Malaysian Family: How can we do better?

By Ariani Mohd Nor

KUALA LUMPUR, 17 September 2021: 64 years since its Independence and 58 since the unification of the East and the West, Malaysia has prospered with people of different ethnicities – a fruitful result of the social contract and intercultural harmonies, which is cultivated between the people even today.

As this year’s Malaysia Day slogan calls for ‘Malaysian Family,’ its purpose is very clear cut and precise – to treat Malaysians as our family members, regardless of our ethnic differences.

However, there are still some lacking aspects in our country that need to be addressed for us to be better.

According to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)’s Prof. Emeritus Dato’ Dr. Teo Kok Seong, Malaysia’s education system is still an undeniable factor in creating racial segregations within children.

“Even during pre-school, our children have been separated from one another,” Prof. Teo said, in response to the matters mentioned. “And this continues until primary school – and this is a problem when we want to unite them again, because it may be difficult for them to get used to a new environment.”

This is in response to the ongoing debate regarding the establishments of vernacular primary schools or Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan that allegedly would separate children based on their ethnic and language background.

With history subject in secondary schools also needing a major revamp, Prof. Teo believes that the education system is in dire need of a structural change for Malaysia to properly function as a multicultural country with the proper mindset.

Moreover, Prof. Teo also stresses the need to fully understand the social contract of Malaysia – which many have overlooked and neglected.

The social contract, which refers to the understanding made by Malaya’s founding fathers prior to the country’s Independence in 1957 was a core catalyst to the country’s success in finding autonomy that was taken away when the nation was colonised.

The social contract is a set of agreement that provided the non-Bumiputera people of Malaya, which includes people of Chinese and Indian descent, to be given citizenship; in return, they will have to recognise the special position of the Malays, Bahasa Melayu (now Bahasa Malaysia) as the national language, and Islam as the official religion of the constitution.

While the social contract today has received many criticisms, it has also created not only an opportunity for the Malays – who only held 4 per cent of the economy after the 1969 riots, to get back on their feet and reserve Bumiputera their right to their land as the natives of their home soil.

“I see the unification of Malaysia as the solidarity of Nusantara peoples,” Prof. Teo Kok Seong added. “As we were separated during the colonisation period, it feels important that we emphasise this regardless of our political beliefs today.”

Hari Malaysia and the Independence Day serve as a reminder that the people should be united against all odds, regardless of what may come between us.

Lastly, with the ‘Malaysian Family’ slogan that was expounded by Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob this year, we need to practice its purpose everyday as Malaysians – to treat each and every one as a family.

Prof. Teo Kok Seong’s full insight regarding Malaysian Family or Keluarga Malaysia was documented in RTM’s Bicara Naratif on 6 September 2021. The full video can be viewed on this link.***

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