Survey: One in two Malaysians faced discrimination in schools, ethnic Indians had worst experience

File picture of students from SMK Saujana Impian preparing for the Bahasa Melayu SPM paper in Kajang November 13, 2018. The survey also found that 54 per cent of ethnic Indian respondents said they suffered verbal discrimination, followed by 40 per cent who said they were denied access to opportunities because of their identity compared to other ethnic groups. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
File picture of students from SMK Saujana Impian preparing for the Bahasa Melayu SPM paper in Kajang November 13, 2018. The survey also found that 54 per cent of ethnic Indian respondents said they suffered verbal discrimination, followed by 40 per cent who said they were denied access to opportunities because of their identity compared to other ethnic groups. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — More ethnic Indians in Malaysia felt they suffered from discrimination in the country’s education system compared to other ethnic groups, a recent survey by the Sekolah Semua youth movement has revealed.

The survey — titled “Discrimination in Education Survey” — found that nine in 10 ethnic Indian respondents or 87 per cent said they felt discriminated in schools because of their ethnicity alone, followed by skin colour (69 per cent) and religious beliefs (65 per cent).

Around three-quarters of them pointed to teachers as the source of their experience of discrimination (74 per cent) or their peers (73 per cent).

The survey also found that 54 per cent of ethnic Indian respondents said they suffered verbal discrimination, followed by 40 per cent who said they were denied access to opportunities because of their identity compared to other ethnic groups.

A whopping 92 per cent of the same group of respondents also said no investigation or action took place after reporting their experiences of perceived discrimination to authorities.

A total of 2,441 responses were polled in the survey carried out nationwide from September 1 until 10 aimed at exploring public experiences of perceived discrimination during the respondents’ time in Malaysian schools.

“While anecdotes of experiences of discrimination are widespread in public discourse, little to no data have been systematically collected to estimate the extent of discrimination in the Malaysian education system.

“Anecdotally, many of us know of Malaysians that have faced negative and harmful experiences

in schools because of their race, gender and other identities. 

“With the results of this survey, we hope that Malaysia as a country can start to better confront our discrimination problem,” said Architects of Diversity Malaysia co-founder Jason Wee who manages the volunteer-run Sekolah Semua movement.

As respondents were 18 years old or more, Wee said the survey is retrospective in nature and results should be seen as a stepping stone to further research on discrimination in Malaysian education.

On a general overview, the survey found that one in two Malaysian respondents saying they felt discrimination in education irrespective of their background.

Perceived socioeconomic-based discrimination in education was also observed to have reportedly been experienced by all ethnicity, gender and age groups at around the same level between 43 per cent (18-30 years old), 41 per cent (31-45 years old) and 51 per cent (46+ years old).

Of those, 36 per cent experienced verbal discrimination, 21 per cent experienced harassment, ostracism or bullying and 18 per cent were denied access to opportunities because of their identities.

The survey also found that non-Bumiputera (36 per cent of ethnic Chinese respondents; 40 per cent of Indian respondents) reported greater perceived discrimination from government policies in education than their Bumiputera counterparts (15 per cent Malay respondents; 23 per cent other Bumiputera respondents).

It also said non-Bumiputera (82 per cent of ethnic Chinese respondents; 85 per cent of ethnic Indian respondents) were more likely than Bumiputera respondents (66 per cent) to consider race-based exclusion for school admission a form of discrimination.

Among respondents who reported their experiences of perceived discrimination to authorities, 48 per cent stated that no investigation or action happened, while 61 per cent said they chose not to report their experience of perceived discrimination as they assumed it would not make a difference.

The full technical report and open data can be downloaded here

Members of the public experiencing any form of discrimination in education are also encouraged to visit Sekolah Semua’s website to report their cases.

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