- Editor's note
- Where are the non-bumiputera children?
- Islamisation and homogeneity
- How we got here
- Segregation at secondary school
- Negative views towards fellow Malaysians
- Escaping racism
- Growth of private education
- Transition issues
- Language barriers
- A separate community
- Can extracurricular activities become a bridge?
- A school for all Malaysians
- Losing our ability to live together
- Multifaith education
- The missing bridge
Editor's note: Education is one of the many hot button issues which have created deep divisions among Malaysians.
Over the years, parents have lost confidence in national schools for a variety of reasons. Some of them have instead opted to send their children to vernacular and private schools.
This special report is not arguing for the abolition of vernacular or private schools. After all, every parent should have the right to choose how their child is educated.
That said, ways have to be found to make national schools the preferred choice for parents as they once were.
The rot in our education system not only affects the future of our children but also our country. There must be a national conversation, no matter how difficult, on this very important issue.
Education reform is a job not just for politicians but for everybody. Do share with us your views in the comment section below.
The missing bridge
Even if policymakers agree to multifaith education, it will be a political minefield that is unlikely to be crossed by the time Anita’s youngest child, who is 12, finishes secondary school.
Education is also just one piece in the complicated jigsaw puzzle that is the story of integration in multiethnic and multireligious Malaysia.
For instance, combining all schools into a unified stream of education will not fix divisions caused by the pro-bumiputera National Economic Policy.
Meant to address ethnic economic disparity, the NEP had “also resulted in greater resentment by those who feel deprived by such policies, resulting at various times in emigration, capital flight and ethnic mobilisation”, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram once wrote in a study examining the impact of economic policy on national unity.
Such policies have also created ethnic streams within the workforce. In 2017, 81 percent of the civil service was bumiputera, with most non-bumiputera in the private sector.
“We grew up in a situation where everybody respected each other and everyone could go into each other's houses, and now people are just not aware of each other's cultures anymore.”
Anita believes that on the trajectory they are on, her daughters are likely to work in the private sector, and continue to be segregated from the the Malay/Muslim community.
At least for her children, Anita can be that bridge to connects her children to the Malay or Muslim community, answering questions they have about the community they have no interaction with.
This bridge will cease to exist for the generation after that.
“My grandkids will be in another situation completely,” she said.
“We grew up in a situation where everybody respected each other and everyone could go into each other's house and now people are just not aware of each others' cultures anymore.”