Unity in diversity

The spirit of unity should be instilled at a very young age to realise the 1Malaysia objectives.

THE late award-winning director Yasmin Ahmad touched many of us through her advertisements that thrived on various themes – love, family and unity – against the backdrop and essence of our multiracial Malaysia.

I remember one entitled “Tan Hong Min In Love”, a simple yet heartwarming advertisement depicting Tan Hong Min, a primary Chinese student, professing his love for Ummi Qazzira. His love for Ummi was not one-sided as she also openly admitted that Tan Hong Min was her boyfriend.

As they walked hand-in-hand back to class, many of us could not help but smile to ourselves, applauding the impartiality of the whole scene. It was a candid and spontaneous advertisement, displaying the innocence and purity of young children, that tugged many hearts.

The advertisement, if I remember correctly, was aired when the nation was preparing to celebrate its 50th National Day. Appropriately and aptly, Tan Hong Min and Ummi reminded us of the importance of national unity, regardless of racial, religious or cultural backgrounds.

The advertisement showed that children are colour blind and not by nature prejudiced of other races. They are not born with injurious assumptions about people in any definable group. Children’s intentions and thoughts are mostly, if not all the time, sincere. My point of contention is that we should instill the spirit of unity and togetherness at a very young age.

Since independence, national unity has always been the main agenda of the Government. The 1Malaysia concept aims to strengthen the relationship among races, based on mutual trust and respect for each other. This can begin in schools.

Unity in the 1Malaysia concept is not about creating a singular hegemonic society. Instead, it is about accepting the uniqueness of other races, appreciating the plurality of Malaysia and working together as one nation towards a better, harmonious future. Hence, the key to this concept is “unity in diversity”, which ensures a healthy inter-personal relationship.

Racial and cultural diversity is an excellent topic to teach our young children, who form many opinions about themselves and the people around them. This is when their natural curiosity about differences in appearance and cultural backgrounds really begins to come into play.

As they develop, children are able to put cultural and racial differences into perspective.

They can learn to appreciate or devalue others who are different from them. Hence, this is a significant point of time to shape their attitudes about race and cultural diversity, to make them realise that diversity provides an assortment of benefits that can enhance any classroom.

Teachers are one of the main pillars in delivering the aspirations of the 1Malaysia concept. They bear the weight and responsibility of teaching and, apart from parents, are the main source of knowledge and values for children.

Good teachers are the ones with enthusiasm for their work, and who are highly motivated, committed and resilient. They are the advocates and agents of reform. Teachers, therefore, need to be reflective, active and collaborative, able to take their students beyond text, class and school to the community, nation and the world.

To ensure our young children embrace the 1Malaysia concept, teaching should not just be about merit in achievement. Teachers need to be innovative to develop a balanced educational experience.

They have to realise that teaching is like a living organism, constantly changing. The world is rapidly changing, and as conscientious teachers, they should be aware of this development.

The 1Malaysia concept, in light of education, is to ensure the evolving future needs of our children are effectively articulated.

Henceforth, teachers and school leaders need to work with the current environment that demands school organisations to be collaborative and inter-dependent, so that they can orchestrate a comparative yet competitive environment.

This, I believe, will help improve shared transformational leadership principles and inter-personal skills, to allow members of the school organisation, teachers and students alike, to be appreciative of the values and cultures of our country in the spirit of 1Malaysia.

by Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/10/30/focus/7317048&sec=focus

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