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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — Opponents of Chinese vernacular education should focus on improving the quality of national-type schools before blaming worsening race relations on Malaysia’s multiple education systems, a PKR lawmaker said today.
PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said that although different education systems posed “challenges” to national unity, the fact remains that vernacular education is a guaranteed right under Article 152(1) (a) and (b) of the Federal Constitution.
“The call by Petaling Jaya Utara Umno deputy division chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad for the ruling party to discuss the abolishment of Chinese vernacular schools at its next General Assembly is disturbing to say the least.
“(Mohamed) Azli’s statement that opposition parties are manipulating vernacular schools for such nefarious ends is simply untrue,” Nik Nazmi said in a statement here.
The Seri Setia assemblyman pointed out that many Chinese vernacular schools were currently more “multiracial” than their national counterparts, with children of all ethnicities — including Malays — studied there.
He added that upsurge of admissions into international and private schools as well as the growing popularity of home schooling was evidence of the steady decline of the national schools..
“At the end of the day, education is a matter of parental choice. Parents will choose whichever stream will give their children the best education and inclusive learning environment,” he stressed, saying that concerned parents have told him that the lack of “inclusive environments” was the main reason why they do not send their children to national schools.
“Wannabe nationalists and patriots like (Mohamed) Azli should concentrate on improving standards and conditions in national schools rather than harping on vernacular schools,” said Nik Nazmi, who is also a Selangor state executive councillor in charge of education, human capital development, science, technology and innovation.
On Sunday, Mohamad Azli was reported by newspapers Mingguan Malaysia and New Sunday Times (NST) as saying that the coming annual Umno meeting in November should discuss abolishing the Chinese vernacular school system as it purportedly promotes racism and anti-establishment sentiments.
In both reports, Mohamad Azli was also quoted saying that the government should also mull raising the intake of Malay and Indian students and teachers in Chinese schools to 60 per cent.
His remarks drew scorn from MCA, whose religious harmony bureau chairman Datuk Ti Lian Ker said that the proposed scrapping of vernacular schools violates the Federal Constitution and contradicts BN’s policy of allowing Malaysians to study in their mother tongue.
MCA Youth also lodged a report accusing the Umno man of sedition, but the police have since said they will not investigate this as they have classified it as a civil matter.