PETALING JAYA: Educationists have expressed their relief with the affirmation ruled by the Federal Court that Chinese and Tamil schools are legal and constitutional.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the decision respects parental choice as expressed in the Education Act 1996 that “pupils must be educated according to the wishes of their parents”.

“Vernacular schools are here to stay. If vernacular schools can fulfil parents’ desires then it is up to parents to decide which school they want to send their children to.

“Parents aspire that their children have a better quality of life. They do not want their children to live off subsidies but instead be financially independent.

“Parents who send their children to vernacular schools are open to a diversity of cultures yet maintain a Malaysian identity,” she said, adding that diversity should be celebrated and not suppressed, because it is what makes the social fabric of Malaysia so unique.

“Everyone is free to practise their own culture, language and religion and we as Malaysians should celebrate our diversity and support each other’s education path.

“While Chinese schools are typically assumed to be Chinese dominant, they celebrate and respect other cultures too.”

Noor Azimah urged grassroots organisations and community initiatives to continue supporting and investing in such schools to encourage young Malaysians from all walks of life to enrol in these vernacular schools.

“Our education system is unique and so is our geographic location as we are in the middle of economic superpowers such as Singapore, Indonesia, China, India, and Australia. Important subjects such as science, mathematics, and even Chinese language are best learnt as early as possible when the propensity is highest.

“In fact, more Malay parents are sending their children to Chinese schools for the discipline, quality of teaching and to learn the Chinese language that are often seen as lacking in national schools.

“Tamil schools, too, are now standing out as they have proven to excel in international science competitions,” she said, adding that parents are more discerning now compared with the past and are willing to take the opportunity to ensure their children can have the edge over others.

Nonetheless, Noor Azimah said it is important to uphold Bahasa Malaysia as it is our national identity.

“As Malaysians, we need to master our national language by speaking and writing it so that we may better understand one another.

“What make us uniquely Malaysian are our spirit of unity and diversity, and by holding to that national spirit, we need to believe and have faith in Rukun Negara.”

Education Service Provider LeapEd Services executive director Nina Adlan Disney said to keep pushing the issue of the constitutionality and legality of vernacular schools is deliberately provocative and is clearly intended to stoke unrest and disharmony.

“It is pointless to challenge the situation legally as it is clearly a cherished and entrenched right that is politically protected.

“Instead of opposing vernacular schools and their right to exist, we should instead understand the background and ask ourselves why the need exists in the first place”

She said the most worrying trend is the growing polarisation of our education system, not just in terms of race and religion but also economically.

“Economic polarisation can be seen with families who can afford it opting for private and international schools. There is also the issue of increasing popularity of faith-based schools and this polarisation is widening the socio-economic divide and has serious implications for national unity.”

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