KUALA LUMPUR – Whatever the argument behind religious and racial segregation in schools, it is causing unease among parents and now, ministry officials as well, according to a report in the Malay Mail.
Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan has criticised a “unjustifiable and unacceptable” suggestion by a primary school in Setapak to separate Muslim students from their non-Muslim friends.
“This is not allowed; this should never happen,” he said.
He added that if the issue could not be rectified at the district level, the case would be brought to the state level. “I assure you most problems would be solved there,” he said.
The school’s senior assistant however defended the move, saying it was the best way to address the acute shortage of teachers the school was currently experiencing.
The senior assistant added that the only reason students were segregated according to religion was so that their timetables could be better managed. The idea is to facilitate the teaching of Islamic Studies and Arabic for Muslims and Moral and Mandarin or Tamil for non-Muslims.
Kamalanathan, who is also MP for Hulu Selangor, did acknowledge the acute shortage of teachers for optional subjects.
He said, “It is a challenge finding a replacement when a teacher that specialises in Mandarin or Tamil language retires.
“Some teachers who want to teach optional subjects like Mandarin and Tamil fail the tests set by the ministry and are forced to re-sit the exams.”
He explained that as long as these teachers were unqualified to teach Mandarin or Tamil, then the issue of a shortage in teachers would prolong.
Responding to a complaint from a mother that her son scored good grades yet would be relegated to the non-Muslim class next year when the segregation is to be enforced, the senior assistant reassured her that both classes were considered “top classes” and that the streaming process should not be an issue.
No comment was made however when the mother also objected to her 10-year-old son being deprived of mixing freely with students of other races once the segregation was enforced.