When I was in primary school, we were taught that Ahmad, Ah Kau and Raju are all good friends, and we helped each other regardless of races.
My father was a great role model in racial bonding. He had a wide group of friends whom he mixed with, and he used to bring me to their open-house during festive seasons. Back then I believed in racial harmony without any second thought.
Things started to change when I moved to high school. First, I realised that most Chinese students had to study in Remove Class while Malays weren’t required to do so. The intention was not bad but I started knowing that Malays and non-Malays were somehow different when it came to education in Malaysia.
Few years later, I finished my SPM. Some friends applied for UTM etc. to skip Form Six and most were surprisingly rejected despite their great score. Then I started to learn about quota system in higher education, where the best results couldn’t guarantee a place in public universities if our skin colour wasn’t right.
After STPM, I got into UM in a supposedly popular course. On the first day at class, our professor asked us why we chose the course… and people started telling stories. Then came a few Bumis who mentioned that they didn’t want to enter the faculty, but their results were not good enough to get into other courses.
That really set the fire. Some students studied like mad cows to get good scores to get into courses like medic, law, accounting, engineering etc. and yet many couldn’t enter their desired courses because of racial quota. But some OTHERS who didn’t even want to study in the course were “forced” into it instead.
How does this make any sense? It’s wrong at both ends.
Note how often I have to use the words Malay, Bumis, non-Malay, Chinese etc. to describe my education experience. Why can’t we just use a simple MALAYSIAN instead? It’s simply because we Malaysians were educated in different ways and treated differently in our education system depending on races.
Racial gap is created by the SYSTEM.
Not the text books. [Update] On second thought there were major flaws with the text books too, especially in the history subject. That’s another post if I feel like writing.
It’s not the end of my experience. Local universities were the best places to witness racial indifference in Malaysia. The students themselves were rarely the problem. Undergraduates of different races did live and study harmoniously together.
It was the bureaucracy and policies that often created tension among students. Many practises encouraged segregation instead of creating understanding. And there’s always two methods of doing things depending on race and religion.
Guess I’ll end here at the moment, it’s a long story. Hope we, Malaysians, can find solutions to this issue. Although it seems unlikely to happen soon with recent political development in the country which seemingly is going the wrong end.