Umno and Tamil schools

Both my parents were educated in Tamil schools alone. Mom grew up in Tamil Nadu (Tamil-land, or land of the Tamils) so there was no choice in the matter, and dad with a mother and step-father as municipal workers was always going to get the little education he was privileged to in a Tamil school for labourers’ children.
Life made those choices for them.
Despite spending most of my first decade in the “old place”, my parents made the choice to send us (their kids) to national schools. I went to a missionary school, where they still had catechism classes.
They wanted social mobility, and in those days, it meant going to schools with “facilities” and “access”.
They did not consciously intend for me to cross the race barrier by being in a system, where ethnically I was always going to be a minority.
My cousins who went to Tamil schools struggled, and the cousins that went to national schools did a bit better.
That is not to say the teachers in the Tamil schools and the use of Tamil predominantly would disadvantage students, just that the structure of Tamil schools in Malaysia and the support — financial, political etc — received from those in power relegated these schools to a life less ordinary.
In university, the Tamil school kids always made it a point to the rest that they had a harder time. I am not sure they necessarily had a hard time in all spheres of their lives, but they definitely did go into a system that gave them all the advantages in the world.
So when you hear about Muhyiddin Yassin, our deputy prime minister making visits to Tamil schools today, and making some promises in uplifting them, my question would be, “Where has your party been all these 52 years?”
(Of course the sneaky question would be, “What were you doing as Johor Mentri Besar, avoiding estates?”)
These kids have always deserved better, but it has never been an Umno agenda.
The skilled Umno man would point out that MIC should have done better.
But there is the stickiest part of the whole mess. No MIC minister even been or ever will be education minister and as a minority partner in BN, their requests will be at best filed.
The squalor of Tamil education shows the failure of a system of power-sharing based on the hegemony of one agenda before everything else — The Umno agenda.
I do remain convinced that there needs to be a single public schools system in the country, but at the same time strong if not stellar language programmes in the those public schools.
Our commitment to multiculturalism has to be augmented by money, time and conviction to all public schools in Malaysia .
Today there is a swing back to Tamil schools, especially in urban zones.
There is a consensus that the dismantling of multiculturalism in national schools was caused by irresponsible policies, and a lack of political will amongst Umno leaders.
I can see many of those who went to national schools in a time when they were keys to social mobility now through a dual process — of both lobbying for more resource for the town schools, and increasing their own financial commitments to these schools — sending their own children to Tamil schools.
There are two things in play then. The fringe Tamil schools that are collapsing further down the abyss of neglect and the moral conviction in the better supported town schools by urbanites.
I want the struggling schools to be either closed if the scale is not there, and transfer those funds available from that, to pay for the financial discomfort of travelling to national schools which will have great Tamil language programmes.
I wish that the town schools are willing to voluntarily convert to being national schools. Where they will teach all the subjects in English or Malay, with a great emphasis on an afterschool Tamil programme. In exchange they will receive all the benefits that national schools receive.
But above all, the deputy prime minister and his government have to realise they have a moral obligation if not a vote winner option in sincerely upgrading the schools that Tamils attend.

8 thoughts on “Umno and Tamil schools

    1. Thanks emma, for taking the time to comment.
      Umno run the Malaysian government. Education is a national issue, not an ethnic issue.
      I think as a tax-payer you have a moral burden of asking yourself, whether the money collected and and then spent are reflective of the genuine needs of the taxpaying community as a whole, rather than in quotients.

      1. hye,

        i think u R not culturally sensitive towards the malays and purposely put the blames on Umno. Blaming Umno means to blame the Malays. Supporting tamil or chinese schools can actually means supporting race segregation. What UMNO did to the tamil schools (which R nothin) R in-line with our aspiration of 1 school concept for all Malaysian && we definately offerring better choices, which R the National School and not contenna boxs as ur class-room.

  1. emma49:

    “Blaming UMNO means to blame the Malays” is factually wrong. The Malays interest and votes are split towards UMNO, PAS and PKR. I am not saying whether the blame itself is justified or otherwise, but equating UMNO to ALL Malays is not right.

    I do welcome single national schools. I have personally benefited from it but that was before Malay became the medium of instruction. There are two main reasons as to why Non-Malays (read as Non-Muslims) shy away from national schools. First, the religious intensity national schools have been subjected to, without doubt, had alarmed many Non-Malay parents. No less than our former PM had acknowledged this fact. Secondly, there was a time when Bahasa was perceived as a uniting language with equal opportunities upon mastery of language. Alas, come tertiary education, it still boils down to race, race and race. So, it appears as a subjugation rather than a unifying factor, unlike the way many felt when English was the medium of instruction. Just a frank and honest view/opinion.

  2. I agree with a single school system for a single country. But when you come to implementation of this educational policy, you drop back into two-tier system again. What is that? All Malaysian can go through the taxpayer-paid primary and then secondary education. But when they reach tertiary level, they will see the Malay go to the University of Institute of Mara, exclusively for the Malays with English as medium of instruction. And when the children go to the public universities, like USM, UM, UUM etc, all they see is race-based placement policy. Only the high income group can afford a local private universities twinning with overseas universities. ( let’s leave the super rich aside )
    I look forward to see a single system all the way from kindergarten to tertiary level. But, is this possible? Multi-racial and Multi-religious society like ours needs to consider the needs and wishes of all the different segments of the society. Can we give equal opportunity to everyone? Can we not to politicise the issue of education? After all, the more languages you master, the more opening you will have. And the ability and competency of people decide how well the country is going to do.

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