I have always thought that one of the best approaches for racial integration is to educate and expose the children from young. This means through the parent unit, school unit or the social network unit that would allow children to interact with one another. Just observe our children when they are playing with each other, and I am talking about the young ones aged 3 – 10 years old. They have no problems at all to play with any other child, be the child a boy or a girl, a Malay, a Chinese, an Indian or anything else. They are oblivious to the differences that we seem to be so sensitized to. To them a friend is a friend, more so a friend whom they can play with and there is no feeling of discomfort.
The same goes for sports. When the Malaysian National team is playing another national team, I observe that all Malaysians, without taking into consideration colour or creed, will support the national team wholeheartedly. And I bet we were all beaming with pride and felt a warm glow inside us when Datuk Lee Chong Wei kissed the National flag on his T-shirt when winning the Semi-Finals match in the Mens Singles Badminton competition during Beijing Olympics.
When the government announced the idea of building Sekolah Wawasan or Vision School back then, I was naturally very excited. I felt it would provide the best platform for young school children of all races and both sexes to interact without any prejudices or baggage. This particular tool (ie Vision School) would provide the perfect environment and opportunity for these students.
Let me talk a bit about the concept of Vision School. The Government will build on a large piece of land 3 schools – a National School, an SRJK (C) and an SRJK (T). Each school would have its own classrooms, set of teachers and of course its own administration. Each school will also be run independently in terms of syllabus and teaching. In other words, each school is administered independently of one another.
They would however share the following – a big field for co-curriculum activities, a big canteen to cater for all needs and I believe school assemblies. Apart from that, probably other co-curriculum activities like sports day and celebrations like teachers’ day, awards day and so on. Each administration would also be required to interact and meet to discuss and co-ordinate activities.
In fact, the teachers and administration of each school can share ideas, give each other advice and share their problems and solutions together.
Now, I do not see anything wrong with this set up. You still retain your identity as a SJK (C) or SJK (T). That is not lost at all. In fact, that is enshrined in our constitution. Article 12 in in the Constitution states:-
“ Perkara 12. Hak berkenaan dengan pendidikan.
(1) Tanpa menjejaskan keluasan Perkara 8, tidak boleh ada diskriminasi terhadap mana-mana warganegara semata-mata atas alasan agama, ras, keturunan atau tempat lahir—
(a) dalam pentadbiran mana-mana institusi pendidikan yang disenggarakan oleh suatu pihak berkuasa awam, dan, khususnya, kemasukan murid-murid atau pelajar-pelajar atau pembayaran fi; atau (b) dalam memberikan bantuan kewangan daripada wang sesuatu pihak berkuasa awam bagi penyenggaraan atau pendidikan murid-murid atau pelajar-pelajar di mana-mana institusi pendidikan (sama ada disenggarakan oleh suatu pihak berkuasa awam atau tidak dan sama ada di dalam atau di luar Persekutuan).
(2) Tiap-tiap kumpulan agama berhak menubuhkan dan menyenggarakan institusi-institusi bagi pendidikan kanak-kanak dalam agama kumpulan itu sendiri, dan tidak boleh ada diskriminasi semata-mata atas alasan agama dalam mana-mana undang-undang yang berhubungan dengan institusi-institusi itu atau dalam pentadbiran mana-mana undang-undang itu; tetapi adalah sah bagi Persekutuan atau sesuatu Negeri menubuhkan atau menyenggarakan atau membantu dalam menubuhkan atau menyenggarakan institusi-institusi Islam atau mengadakan atau membantu dalam mengadakan ajaran dalam agama Islam dan melakukan apa-apa perbelanjaan sebagaimana yang perlu bagi maksud itu.”
The right to such vernacular education is also part of the Social Contract by our forefathers. Just look around us, I do not know of any country in this world that has such an education system like we have. Not even Singapore. I am told Lee Kuan Yew closed down all other streams of schools in the 60s / 70s and only allowed national schools.
Thailand, Indonesia or even Phillipines do not have such a system also. In fact they are worse. Everyone, whether you are a Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim do not have a name that identifies you with your religion or race. Everyone has been assimilated and have only Thai name or Indonesian name.
Until now, our Barisan Nasional Government has always respected the Social Contract and even included it into the Constitution. The Government had never attempted in any way to close down vernacular schools as was done in Singapore. And I sincerely doubt the Barisan Nasional Government would ever do that. In fact, I know for a fact, the Government through Ministry of Education allocates per capita and some repair funding for Vernacular Schools.
On this note, I do not understand why certain groups such as Dong Jiao Zong are so against Sekolah Wawasan. I am told SJK (T) groups are supportive though. I have discussed with some friends before on it. One of the reasons given is that they fear this action is the initial stage of the assimilation process. Now, I have to rebut that.
As I said, the right to vernacular education is part of the Social Contract. It is also enshrined in the Constitution and more specifically addressed in the Education Act 1996. The BN Government has never attempted to close vernacular schools down and I doubt it ever will. In fact I believe variety or diversity is a strength that is unique to Malaysia if addressed properly. I for one would like to see vernacular schools be a part of the tools for integration and not be an unwilling agent for polarization.