KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 — Malaysia can achieve racial harmony if the country adopts a single-stream “national” education system and puts an end to vernacular schools, newly-appointed deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told an interview with Berita Harian.
In the interview published today, the Umno leader admitted, however, that implementing such a system would take a long time, perhaps even “an entire generation” and not just “one or two decades”.
Zahid said Malaysia’s current education system, which comprises both national-type public schools and vernacular schools, should be replaced with a universal system that goes beyond race and religion.
“What is happening now, we must look at the country’s education system that exists in various mediums until there is no meeting point.
“How can a country have three different systems based on race and religion with no meeting point. We must have national education that crosses the barriers of race, religion and ethnicity,” Zahid was quoted by the Malay-language daily.
He added that while racial unity was already implicitly and explicitly taught in public schools, it was still important to have an education system that reflects that same unity.
“The unity agenda in the education system is implicit and not just written on paper.
“It should be all-encompassing. It should be close to the people’s conscience.”
The deputy prime minister’s remarks comes following the July 12 riots at Low Yat Plaza that left five people injured.
The melee at the popular tech mall reportedly started after a simple phone theft triggered rumours on social media that a Chinese trader had sold a Malay youth a counterfeit unit.
The rumour subsequently led to calls to boycott the “cheating” Chinese traders and the complex itself, as well as the subsequent violence where five were injured.
The incident both prompted comparisons to the May 13, 1969 race riots as well as renewed attention to the controversial National Civics Bureau (BTN), an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department tasked with promoting patriotism but is often accused of spreading racism.
Despite denials by the government and the agency, sporadic leaks of closed-door events conducted by the BTN or featuring its staff have continued to entrench suspicions that the bureau was a hotbed of racism and “brainwashing”.