OUR education system comes under federal purview and jurisdiction, overseeing the physical and manpower aspects, and other elements that contribute to a credible system that provides for the nation’s various manpower needs.
The main objective is to create a world-class system that not only moulds young minds into holistic, unified and inquiring ones imbued with ingenuity and creativity, but also fosters integration and unity in the interest of national resilience and pride.
Our position is that we are making every effort to realise this main objective, despite challenges in the present educational set-up of multiple streams.
The system is fractured into several categories, namely, national schools, vernacular schools, national-type schools, secondary religious schools, religious schools, missionary schools, private schools and international schools.
As in the tradition of the government, any suggestion, however remote its viability, is taken into consideration.
Thus, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid agreed to consider the proposal for the setting up of “Bangsa Johor” multiracial schools.
He said the proposal needed to be examined carefully.
In evaluating the proposal, we should consider the following points.
Besides the question of its viability, what will be the nature of such a school?
As its name suggests, it would be exclusively for Johor folk, which may create an insular mindset and discriminate against children of non-Johoreans working in the state.
What about the teachers? Will they be exclusively Johor folk, too?
Then, there is the question of integrating “Bangsa Johor” schools into the existing system.
The school cannot assume the status of a separate category, but would be subsumed under an existing one as it has to conform to the curriculum and examination structure of the Education Ministry.
In all probability, it would be subsumed under national schools because it is neither a vernacular school nor a religious one, or an international school.
But, if the proposers so wish, they could make it an international school, opting for either the British or American system, with English as the medium of instruction.
This may be plausible if it is a private initiative with its own funding.
But, if it is to be funded by taxpayers’ money, it must conform to the regulatory standards of the Education Ministry, and follow the designation of sekolah kebangsaan, named after royalties, dignitaries, politicians or local place names.
The idea of a multiracial school, whatever its name, is good as it brings children of all races together to study and play, but it should not be provincially categorised.
Perhaps, the minister could look at the proposal seriously from a multiracial perspective, and one that employs a bilingual — English and Malay— medium of instruction.
We could develop the proposal to be compatible with the Malaysia Education Blueprint, which aims for an integrated education system that espouses universal values, as well as features a Malaysian imprint in the acquisition, dissemination and application of knowledge.
In addition, it should aim to develop mens sana in corpore sano, meaning “a good mind in a healthy body”.
The education system should bring us together, physically and mentally, towards achieving an integrated, healthy and united Malaysia.
The proposal could be the catalyst to achieving the nation’s education objective.
And, Johor is the right place to start.
NASURUDDIN, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang