Stop the vernacular schools polemic, says National Unity Minister

KUALA LUMPUR: National Unity Minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang has called for an end to the dispute surrounding vernacular schools in Malaysia.

In a statement today, he emphasised the need to view the vernacular schools as promoters of unity rather than division among ethnic communities

"I request that all parties immediately cease the polemic regarding the existence of vernacular schools in this country.

"If this persists, it will disrupt the spirit of unity and harmony built among the diverse people of Malaysia, encompassing various races, ethnicities, and religions," he said.

He pointed out that in November 2023, the Court of Appeal had constitutionally affirmed the existence and establishment of vernacular schools, recognising the use of Mandarin and Tamil languages within these institutions.

"Any attempt to abolish them would be inappropriate and contrary to the court's decision, which upholds the principles of the Rukun Negara and Rule of Law.

"Based on the enrolment data of non-Chinese students in Chinese vernacular schools (SJKC) and non-Indian students in Tamil vernacular schools (SJKT), there is a continuous increase from 2018 to 2023," said Aaron.

He also agreed with Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek who asserted that her ministry would continue to defend the vernacular education system.

On Saturday, Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Salleh called for a reassessment of the vernacular education system amid growing concerns over the polarisation and lack of cohesion among the country's multi-ethnic population.

He claimed the assessment needed to be conducted as the escalating tension stemmed from a system of separation and segregation implemented from the most basic levels of society, starting from schools.

Aaron said that based on the social deficit discourse held by the National Unity Ministry last year, vernacular schools should no longer be considered contributors to ethnic separation but rather as platforms for managing social harmony, similar to the role of national schools.

Furthermore, the National Unity Ministry established the Technical Committee on the Education of Rukun Negara, involving collaboration with the Education, Higher Education, and Communications Ministry.

"The committee aims to re-establish the understanding of the fundamental principles of the Rukun Negara in the country's education system."

As part of ongoing efforts, the ministry, in collaboration with the Education and Higher Education ministries, has established 6,849 Rukun Negara Clubs and 189 Rukun Negara Secretariats nationwide, aiming to enhance the understanding of Rukun Negara among the younger generation, contributing to national unity.

"In the coming year, the ministry plans to intensify efforts to instil the Rukun Negara within the population through various initiatives and programmes."

The programmes include the Exploration of Rukun Negara, Raja Kita Programme, Raja Kita, Payung Kita, Royal Archives Exhibition: Symbols of Rukun Negara, Rukun Negara Secretariat Convention, and the allocation of grants to all SRNs in higher education institutions.

The ministry will also convene the Pre-School Rukun Negara Education Symposium and Anak Malaysia Camp.

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