can only converse in Chinese but am unable to read or write Chinese, until I sent my kids to a Chinese V school. I picked up some Chinese from and with my kids.

Why do parents send their kids to a Chinese vernacular school

Not because they want to be disloyal to the country. Not because they do not want a united people. Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad and Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah, please take note.

I don't say that I know why they send their kids to Chinese or Tamil V schools. Everyone has their own reason, and they have the right to choose.

Actually, have you ever asked the Chinese, Malay and Indian parents who send their kids to vernacular schools why they do so?

Rather than spew toxic advice from your ivory towers (Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah said,"SJKs only disunite the people"), why don't you get down and dirty, and go down to the ground and ask? Do your "surveys" or your "academic research backed up by facts". Have you sat for a few days straight to observe the quality of teaching in the sekolah-sekolah kebangsaan?

And by the way, Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad, I was told that this sentence is correct - Lauk ini sungguh amat sedap. Your comments on the quality of Bahasa Malaysia being taught in schools today?

Prioritise education, not politicise it. 


  1. Our education has always been politically influenced. As far as I know, each minister has their own ‘vision’ and ambition. And like what you said ‘baku’ then no baku; English then no English.

    The comment from Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad and Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah about vernacular school disuniting people, in my opinion is true.
    My personally option is that this kind of schools are ‘in-directly’ dis-uniting the community. Why – because you would have a majority of only one-bangsa and as such you MIGHT not know how to interact or respect or deal with other race’s. HOWEVER in saying this, our sekolah kebangsaan are NOT doing too good a swell!
    In my kebangsaan school (both secondary and primary), I always wondered why Chinese would have their own set of friends, Indian would have their own set of friends and Malays would have their own set of friends. VERY rare when you’ll have ALL three race’s in one gang! Why? I don’t have the answer.
    I believe I am an outcome of a dis-united the community. Most of my non-muslim friends (not ALL) are still confuse about me fasting one month. And I myself am confused about Chinese New Year, and why Chinese have English names (and it’s not stated in their IC).
    So, what should we do? I don’t know. But, I believe in words of Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Datuk Khoo Kay Kim. I can’t remember his exact words – but it goes something like this - the answer in re-uniting own bangsa Malaysia lies inside the education system.
    P/s: Our Malaysian University has good something good. ALL students enrolled in Malaysian Public University are to take comparative religion course. I must say, it is a good course. You learn a lot! Plus its easy to score!

    1. Hi Huba Huba, thank you for your thoughts and comment.

      It is good to have a frank discussion on things like this which affect our nation. And here we are, a talk between a Malay (you) and a Chinese (me).

      I agree to the extent that vernacular schools tend to have a concentration of the people of a particular race, so there is less chance for interaction with other races. This reduces the potential for promoting mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual tolerance. Hopefully, this is offset by the tons of tuition classes and enrichment classes our children go to these days, where there must be a mixture of other races attending.

      But to say that vernacular schools should be abolished is too drastic, especially coming from people of such high stations like Tan Sr Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad, and a former judge like Datuk Mod Noor Abdullah. It's like saying, oh your toe is badly infected and it can't be cured. Why don't we amputate your entire leg (rather than just the infected toe)?

      Haha! That is funny. Really? There are still people confused about Muslims fasting? And you are confused about CNY? Hahaha! Ask me what you would like to know about CNY. And I have an English name, which is not in my birth cert!

      As for me, I am glad to say that I am reasonably well versed with the cultures of the other races in Malaysia. I like to know about them. It's fascinating. And I make the effort to explain it to my kids too. I believe we should all do this as we live together as rakyat of multi-racial Malaysia. This should be one of the responsibilities of parents to instill mutual tolerance among our children. This is something we can all do. Don't you think so?

      Yes, I like that subject you mentioned, Comparative Religion. Sounds interesting and more importantly, learning about other races, religions, and broadening our minds! It is very dangerous to have "fikiran sempit". By the way, what did you think about that "sentence" I was told is correct. I went to the Dewan Bahasa Pustaka website to get some reference, downloaded and printed it out and brought it to school to show the teacher. He said he would discuss my concern with all the BM teachers in school. Ha!

  2. Good to have this discussion too.

    Ya! You are right! To abolish vernacular schools is to drastic. But, the comments by Tan Sri & Datuk should be taken seriously (maybe..the whole leg IS already infected).

    Maybe we should suggest to the 'higher authorities' - to study both system (i.e. SK and V' school) and some how merged them together thus this maybe the solution develop bangsa Malaysia! Maybe...

    Lauk ini sungguh amat sedap. - Based on my SPM level Bahasa Melayu. It's wrong.
    It should be either - lauk ini sungguh sedap! I would drop the 'amat' word!
    Amat shows sungguh! So, by combining both words sungguh + amat it implies VERY (or Damm) sedap!

    However, the word sungguh already indicates 'VERY' .. so its like saying 'the dish is very very delicious'. My bahasa is not that good! I'm rojak!

    1. Hi Huba Huba, thanks for your input on the BM question. I have found the answer. Check out my post on Tatabahasa.

  3. hi, can you kindly watsapp me at 0166820880 to assist me in choosing a primary school in ipoh, as i will be relocating soon?


  4. Hi JL I have written on primary schools before...you can have a look. But if you need to ask me more questions, sure no problem.