Thursday, 28 February 2008

Non-Malays in National Schools

An interesting but worrying observation was made by Alias Mohd Yusof in his letter to Malaysiakini. He was puzzled and worried as to why there was not a single Non-Malay student out of the approximately 300 year-one students enrolled at the Taman Sri Pulai Primary school in the Kulai district even though there is a substantial Chinese population living in the vicinity of the school. He further noted that Chinese parents were even willing to send their children to a Chinese primary school further away even though the Taman Sri Pulai Primary school is just a door-step away.

The phenomenon of declining non-Malay enrolment in national primary and secondary schools has been happening. But as Alias Mohd Yusof argued, this unhealthy trend has to be arrested in the interest of real racial harmony. It could not be due to poor academic standard of the school as it has an excellent track record. If the problem has to do with learning the pupil's mother-tongue, surely national schools could provide this so that non-Malay pupils could learn their mother-tongues in the same school?

However, the heart of the problem is non-Malay perception that national primary and secondary schools have become fertile ground for institutionalizing Islamic practices, and this perception has been reinforced again and again by school heads and teachers who have an Islamic agenda of their own. Before Tun Dr Mahathir retired, he had warned against the increasing Islamization of national schools and said steps had to be taken to encourage non-Malay parents to make national schools the schools of their choice. The recent case of a national co-ed secondary school in Seremban which tried to segregate the sexes by stipulating separate classrooms, separate entrances and staircases, separate canteen counters and god knows what, is an example. Another common incident is the stipulation that non-Muslim female students should wear skirts that cover up to their ankles even though the guideline for non-Muslim female students is the blouse and the pinafore with a hemline below their knees. This is the national dress code for all secondary non-Muslim female students in Malaysia. But the little 'napoleons' have deemed it fit to bend the rules. The intent to change the secular nature of schools is real and widespread.

The dress code for non-Malay female students in secondary schools in Malaysia

Dress code for Muslim female students in secondary schools

In reply to Alias Mohd Yusof, David Kumaran narrated his unfortunate experience as a father who sent his three children to national schools, and how his children were subjected to these Islamic influences. He recounted how one of his children together with other non-Muslim children was forced to sit through an Islamic lesson because the Moral Subject teacher was absent. A case of indirect proselytising?

We should thank Alias Mohd Yusof for recognizing and voicing his genuine concern over the issue.

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