NATIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEM: More integration, inclusiveness needed
MUCH has been said about the role of national schools in fostering racio-ethnic integration. However, more and more Malaysian schoolchildren in the national and national-type schools are being segregated and driven apart.
This is happening first, by the medium of instruction viz Bahasa Malaysia for the Sekolah Kebangsaan, Mandarin for the Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) and Tamil for the Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil); second, by the socio-cultural exclusiveness of each school type and, third, by the lack of effort to bring the schools together through a well-structured set of activities or programmes.
To require the schools and individual school heads to organise the integration efforts would evoke comments such as the lack of time, resources and facilities.
In order for the integration programmes to work and be sustained across the schools in the public education system, there must be proper planning along all levels of the hierarchy.
The stakeholders in the national education system must be persuaded to own the system and be fully involved in its organisation and management.
The Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) has made the following recommendation:
That the Education Ministry define a clear racio-ethnic integration policy for the national and national-type schools and for the efforts to be undertaken at the state and district levels to ensure effective structuring and coordination.
Schools in the same vicinity should be grouped, for example, each Sekolah Kebangsaan should be assigned a Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina and a Sekolah Kebangsaan Tamil.
The three schools should share their resources and facilities to minimise the inequalities in the educational hardware and software and to encourage the cross-fertilisation of information, knowledge, skills and expertise.
When the heads and staff collaborate in pursuit of professional integration and educational excellence, the benefits will accrue to their students.
Malaysian teachers and students will then be educated in an open environment which is inclusive of one another's needs and aspirations.
Parents will support programmes and activities which contribute to the development of their children and their community.
PCORE carried out a pilot English in Harmony Camp in September in three schools in Kompleks Sekolah Wawasan in USJ15, Subang Jaya in Selangor -- Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato' Onn Jaafar, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (C) Tun Tan Cheng Lok and Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (T) Tun Sambathan.
The weekend camp involving 10 Year Five pupils from each school met for three hours on five Saturdays, making up a total of 15 hours contact time.
The camp was designed to fulfil both English-language learning and national integration objectives, where participants engaged in communicative activities and games while interacting and collaborating with pupils from the different school systems.
Participants practised language structures and vocabulary, and improved their pronunciation, grammar and social-interaction skills. Positive feedback was received from the pupils, teachers and school heads, many of whom were interacting across school lines for the first time, despite being located in the same compound. It is hoped this positive experience will encourage further collaboration among the schools involved.
In the first quarter of 2013, seven more camps will be run in the Klang Valley school districts, with plans to expand the programme to other districts and states.
The PCORE English in Harmony Camp is an example of how a citizen movement can support the public school system and assist in the government's efforts to enhance English-language proficiency and promote racio-ethnic integration.
Such programmes will create integrative possibilities beyond the participant level, enabling schools to share resources, space and expertise and to cooperate with one another, rather than remain separate communities within the public education system.
To implement the National Integration Policy in the education system effectively, the following measures must be undertaken:
REVIVE the Vision School concept to bring together teachers and students from the three different streams in the most pragmatic way through the sharing of facilities, resources, teaching/learning methodology;
MANIFEST the true meaning of egalitarianism and the democratisation of education by ensuring the fair and equal distribution of resources among the different school types across the national demographics.
There must be zero tolerance of discrepancies and gaps in the national education system where every one, regardless of ethnic origin or background, is given equal access and opportunity;
ALLOCATE a bigger budget for the underprivileged schools in remote areas to ensure their infrastructure and resources are brought up to mark. Schools in town and urban areas that are already well developed and equipped must share their resources;
WORK out a system or structure in each area where a privileged school adopts an underprivileged school to share skills, resources and facilities;
WORK out a system or structure at the district and state levels where national and national type schools in the same vicinity can be grouped. By sharing infrastructure, resources and skills, staff and pupils can be brought together for subject-specific, co-curricular and sporting activities;
WORK out a schedule for subjects such as the languages, Mathematics and Science where teachers from the three streams can move around and serve in one another's schools. English or Bahasa Malaysia can be used as the medium of instruction for these special classes;
FORGE greater networks for teaching and learning programmes and activities which bring together teachers and pupils from different ethnic backgrounds to work together and communicate with one another.
Schools that have a reputation for having sound teaching or learning methodologies and well-qualified and trained teachers must share their expertise in group training programmes. For example, teachers from Sekolah Kebangsaan Cina, which have a strong tradition in teaching Mathematics, can mentor the teachers from the other schools;
INTRODUCE and emphasise the characteristics of a Malaysian national identity among the teachers and students of national schools and national-type schools;
BALANCE the appointments of school heads and teachers to ensure all ethnic groups are represented in the staff of national and national type schools;
BALANCE the intake of students from all ethnic groups in national and national-type schools to ensure the schools reflect the Malaysian population; and,
TRANSFORM the national schools to become the school of choice for Malaysian parents and their children.
To reinforce the growth and development of Bahasa Malaysia as the official or national language, the national schools with Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction must be positioned as schools which uphold the spirit of inclusiveness and oneness of the national ideology. Position the national-type schools as brother and sister schools which play a complementary role in the family.
The transformation requires courage and conviction, and a transparently-structured implementation plan.
To uphold the government's commitment to national integration, the public education system, which nurtures the majority of Malaysian schoolchildren who will grow into the next generation of adult citizens, must admit its failings.
It must now seize the opportunity to repair the country's education system which has built exclusive socio-cultural silos and communities, segregated further by a fast-growing private school system.
Datin Halimah Mohd Said, PCORE Education Committee,Kuala Lumpur