PETALING JAYA: Activist Marina Mahathir has suggested a revamp of the national school system to attract more students of all races and foster greater unity.
While noting that certain quarters have claimed that one reason Malaysians lack unity is because children do not all go to the same schools, she said banning the different mediums of education is not the way forward.
“The education system has become so segmented, not just between national and vernacular schools, but there are also private local schools, private international schools, and people being homeschooled. And, not to forget, there are Islamic schools where nobody who is not Muslim goes to,” she said in a webinar yesterday.
“If you want to talk about unity the way these people are, you have to ban all these other schools, except for national schools. But that would be really heavy-handed, besides taking away parents’ choice on what is best for their children.
“To me, the best thing to do is to make national schools the best schools in the country. They would be the most desired schools and that would bring everyone back.”
Marina said critics of the national school system ignore the real reason why non-Malays have largely abandoned national schools – their “deteriorating” education standards and an “uncomfortable” emphasis on religion.
The webinar, titled “Islam, Freedom of Expression and Countering Extremism”, was organised by Sisters In Islam (SIS) and Komuniti Muslim Universal Malaysia (KMU Malaysia) in light of the recent terror attacks by Islamists in France.
In October, an assailant decapitated a history teacher in a Paris suburb who had shown cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.
The panellists addressed the attacks that were sparked in 2015 after caricatures of the Prophet were published in the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 people dead, with more than 250 lives claimed in similar incidents since then.
The deaths have sparked a worldwide debate, with Sisters in Islam programme manager and event moderator Shareena Sheriff noting how the majority of Muslim countries and communities have not addressed the issue of religious radicalism and extremism that have caused many innocent lives to be lost in the name of protecting religion.
While French President Emmanuel Macron has highlighted the country’s traditional values of secularism and free speech to defend the publication of the cartoons, Mustafa Akyol, the other panellist in yesterday’s discussion, said France should be more aware of how best to accommodate its conservative Muslim citizens.
“Give them respect and space so that they can feel French and they can be who they want to be in the country,” said the prominent Turkish author.
“If you force them to assimilate in a way you want to define it, you will have grudges and resentment which will be counterproductive to your cause.” – FMT