As usual, the recent eruption of viewpoints on the matter of vernacular schools in Malaysia is being reduced to polemic.
One group is calling for its abolition or something stupid along those lines.
The self-anointed defenders are calling for its absorption into mainstream education on the premise that it is the constant need for funding of vernacular schools, which are private, that keeps such schools at the margins of the Malaysian polity.
The problem with contemporary politics in Malaysia is the poor quality of thought and, the awful method of delivery of viewpoints that is devoid of persuasive articulation. Both sides of the divide for any issue are unable to frame the issues coherently.
My small contribution to the matter of vernacular schools is as follows and, my point is that we need to examine the reasons for the shift in enrollment of students by the non-Malays from mainstream public schools to private, vernacular schools.
Without the benefit of statistics (because I'm too lazy to look it up) I believe that up to the mid-1980s, enrollment in mainstream schools was still relatively high.
What caused non-Malay parents to shift the preference from mainstream public schools to private, vernacular schools?
I believe it had something to do with the decline in quality and standards in the mainstream public schools and the increase in myopic thinking by headmasters since the early 1980s.
I am not a fan of vernacular schools. I strongly believe that mainstream public schools is the best choice. My children attend mainstream public schools.
But, while the quality of students in mainstream public schools in wealthier suburbs are high, I hesitate to give full credit to the schools. Most, if not all, parents send their children for private tuition.
What about students in poorer suburbs? What if their parents cannot afford private tuition fees? What happens to these students?
I very much believe that the key challenge is for the government to focus on increasing the quality and standards of education in mainstream public schools.
I am a proud product of the mainstream public school system that existed in the 1950s through to the early 1980s. I believe that most of the political leaders of today are equally proud products of the system.
Let us focus on what we can do to increase the quality and standards of the mainstream public schools.
If we continue to debate on the symptoms we will never get to the true cause.
Otherwise, our fate will be to be like the blind men in the story.