Report: Malaysians split on single-stream education, those opposing citing fear of discrimination

Julia Chan
Malaysians are split when it comes to choosing between vernacular or single-stream school systems, with those in favour of vernacular schools citing fear of discrimination in single-stream schools. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Malaysians are split when it comes to choosing between vernacular or single-stream school systems, with those in favour of vernacular schools citing fear of discrimination in single-stream schools.

A survey by research firm Vase.ai commissioned by online portal Malaysiakini found that 51 per cent of respondents were in favour of single-stream schools, while the remaining 49 per cent preferred vernacular schools.

Broken down by race, the report said that its ethnic Chinese respondents were the biggest opposers to single-stream schools, with two-thirds or 69 per cent opposing it, while 53 per cent of ethnic Indian respondents did not support it.

A small majority of 58 per cent of its Bumiputera respondents supported single-stream education.

The survey asked 1,024 respondents nationwide whether they supported the idea of streamlining the public primary school system to single-stream schools, which means the abolishing Chinese (SJKC), Tamil (SJKT) and Islamic schools.

When asked the reason for rejecting single-stream schools, the top reason mentioned was fear of racial discrimination, even from Bumiputera respondents, who make up the majority group in Malaysia.

With Chinese respondents, 43 per cent feared of racial discrimination, followed by 33 per cent who cited the lack of confidence in the Ministry of Education to preserve and retain Chinese language and culture and finally, 24 per cent thought Chinese school systems were superior.

Indian respondents cited fear of racial discrimination and lack of confidence in the Ministry of Education to teach Tamil and retain Indian culture equally as their top reason, while 19 per cent thought single-stream schools lacked discipline.

When it came to supporting single-stream schools, 66 per cent of respondents across all ethnicities agree that racial unity is the main reason to do so, while 51 per cent viewed it as a platform for children to mix together, and 47 per cent cited exposure to other cultures.

The article on the survey, which was done to understand the impact of separate school systems on integration, will be published on the eve of Merdeka Day next week.

The idea for single-stream schools has been mooted on and off for years, without ever really making headway due to its sensitive political nature.

Last year, the implementation of such a system was one of the resolutions passed at a congress to discuss the future of the Bumiputera community, hosted by the Economic Affairs Ministry.

However, Chinese groups have continued to resist the idea, citing attempts to assimilate Chinese vernacular schools into single-stream schools.

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