Wednesday, December 1

Unified education system the way to achieve national unity — Khairy

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Masiung Banah

SUBANG: Barisan Nasional (BN) Youth chairman Khairy Jamaluddin said he was all out for a unified education system to bolster national unity and integration.

Unified schools are those offering subjects in various major languages in Malaysia and do not discourage the mastering of mother tongues.

In fact mother tongue languages should be encouraged among very young children; otherwise they would not know or lose sight of their real racial identity.

Khairy, who is also Rembau MP, said he could foresee that this was what Malaysians wanted to see in 15 years’ time.

Speaking at the Conference on National Unity – From Vision to Action at Grand Dorset Subang Hotel here yesterday, Khairy said racial polarisation in the country was getting worse compared to the yesteryears. He said this could be observed in various campuses where one could see students of the same race clustering together.

“I would like to share the concern of my mother and others from her era that for most of them they would say that today, polarisation is worse. In their young days, they did not make comparison and they mingled a lot with each other,” he said, suggesting what was needed now was a new social contract such as a unified education system.

“But today’s congregation (conference) is an exception to the rule because we can in fact be together,” he added.

He said Mandarin and/or Tamil should be taught to everyone.

He reasoned that most parents nowadays sent their children to particular schools of their choice – national or vernacular – not because they were vernacular but because of their quality.

He believed that the current education system did not encourage the type of unity that all Malaysians desire, pointing out that the three-month stint teenagers undergo in National Service camps was not enough to boost national integration though many trainees said they had found new friends.

But Khairy also believed that  setting up a unified school was easier said than done, looking at the present scenario where it appeared that nobody wanted to take up the cause due to the inherent high political risk.

“With a unified education system, we can move faster into meritocracy. We are now trying to strike a new compromise and stem matters that disintegrate unity. We need our children to grow together. Let us agree on a unified education system so that we can be more Malaysian,” he said.

On race-based parties, which Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching claimed to have caused disintegration, Khairy said he hoped one day BN could turn into a multi-racial party just like DAP should also be. He said he too hoped one day DAP would be less Chinese-dominant.

Khairy also said, given the current political scenario, doing away with race-based political parties was not as easy as thought.

In the case of BN, he said for the coalition to go multi-racial it could start by aggressively employing the direct membership approach as there were indeed many, especially Eurasians, who believed in BN’s cause but could not fit in any of its component parties.

“If within three years there are more direct members than that in the various component parties, then BN may be able to become a single multi-racial party,” he pointed out.

“If we don’t create shared experience, we are not going to create 1Malaysia,” he said.

Kuamut (Sabah) state assemblyman Masiung Banah said Sabahans and Sarawakians were already above the unity issue.

“In Sabah and Sarawak, we can see food centres with Muslim and non-Muslim stalls and that people of different races can sit at one coffee table,” he pointed out.

He said: “It would not be that easy to forge unity when we discriminate and are not mindful of each other’s sensitivity.”

A case in point, he highlighted, was the nickname ‘Harimau Malaya’ given to the national football team which did not take into account the sensitivities of the people in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Nevermind that there is no Sabahan player in the national team, but Harimau Malaya suggests that the team belongs to states in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.

Another form of discrimination, he claimed, was that there were no Sabahans holding top posts in federal government agencies.

Balik Pulau (Penang) MP Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusuff said dialogues were the best way to settle national unity and integration issues as unity could not be simply forged without justice and fairness.

The conference was organised by Yayasan 1Malaysia and Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis) Malaysia.

While Khairy and Teo spoke on the topic ‘My stand on national unity’, Masiung and Yusmadi shared their thoughts on ‘How I would forge national unity’.

Khairy (Penisular Malaysia) and Masiung (Sabah and Sarawak) represented the BN while Teo and Yusmadi represented DAP and PKR respectively.

Apart from Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, the other moderators were Datuk David Chua, Datin Halimah Mohd Said, Jannie Lasimbang and Datuk Leela Mohd Ali.

Also present were Isis Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin and Yayasan 1Malaysia chairman Prof Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

After three workshop sessions were done in the afternoon, the conference was closed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

The annual national conference (the second to be held) was aimed at engaging with young Malaysian adults to ascertain the challenges to national unity
while emphasising the need to focus on the common ground of shared values irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political belief.