©Free Malaysia Today (Used by permission)
by Priscilla Prasena
An expert on minority issues says the quality of education must not be compromised for the sake of protecting the vernacular school system.
PETALING JAYA: There should be a unified education system for all Malaysian students, a United Nations representative said today.
Rita Izsak, who works with the UN Human Rights Council as its Independent Expert on Minority Issues, said the system must not create gaps among the various ethnic communities even if it were to maintain vernacular education.
Izsak is here to attend the Conference on Non–Discrimination.
She told reporters outside the conference hall that there should be a standard measurement for education achievement for all Malaysians.
“Even if the vernacular system exists, there should be a unified system and everyone should sit for the same exams,” she said.
“But right now, I see more division than unity in the vernacular system.”
She added that even within the vernacular system, there appeared to be a gap in education quality between the Chinese and Tamil schools.
“Chinese schools seem to have higher standards than Tamil schools in Malaysia. This will create discrepancies among students, which will lead to socio–economic gaps in the future.”
She said her assessment was based on her own observation as well as feedback from various quarters.
As an Independent Expert for the Human Rights Council, Izsak serves in her individual capacity instead of as a representative of a government or organisation.
She has been working on human and minority rights for a decade and draws inspiration from her own experiences of prejudice and discrimination. In 1947, members of her father’s family were forcibly moved under post–war population transfers from Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) to Hungary because of their Hungarian ethnicity.
Her call for uniformity in Malaysian education is reminiscent of a statement made last June by former Court of Appeals judge Mohd Noor Abdullah.
Mohd Noor drew ire from several groups when he said vernacular schools should be changed into national schools. He criticised those who supported the vernacular school system, accusing them of condoning discrimination.