AFP PHOTO / Jimin LAI
Accepting education in mother tongue is the fundamental human right. The right is also accorded under the Federal Constitution which cannot be shaken.
However, on and off, there will be someone with ulterior motive to accuse vernacular education as the stumbling block to national unity. Some political opportunists even suggest “single stream education” to foster unity.
A diversified education is not the stumbling block to unity. A single stream education may not unite all people. The contribution of Chinese to the country and the split among Malay community are the evidence. For education to have its impact on national integration, it should be a common education content, common value and shared patriotism. Accusing mother tongue as the obstacles to national unity is actually finding fault with the language.
To those who sing such tune, they are “slapped” by Prime Minister Najib. Najib is of the view that one of the ways to promote national integration would be implementing the teaching of national language, consolidate the teaching of English language and enhance electives such as Chinese and Tamil languages instead of shutting down Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
The crux of national integration lies with whether the government is fair to all ethnic groups in its implementation of policies, respect and defend the basic rights of all ethnic groups. Instead of relying on assimilation policies to achieve national integration, why not promote other positive projects such as requiring Education Ministry to enhance student interaction unity project.
In the 90s the Education Ministry implements student interaction unity project for schools of all streams to integrate through extra-curricular activities. This enhances understanding and interaction among students of all races. The project was once put to a stop but it is now listed under the National Education Blueprint. Education Ministry needs to kick-start the project.
This does not only promote interaction among students of all ethnic groups but through participating in activities, students learn about each other’s culture and learn to accommodate. More important thing is to inculcate positive perception among students that living in a multi-racial society, each ethnic group may have a different lifestyle, custom and different in terms of culture but all can still live in harmony under the same roof.
Single stream education is an outdated concept without knowing the trend and development in the world. The politicians and government officials should actually take the Prime Minister’s words and remember them by heart. By opening up to embrace diversity, the world is much more spacious.