FROM the recent election that toppled the political entity which had ruled the nation since independence, one significant phenomenon that emerged is the fact that the people were willing to forego racial identity and even religious concerns in their quest for justice.
It was no longer the party or race that won the day. It was indeed a change in the mood of the citizens of Malaysia.
For more than 60 years, we Malaysians have been bred and fed on the racial political structure and system whereby Umno takes care of the Malays, MCA the Chinese and MIC the Indians. GE14 showed that we are capable of looking beyond this racial divide.
With this result and the mood arising from GE14, we now have an opportunity to bravely build a country with one national identity.
For too many years, we have been paying lip service to the call for nation-building and national integration while at the same time ignoring the elephant in the room – our education system of national and vernacular schools that actually polarise the various ethnic groups in this country.
For too many years we, particularly those in Peninsular Malaysia, have witnessed our children being polarised into racial groups as the Malays attended national school while a great majority of the Chinese went to Chinese school and Indians opted for Tamil schools.
The question is how can we have racial integration when, from the age of seven to 16 or 17 years, majority of the Malay, Chinese and Indian children are being isolated from each other and interacting only with their own race?
The first 17 years in the life of a person are the most important period in his/her development as the exposure he/she is given will determine his/her outlook, sentiment and prejudices as well.
From the mood demonstrated after GE14, it appears that we now have the opportunity to finally develop this “Bangsa Malaysia” that is blind to race, ethnicity or religion.
But this can only happen if all children aged seven to 17 years grow up together by going to the same school where they can learn to interact, study and play with each other. As the Malay saying goes “tak kenal maka tak cinta”, so let’s get to know each other.
We need to do away with all other schools, be they vernacular or tahfiz, and have only one national school for all children as we see in Indonesia, Thailand or any other nation for that matter.
This unique system in Malaysia of having vernacular schools alongside national schools has not promoted national unity.
Thanks be to the Almighty God that there were rational people among us who kept the populace cool and calm during the trials and tribulations of election day and prevented chaos and disorder.
Thanks be to the Almighty God that we did not have another May 13, 1969 kind of episode.
I am appealing to the Prime Minister to consider reviewing the current school system and have just one school for all Malaysians.
That school should not just facilitate the acquisition of knowledge but also be one that would promote Arabic language for Muslims, not so much for them to converse with the Arabs but so that they can understand the Quran when they read it; Chinese, Tamil and other local languages for the preservation of our diverse culture; and compulsory civic classes for all races so that we can inculcate civic-mindedness and good character in our children, the future leaders of the nation.
Adopting some of the logic and rationale of the Japanese education system may not be a bad idea either.
LT. GEN TAN SRI ABDUL GHANI AZIZ (R) TUDM
Taman Tasik Titiwangsa