Abolishing the Vernacular School System is not the Solution.

Abolishing the Vernacular School System is not the Solution.

The statement released by Head Armada Nasional Bersatu, Wan Ahmad Fayhsal reflects an elitist individual wishing to maintain a privileged position in the constitution by language policing. It does not reflect an individual that wishes to unite the citizens of Malaysia as what Wan Fayhsal wishes to be portrayed as. Even worse, his argument is detrimental to the discourse on plural society unity as he argued that the fluency in the national language reflects individual nationalism. This gives Wan Fayhsal the impression of being in the know while in reality just nonsense spewed biasedly referencing researches to fit a narrative that will be proven futile in actualising any effort towards unity.

While it is agreed upon that any effort in forming a united plural society starts from the most primary level of education, vernacular school system is collateral to the plural society itself rather than a plague to the system. Vernacular school system has been embedded deeply within the tapestry of Malaysian Education System. It has been a mean of cultural identity preservation just as how Islamic religious school is a mean to preserve and strengthen the Islamic religious identity of the students enrolled. Thus, to abolish the vernacular school system on the basis of the lack of national language fluency in reflection to individual nationalism will be counterproductive to the initial effort. To take away a mean of cultural preservation is to take away what Malaysia has been portrayed as; multiracial plural society tolerant of each other’s identity. A conformity of national language fluency is not a magical solve all for the problems of unity in Malaysia. Even if all the students within the education system are put under a roof with the jigsaw classroom model, unity will still be out of reach as long as the Head Armada does not reflect inward on the causes of a disruptive discourse on unity.

Wan Fayhsal may give out a narrative of language as the basis of unity and vernacular school system embraces differences in language usage which will consequently disregard a prioritisation of the national language. He is speaking from a viewpoint of a politician that is playing on the sentiment of the people and not from the viewpoint of an individual that values the education system itself. S. Gudschinsky posited that student’s fluency in their mother tongue can be transferred to a second language thus allowing a beneficial exposure to second language. For C. Eastman, native language usage will foster a good-home working relationship. Learning difficulties were also documented among minority children with an inadequate grasp of medium of instruction by multiple linguists from C. Bowen to J. Macnamara to name a few. Does Wan Fayhsal even have the best for the citizens at heart or simply revisiting sentiments that had existed since the release of Barnes Report to fulfil the requirement as a folly politician? If the fluency of national language is reflective of one’s nationalism, can this statement by Pemuda PSM written in English be reflective of a collective that is going against the best of the Malaysian people?

Pemuda PSM wishes for a united Malaysia as well but unity should not be built on the basis of erasing the cultural identity of the minorities. Vernacular school wasn’t built to be divisive for the people but any narrative that painted it as such is. If education is the main concern in the development of a united plural society, Wan Fayhsal should have been aware on establishment of Islamic religious school in Malaysia as the breeding ground for religious fundamentalism resulting in the decline of Malays’ cultural identities while being the major race itself. In relation to the education system itself, why should the vernacular school system be the target of the narrative of a disruptive system when tertiary education system allows for universities to prioritise only the majority race on the basis of affirmative action? Why should education be the target when individuals like Wan Fayhsal freely stoke the flame of racial issues through racial politics?

It should have been obvious that Wan Fayhsal’s statement was built on an unsubstantial ground. The referencing of 1996 Education Act and the work of Prof. Dr. Teo Kok Seong is only to build a narrative on vernacular school system that does not have a correlation to the issue of unity in Malaysia. He is another player in the political arena seeking to subject blame onto a system that is not within his capability to understand yet could not help but to cling on to in order to gain pity points for his pathetic climb towards securing a position in an already turbulent racially driven politics.