KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — A good education system where meritocracy and all races mingle freely can only happen when good values are instilled and practised from the start, the prime minister said today.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad added that Malaysia’s education system is only as good as the values taught to the young in explaining how education is the backbone to success.
“What we are is what we accept as our value system; if we have a good value system, then we will perform well and then we will succeed.
“It is important that from a young age we should implant in them good values, but this is quite difficult in Malaysia because we have accepted that different races should have different schools,” he said at the regional LawAsia Constitutional and Rule of Law Conference 2019 here.
Dr Mahathir pointed out the importance of interracial mingling during childhood, noting that such values ingrained during their formative years.
“If the people want us to really forget about race, there must be occasions when they are young, for them to come together.
“That is what we tried to do but there have been very strong feelings, even against having the same campus for all three schools, the national schools, Tamil schools and Chinese schools,” he said.
Dr Mahathir then pointed out the racial tolerance that Malaysia has been enjoying, with the exception of the May 13, 1969 riots, saying the country has been predominantly stable and peaceful.
“Yes, people have their differences, but they don’t go to the extreme and start fighting each other, that is because we curb too much discussion based on religion.
“Maybe we should do it selectively, because people need to talk, and now this government believes in freedom of speech, so we cannot tell them ‘please do not talk about this or we will arrest you without trial’. We don’t do that anymore,” he said referring to the defunct Internal Security Act that allowed detention without trial for up to two years.
But Dr Mahathir advised against paying too much attention to issues revolving around race and religion, saying a concerted effort should instead be made to ensure Malaysians identify themselves as citizens of the country first, and not by their ethnic background.
“People must learn that it is bad for them if they place too much emphasis on race and not enough emphasis on being citizens of this country.
“So, whatever we do, we have to be conscious that if you please one, you are going to displease the other,” he said.