We now have national schools and vernacular schools, schools that use Mandarin and Tamil as their medium of teaching. We also have Agama schools. However I suggest that we work towards forming only one stream where all our children can learn together. For this to happen, there needs to be a change in our schooling system. We need to come up with a two-session structure perhaps where all students go to school together in the morning session, then learn the vernacular languages and other important skills in the afternoon. This way, Mandarin will not just be limited to the Chinese students, Tamil to the Indian students - our children can learn all major languages – including Arabic.
Why have one stream schools?
Because unity is our most important goal.
As children go through their socialization process, it is crucial that they do it in an environment that is true and representative of the Malaysian society. Beyond what they learn in school lessons, the actual process of socialization, mixing around with others around them, is the most influential learning process our children will go through. We must ensure that they get to know each other from a young age – that they interact with each other, learn to get used to each others' languages, practices, smells, quirks, culture… and if they have to quarrel because of differences, it should all be part of the socialization process from when they are young.
Whatever it is, we are a multicultural society – we cannot allow our children to grow up separately. This is one of the greatest recipes for disunity. If children grow up surrounded only by their own race, they will be ill prepared to deal with the reality of Malaysian society. They will become maladjusted people when they enter the workforce.
This is why I suggest that we encourage more multiracial neighbourhoods too so children can grow up together at home. In the same way, we need to work towards one stream schools so that similarly they can grow up together in schools and practice supporting one another as they learn together.
How can we work towards schools that are conducive for our children to study together?
We need to deal with the quality of the school system, the structures and the teachers. Many send their children to Chinese schools not necessarily because of language, but because of quality of education.
When we work towards setting up one stream schools, we need to carefully look into the quality of the school system and the quality of teachers. Maybe we can even learn from the Chinese school system, transfer a bit of technology of how they mould hardworking, effective students.
We need to study how to organize the school system, to allow students to learn history, mathematics, science, languages, arts, drama, sports, culture… all the important aspects of development. And as far as possible it is good if we have teachers from all races. The school environment must be a microcosm of the diversity in Malaysian society for children to go through a healthy socialization process that will prepare them to know, appreciate and love our different cultures.