A recent report about a survey in a local news portal was shocking and the Ministry of Education must give express attention to this totally unacceptable reality.
The Discrimination in Education survey found that nine in 10 ethnic Indian respondents or 87% said they felt discriminated in schools because of their ethnicity alone, followed by skin colour (69%) and religious beliefs (65%). Around three-quarters of them pointed to teachers as the source of their experience of discrimination (74%) or their peers (73%).
The survey also found that 54% of ethnic Indian respondents said they suffered verbal discrimination, followed by 40% who said they were denied access to opportunities because of their identity compared to other ethnic groups.
A whopping 92% of the same group of respondents also said no investigation or action took place after reporting their experiences of perceived discrimination to authorities. The survey also found that 36% of ethnic Chinese respondents and 40% of Indian respondents reported greater perceived discrimination from government policies in education than their bumiputera counterparts (15% of Malay respondents and 23% of other bumiputera respondents).
The nationwide survey from 1 September to 10 September received 2,441 responses. It aimed at exploring public experiences of perceived discrimination during the respondents’ time in Malaysian schools.
The survey findings by the Sekolah Semua youth movement must be immediately addressed by the Ministry of Education that is more than well-staffed, with a minister, two deputy ministers, a secretary general and his deputy, and a directory general and her deputy. With 64 years of independent nationhood behind us, there is absolutely no reason or space for racial discrimination in schools.
While the country marked its 58th Malaysia Day anniversary recently with a clarion call for unity among Malaysians of all races, religion, ages, and social status, the report exposed the reality of a crisis that cannot be swept under the carpet.
The truth, which must be addressed without politicising it, is that the country has been saddled with such discrimination against non-bumiputeras, knowingly or otherwise, not only in schools but reportedly, in all other government institutions, ministries and departments. One does not need to do a survey to realise the extent of discrimination being practised at all levels of government.
We need moral courage to face up to truth if we want a truly united nation of people to build this country.
Patriot is mindful of the fact that, in the 1960s and early 1970s, the country progressed meteorically with exemplary and outstanding Malaysians of all races employed in the government service, free of any trace of racial discrimination.
Led by none other than Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, our first Chief Minister (as he was called then) galvanised Malaysians of all races together. He was loved by Malaysians for his fatherly and good-natured ways in attending to the myriad of issues faced by the people then.
The survey clearly shows we have now lost the plot to remain and profit from a united citizenry free of discrimination, a dream well chiselled by the post-Merdeka leaders of bygone decades.
Patriot believes the report published by the news portal is comprehensive and sufficient for the current government to investigate and to take corrective and punitive action against those who had perpetuated such damning action against non-bumiputera students.
If the report is found to be true to the letter, without fear or favour, then Patriot, in no uncertain terms, states that it is a serious handicap to our national efforts to treat citizens of the country, regardless of race and religion, equally and fairly, free from any form of prejudice or mala fide political expediencies.
Schoolchildren of all races and religion are our future assets and they must be imbued with the spirit of patriotism in their formative age. They must be taught to live together as a one Malaysian race and not to be identified by race, religion or the colour of their skin.
The published findings clearly indicate that our failed education system is in crisis mode. The country needs to reset its education policies to specifically tackle any attempt by school authorities and Ministry of Education ministry officials to practise discrimination or impose any form of prejudices on non-bumiputera students. Such negative discrimination will only produce
undesirable elements as these students leave school.
Patriot demands immediate action to be instituted. Fact-finding investigations must be carried out, and the expose in the report must be addressed. Only then can the public regain their confidence in our education system and the ministry and trust our leaders.
You cannot keep preaching and making slogan-laced calls for unity when the fundamentals are now highly questionable. Patriot therefore unequivocally demands that this matter must be debated in Parliament. The public need answers.
Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)