Thursday, 25 July 2013

Politically mixed education Malaysia

I REFER to the editorial “We can’t move forward with suspicious minds” (Sunday Star, July 21- appended below) and feel that our political masters must take heed of the issues raised for they can become a racial time bomb.

It is sad that after 56 years of independence, we are caught in Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds.

This has a lot to do with the education system and politics of the day.

Righteous, progressive and open-minded citizens are the result of a balanced education system where they are given all the opportunities to develop themselves and to understand others.

The knowledge society from such a system can stand the test of time against typecasting, stereotyping and any form of suspicious minds.

The GE13 results is indicative of what lies ahead. The popular vote reflects that all is not well on the ground.

For example, the proliferation of international schools using English as a medium of instruction shows that parents with money prefer not to send their children to national schools.

English as a universal language cannot be denied as the best vehicle to bridge racial polarisation and reduce any “suspicious minds”.

English language citizens have a greater tendency to read books, any kind of books, thereby opening up their minds to prejudices.

Another factor that contributes to “suspicious minds” is the heavy dose of politicking along racial lines.

Every issue that crops up is seen from a racial perspective. It gets worse by the day, going by the media coverage.

We have not reached the stage where we can proudly call ourselves Malaysians.

Ironically, we are becoming less Malaysian by the day if we care to analyse the situation carefully.

This was even pointed out by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Has our education system failed? What happenned to the various initiatives like “Rukunegara”, “Rukun Tetangga” and “1Malaysia”.

Are we only Malaysians when we conquer Mount Everest or win the Thomas Cup?

After the euphoria is over, we withdraw into our own shell and return to our selfish ways.

Maybe, instead of learning from the Japanese or Koreans, why not learn from the Americans on how their “melting pot” is able to make a Korean, Japanese, Iranian, Mexican, Polish, German and others feel proud they are American first and foremost.

Maybe the American education system has the answer that we have been searching for. Still, we have to accept the fact that where inter-ethnic relations is concerned, a little bit of racial bias does exist.

It is the degree of biasness that is of concern to everyone.

In this respect, the various community leaders must show the way forward.

HASSAN TALIB Gombak, Selangor

We can’t move forward with suspicious minds

SUSPICIOUS minds. That seems to be the state of thinking in our country in these disquieting times. Any action, any utterance is quickly judged on whether it’s racial, religious and even gender “unfriendly”.

Granted, in a multiracial society, there is the expectation that people should know how to speak and behave so as not to cause offence.

But we know in reality, there is a tendency to typecast or stereotype ourselves and people from other communities. This is an age-old mindset but for the most part, it’s harmless. And if anything, it was and still is fodder for jokes and teasing.

In the past, we took it in our stride and rarely let off-colour jokes and remarks get to us. But of late, no thanks to social media and the Internet, any action or remark spreads like wildfire and gets mangled, misinterpreted and embellished along the way.

There seems to be a wilful desire to think the worst of “others”. It doesn’t matter the source: it can be the Government trying to introduce a compulsory subject in private colleges, or people from one community trying to scale Everest, or high scorers not getting places in their chosen courses, or two foolish young people trying to be funny in their tasteless and ill-conceived joke.

The reaction to all of the above is there is a hidden agenda, an ulterior motive to all such actions. Because of the suspicion, it leads to the desire to hit back, to accuse, to hurt, to mock or even to punish beyond the actual “crime”.

More worrisome is the almost- automatic way to look for racial and religious undertones in just about everything, which inevitably leads to people thinking along the lines of Us Against Them.

Sadly, there is a strong belief that the results of the general election on May 5 has worsened race relations. The hearts of the people have hardened against each other.

One group feels betrayed by another, that there is no sense of gratitude for or appreciation of what has been done for them nor the generous accommodation of their demands.

The other group’s response is that they have been pushed to the wall and the decades of accepting what they perceive to be biased policies and implementation has gone unacknow­ledged and finally, enough is enough.

Interestingly enough, the lyrics of Elvis Presley’s song Suspicious Minds encapsulates this Malaysian dilemma: “We’re caught in a trap, we can’t walk out ... Why can’t you see what you’re doing to me when you don’t believe a word I say? We can’t go on together with suspicious minds, and we can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds.”

When Malaysia celebrated its 50th year of Merdeka, The Economist commented about the “increasingly separate lives that Malay, Chinese and Indian Malaysians are leading”.

The British magazine added: “More so than at independence, it is lamented, the different races learn in separate schools, eat separately, work separately and socialise separately. Some are asking: is there really such a thing as a Malaysian?”

That was six years ago. How do we answer that now?
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- The Star Says

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