One Malaysia, as we all know, is a concept that was initiated by our honorable Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak not so long ago, which I believe the people of Malaysia witnessed and were then prepared to make it a way of life thereafter. There is a ray of hope that this concept brought along, in the name of unity among the people, which happened to coincide with some issues that were going around at that particular time.
Ironically, the concept that was supposed to bring revolutionary changes to our society turned out to be another slogan or catchphrase that ended up as an exaggeration to make us believe nothing is wrong around us. I admit that there are things that have been introduced by our government along with this concept, such as One Malaysia Clinics, that definitely seem like an effort to unite all races under one system. However, I wonder how that is ever going to change the mentality of Malaysians holistically to become one nation.
If you ask me what changed the most when this concept was introduced, I would say it was the overwhelming increase in the number of advertisement campaigns of innumerable products that vary from vacation promotions (which brings up the slogan of Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia) to the promotion of curry powder and many other food products. As much as I am happy to hear that Malaysians are often united when it comes to food, I still think that these things are ludicrous and unnecessary. In my opinion, we definitely need to stop sugarcoating everything and start identifying the real conflict and the root of these problems. I mean, if there are no conflicts, why even bother coming up with a concept when nothing is going to change in the end?
This condition definitely shows that a majority of Malaysians need to be told that they are united. This, in my opinion, is the reason that many of us come from different schools during our early days. If we look carefully, almost 90% of Chinese students go to Chinese medium schools, about 70% of Indian students go to Tamil medium schools, and almost 99% of Malay students go to national schools, which can be considered a Malay medium school. This shows that most of our kids are growing up as strangers to each other since their early years of education. The reason I say as strangers is because; how do you think being around a community that is dominated by people of one race and one religion for a definite 6 years can allow us to familiarize ourselves with members of other races?
These kids eventually start making friends with their own race. However, they cannot be blamed for this because it is the environment they grow up in that is at fault. In this case, they spend most of their time in school, which ultimately alters their social lives as well. It might not seem like a problem when they are in primary school, but the real problems arise when they enter secondary school. If you attend a typical national secondary school in Malaysia, you can definitely see cliques of students defined according to their races. The reason being, when kids spend all those years being around people of their own kind, they grow reluctant to mix with students of other races. This does not include those who get into boarding schools, a majority of students being Malay. They will continue to mature as strangers, deprived of the chance to escape this situation like those who enter national secondary schools. However, there are those who manage to escape this, choosing to leave their comfort zone to mix with others of various races. The percentage of that happening is even less than a quarter. In addition, this condition will eventually continue until their college years, and then during their adulthood as well.
What makes this condition even worse is the tendency to stereotype other races. The racial polarization of students will eventually make them vulnerable to all sorts of generalizations by people of other races. The most fundamental generalizations that I bet most would have encountered would be that the Chinese are rich, the Indians are mobsters, and the Malays are lazy. This would not be the case if we had someone of the other race to relate to in our lives. For example, “I know Ahmad, he’s not lazy,” or “I know Yi Pei, she’s not rich like how they claim her to be.” That might be a lame analogy, but you cannot deny its authenticity. When students fall for these generalizations, it will make the racial boundaries between them even stronger.
Those are the reasons why I think vernacular schools and boarding schools that Malay dominated become irrelevant in our country when we want people to unite as one nation. However, I do understand the sentiments of non-Malays who want to send their kids to vernacular schools so that their children can learn their mother tongue and preserve their culture as well. In addition, the fear amongst non-Malays, who are mostly non-Muslims, that national schools are a hub for Islam-isation makes them even more reluctant to send their kids to these schools. Moreover, it is undeniable that the quality of education in vernacular schools overshadow national schools, given that most students coming from vernacular schools are more prepared for secondary education than those from national schools. However, it not impossible to consider all these and put together the best school system of all, eventually coming up with one standardized system for greater unity.
In short, I believe that vernacular schools and Malay boarding schools are irrelevant for the sake of unity, now and in the future as well. It might not be the ultimate change for Malaysians, but even a little change is necessary for a better future. This is because we need to understand that it is not unity if we simply live in a country together as different races. Unity can only come about if we agree to let ourselves into each others’ lives and accept each other. Tolerance is nothing if there is no acceptance. I might not be able to convince you on this, but all I ask is for some thoughts about this matter. How far would you go for the country that you love? If you ask me whether it would be any different coming from a school without racial polarization, I would give you a definite answer with no second thoughts.
Terence is an ADFP student in INTEC who loves the color green and still feels that SAT vocabs are superfluous [meaning: unnecessary]. See? Told ya’ it is superfluous!!
Image taken from here.