I attended the Asia 21 forum at the JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur last night. The topic of discussion was ‘New America, One Malaysia - Young Leaders and The Global Agenda for Change'.
The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin brought up about an issue she wanted change in Malaysia - the race identification tick box on official and private forms.
She argued that if we consider ourselves as 1Malaysia there is no need for race identification. It is simply enough to note that we are Malaysians. I am with Jacqueline on this issue.
Later, Malaysiakini CEO Pramesh Chandra threw down a gauntlet for UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin by asking him to become an agent of change for his party and the nation. Khairy gamely accepted the challenge.
Turning back to respond to the issue about race tick box brought up by Jacqueline, Khairy said that while he was rejoicing as a Malaysian that the society has grown more mature politically change is still not easy to implement.
He said that if Malaysians wanted to do away with the racial profiling, are they willing to let go of their vernacular schools. He said that other races should accept a single school system and using a common national language.
I am not as optimistic as Prem on Khairy's ability to catalyst change if he cannot understand why parents send their children to vernacular schools. They did so not because they rejected the national language but the fact that national schools have turned overtly religious and racial.
Another participant offered a valid point. Teachers in national schools were required to attend countless number of 'kursus' or courses conducted by the Education Ministry. As a result, the process of learning was disrupted when classes were cancelled or replaced.
For Khairy to inspire change in the UMNO led government, he should first understand and accept the need to improve the national schools. Before the nationalisation of English medium schools in 1970's, more than 75% of non-Malay parents sent their children to these schools and not to the vernacular Chinese or Tamil schools.
Why can't the national schools today emulate the same kind of success and popularity enjoyed by the English medium schools?
The key is not to ask these parents to let go of their choice to send their children to vernacular schools without first fixing the national schools.
Khairy should speak to his minister of education to put education quality and learning above all other priorities when addressing education reform in the country.
Finally, to do away with racial profiling and to keep the vernacular schools are two different things. Khairy-the-politician was acting very mischievously and discreetly to support the call of 1Sekolah proponents to abolish of all vernacular Chinese and Tamil schools. We need a Khairy-the-Malaysian to walk his talk on change.
We can do away with the racial profiling now and it will bring more goodwill and benefit to the BN government.
But can we seriously help to improve social cohesion by closing down all vernacular schools now before offering parents a new, better and reliable alternative - the national schools?
I have said this thousand times before that I support a single school system but this system must be focused on providing a quality education, facilitating learning and allowing students to discover and grow their talent.
Before striving to put its house in order, Khairy's suggestion to close down the vernacular schools as a condition to eradicate racial profiling is as ridiculous and defeatist as his party's corny slogans on unity but is still holding on tightly to its racial ideology and 'ketuanan Melayu'.