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Teaching Jawi in vernacular schools: Call for greater understanding through civic discourse, dialogue

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The “Forum Jawi: Saling Memahami” organised by Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) has revealed the critical need for all parties to sit at the same table, hear, listen and understand each other better.

While GBM is not opposed to any groups wishing to organise its own congress or gathering to gather views or express its feelings with the aim of convincing the government to rescind its decision on the teaching of Jawi in vernacular schools, such gatherings should never be at the expense of putting inter-ethnic harmony and unity at risk.

In any civilised, mature and truly democratic society, dialogue and civic discourse is essential to ensure differences of views and opinions do not descend to social hostility and chaos. Neither should any party call those who differ with their own views or preferences anti-nationalist.

We should also reject calls or insinuation made to the effect that as long as Dong Zong exists, “May 13” will likely repeat itself. Such calls or insinuations are contentious, provocative and totally unacceptable, meant to break up the already thin social fabric of Malaysian society. GBM would implore that such calls or insinuations be stopped immediately.

In this respect, it is heartening to hear that the Ministry of Education’s circular dated 24 December amongst others has clarified that parent-teacher associations (PIBGs) will not only assist in making analyses of the survey forms collected from parents but will also be involved in the decision-making process of whether to go ahead with the teaching of Jawi in the respective SJKs [vernacular schools].

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This outcome speaks volumes and demonstrates the value and benefit of mutual exchange and engagement. While mindful that there may be other issues that have not yet been resolved completely and satisfactorily, contest and demands are never the way.

GBM therefore urge all parties to bring any unresolved issues with respect to the teaching of Jawi in vernacular school before the table and within the realm of negotiations for more amicable outcomes for all parties concerned.

We therefore call for good sense from all parties to prevail before the issue spirals out of control and to prevent unscrupulous parties – whether from individuals, groups or politicians – from taking advantage yet again of the race and religious card for selfish gains and mileage.

Let all parties who have their differences come to the table, hear, listen and understand each other and work for a solution patiently in an undeterred and focused manner for the sake of the common good and for a beneficial and progressive education system that will enhance thinking skills and equip our students for the future of our beloved country.

Zaid Kamaruddin is chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM)

This statement was released on behalf of the GBM executive council.

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