Put kids together to instil unity

POLARISATION: Nation – building must be the top-most priority of our education policy, higher than academic aspirations.

OUR national education landscape is like a bazaar — you can get anything that you fancy. There are now national schools, Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools, religious schools, private schools, international schools and a growing number of children are also home-schooled.

Yet, while variety is the spice of life, it may not necessarily be a good thing.

For instance, a phenomenon that started just more than a decade ago has now become the norm — Malay children predominantly go to national schools, Chinese children, especially for primary schools, are almost exclusively attending Chinese schools. Indian children vacillate between national and vernacular schools.

In fact, national schools have been referred by many as Malay schools, and that some Chinese schools are more national in outlook than national schools.

The consequence of this ethnic-based schooling is poorer race relations and greater polarisation.

I am an optimist, but I get rather distraught when I think of what we have become as a nation. For example, discourse can no longer be carried out soberly. Instead, name-calling, race-baiting and just plain meanness dominate.

While the majority of us continue to practise common sense, more and more people are being sucked into this quagmire of racial distrust.

I believe the answer is rather obvious — the best way for us to take care of this situation is in schools, where children are young and can be moulded into not looking at things through race-coloured lenses.

We are a multiracial, multireligious nation, and as such harmony and understanding should be one of the key objectives of our education policy. I believe nation-building and unity must be the top-most priorities of our education policy, higher than academic aspirations.

by Zainul Arifin Md Isa .

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