Racial streaming of students: don’t kill the messenger but examine the message

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP applauds the statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad calling for strict action to correct any misinterpretation or manipulation of the Government’s policy on education as it is  never the Government’s policy to segregate students according to  race.

This is because in the past week, there appeared to be the temptation and  tendency in certain quarters to want to kill the messenger rather than to examine the message of the outrage and scandal of the racial streaming of students in our secondary and primary schools, which  is clearly against the National Education Policy to develop a united Malaysian generation as well as the nation-building objectives of Vision 2020 and the Bangsa Malaysia concept.

The National Union of the Teaching Profession, and in particular its secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam should be commended for performing a great national service in producing facts and figures to show that the problem of the segregation of  races according to race had been practised in some 200 secondary and primary schools in the country, so that the nation could focus on a remedy instead of conducting a wild goose’s chase to ascertain the veracity of such an allegation.

What was worrying in the past few days was the pressure that the whole problem of the racial segregation of students should be swept under the carpet on the ground that it would damage inter-racial relations, and even the suggestion that Siva had  base and anti-national motives in accepting  the challenge by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad to name the schools which practise such racial segregation of students.

In the Mingguan Malaysia yesterday, for instance, the Yang di Pertua Gabungan Majlis Guru  Besar Malaysia, Sanip Suradi  made a most serious allegation when he said in an interview:

“Saya bimbang isu yang ditimbulkan oleh NUTP ini jika tidak dikawal boleh menggugat keyakinan masyarakat berbilang kaum terhadap sistem pendidikan negara.”

In actual fact, the best and most effective way to restore the confidence of the  multi-racial population in the national education system is for the government to act firmly and swiftly to uproot the pernicious practice of the  segregation of students according to race in the schools in the country being  openly against the declared national education policy, and not to be  seen or suspected of  trying to sweep the problem under the carpet or to “kill the messenger” rather than to attend to the message.

I fully agree with a Sunday columnist who wrote in The Sun yesterday:

“The stakeholders  must be brought into the debate and we should not kill the messenger, but rather examine  their messages. This is the sign of a mature nation and this is what we should strive to be.”

It is in this light that the 18-page memorandum of the NUTP on the segregation of students according to race should be given the widest discussion and debate, not to raise racial temperatures and undermine inter-racial harmony and goodwill, but as a lesson as to how Malaysians of all races 44 years after nationhood can address such an undoubtedly sensitive issue with maturity in an open, rational and unemotional manner.

The example set by the Prime Minister to openly admit and  declare that the racial segregation of students is against government policy and that such deviations from the national education  policy should be corrected should be emulated by all Ministers and government, particularly Education Ministry, officials.

NUTP president Tengku Habsah Tengku Petera hit the nail on the head when she said that as responsible Malaysians, we must oppose all acts to segregate students according to  race as it is  very dangerous to integration and the future of the country.

It is not only the Education Ministry, but all Malaysians, who  should be concerned about the various “undesirable acts” that had been implemented  at various levels of the Education Ministry which - as stressed by   Tengku Habsah - if  allowed to go on,  can ”threaten the national education policy and hamper efforts to raise Malaysian education to international standard”.

Tengku Habsah said these acts included:

The NUTP said such segregating had resulted in the flow of Chinese students from national schools to national-type Chinese schools over the past 10 years and decreasing number of Indian students in national schools.

Let Malaysians discuss these grave national educational issues openly but coolly, rationally and unemotionally, as Malaysians, not as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans or Kadazans, to ensure that the implementation of the national education policy at all levels keeps faith with the national unity objective and the Bangsa Malaysia concept of Vision 2020.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman