KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian education system should be reviewed as it does not promote cross-cultural understanding and national unity, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today.
He noted that the national education policy is not being followed by certain schools, which makes promoting national unity difficult.
Zahid said systems in pre-school institutions – comprising tadika perpaduan, tadika kemas and private kindergartens – are not standardised, and are therefore difficult to streamline and control.
But the curriculum in secondary schools, which should follow the national education policy, is not being observed.
"When you enter primary school, there are some schools that follow the national education system, while others follow (a vernacular system) because that is part of the national education policy which promotes teaching using the mother tongue.
"But please, when it comes to the secondary level, use the same stream.
"There is no country in the world with three education systems. Only Malaysia has this. Our leaders are so nice," he said during a question-and-answer session after giving a lecture at the Intan Public Policy Ministerial Forum Series.
"In the end, there is no meeting point. Have people from religious schools (tahfiz) met students from Chinese schools? No. When will there be any cross-cultural communication?
"When they enter universities, be it local or overseas... when there is no meeting point, there will be no national unity," he said.
Zahid said it is important to respect all native languages and cultures in Malaysia, but equal importance must also be given to establishing the country's unity.
He said we should preserve knowledge in each native language as a subject, but not as the medium of instruction.
"If the education system does not focus on national unity, it could result in a fractured society," he said.