I read with interest Dr Mahathir’s statement on the need for a single stream national education system in Malaysia., published by Bernama dated 4 Nov 2009. I am in complete agreement with his cold logic on the matter.
I have always considered it to be one huge gap in our efforts towards nation-building, a gap which makes all the other efforts seem like an exercise in social niceties or self-delusion, sweeping real problems under the carpet while mouthing pronouncements on nation building and the beauty of national unity.
Can a people be a nation, in the sense of one people sharing one common destiny, without crucial meeting points, education being a vital one? I note with interest, Dr Mahathir emphasized ‘at least’ we should have the people in their formative years going to the same school. Now, the plain logic is that currently we don’t have even the minimum prerequisite for nation building, yet we indulge ourselves in the rhetoric of it.
Dr Mahathir pointed out on the uniqueness of our situation, being the odd one out in the world without this one important pillar of a nation, one single stream education system based on the national language. Unfortunately this one ‘uniqueness’ does not speak of our originality or boldness, but simply of our serious omission and failure. We have not embark on this one fundamental step towards nation building.
I am in agreement with Dr Mahathir when he pointed out that Malaysia has always been deferential of cultural diversity in the country, and that the move towards a single stream schooling is really asking for the ‘least’, the minimum, that is if we care at all being a nation.
Well, I have been surfing the last few days following comments and responses on this issue. I find some of the remarks by those opposing the suggestion for one stream missing the point. One response from Dong Zong vehemently rejected the idea outright, zealously defending the multi-stream vernacular education with the argument that Malaysia is a ‘multi nation-state’ and not a single ‘nation-state’. The view considers Malaysia a ‘multi nation-state’ because of the presence of its various ethnic groups. Just pure cacophony of sound! There is no such thing as ‘multi nation-state’. A ‘multi nation-state’ would be many separate nations and not one single nation. That’s why a nation is of essence always associated with 'oneness' and ‘a common destiny’, never of multiplicity and divergence!
The same response also vehemently mobilized for all to oppose any attempt towards ‘assimilation’ of our citizens. Now, the process of nation-building demands a people to ‘assimilate’, at least in national sphere or space. National education is one of such vital space to be zealously and jealously guarded by us the Malaysian citizens. If we argue in a vague, unthinking manner against a blanket ‘assimilation’, we have to conclude there is no real understanding of what nation-building is really all about, or even worse what a nation is!