Friday, March 30, 2007

National schools must reflect the racial diversity

Racial integration and harmony is an asset

I refer to your front page report “Teen concern” (star March 29).

It is not surprising that the survey conducted by The Cognitive and PsychoSocial Profile of Malaysian Adolescents (CoPs) concluded that many youngsters aren't concerned about racial integration. However it is surprising that 10.7% never eat breakfast and 8% have never used a computer. These figures are something for our leaders to give some serious thought as we are just more than a decade away from achieving of vision of a developed nation.

There is no doubt that our education system as it is now is the main cause of racial segregation. Instead of dumping the children of the various races together from a very young age, we have actually separated them into separate classes to facilitate religious instruction.Susequently as though this was not enough; we further segregated them into vernacular schools. There is hardly any contact among the various races from a very early age. If this does not breed racial segregation then what does?

It is easy to blame the vernacular schools for the failure of national schools to integrate the various races. We must go a step further to find out why many parents opted for vernacular schools. The reason is obvious and does not a genius to detect - the unsatisfactory environment that is prevalent in national schools. Our national schools have in fact taken a more religious stance for the comfort of non-Malays. Having sent all my children to national schools, I can say for sure we are left with no option but vernacular schools.

I am sure if our national schools reflected the ethnic diversity of the nation among students and teachers, most parents would prefer to send their children to these schools as it was in the sixties and seventies.

The unhealthy environment in our national schools even prompted the Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah to call for a more balanced racial composition of school leaders, teachers and students that would reflect the multi-racial composition of the nation. I like to echo a recent statement by our Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein . “Schools should have a conducive and balanced environment and the ministry must have the political will to handle this well and not make it a racial issue”.

Our children in schools are segregated and they are happy to just interact among those from their own communities. As children and teenagers they do not see the need to interact with others until they come out to work in a very competitive world.

We all know the problem and the solutions but do we have the political will to implement them? Racial unity and harmony are assets that must be taught to be treasured and cherished from an early age.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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