OPPOSITION politicians and education activists have slammed Prime Minister Najib Razak for his hypocrisy in blaming Malaysia’s multiple-stream school system as a cause of disunity.

They said BN should look in the mirror as the ruling coalition is guilty of exploiting ethnic and religious sensitivities to keep itself in power.

DAP parliamentary spokesperson for education, science and technology, Zairil Khir Johari, said BN practices the divide and rule policy.

“If political leaders propagate divisive politics and constantly use racially tinged language to secure votes, do we need to look further for the root of disunity?

“For as long as Umno and its BN allies resort to racial fear-mongering, threatening the Malays with a ‘Chinese threat’ and the Chinese with a ‘Malay threat’, then there is no doubt that Malaysians will continue to be divided,”   said the Bukit Bendera MP.

He was responding to Najib’s claim that having multiple streams of schools in the country is bad for national unity.

“As you can see today, the Malays are in national schools while there are also the SRJK (C), SRJK (T) and religious schools,” Najib had said.

“We have no immediate solution. We can only try to impart certain core values in schools, such as learning to interact better with one another and to have mutual respect.”

Zairil said it is not true that if children go to different schools and study in different languages, they will not be united by a common Malaysian spirit.

“By this warped logic, every graduate from top boarding schools in the country such as Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) must be incorrigible racists after years of living and studying in a Malay-only environment.

“However, the truth is that schools such as MCKK have produced many outstanding Malaysian citizens who believe in Malaysian ideals and who do not hesitate to celebrate the strengths of our plural society,” he said.

Among the examples Zairil cited included Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Azman Mukhtar, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli and PH Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

Other prominent MCKK alumni include Najib’s father, former prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Zairil said the fact that Chinese vernacular schools attract a growing number of non-Chinese enrolment is proof that it is not racist and divisive in nature.

“At least 15% of Chinese school enrolment today is made up of non-Chinese. In some schools, non-Chinese students make up more than half of the student body,” he noted.

PH Youth chief Nik Nazmi said having a diverse education system is a strength in a multicultural country like Malaysia.

“A one-size-fits-all education system is no longer relevant,” he said.

He said national schools used to be attractive to parents up until the 1990s, but declining standards have led to a flight of non-Malays and affluent Malays to international schools.

As international schools are out of the league for the majority of Malaysians, he said the federal government must raise national schools’ standards so that it becomes the schools of choice again.

Ho Yock Lin, a social activist with a coalition of 28 civil society organisations, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia that champions a diverse education system, said such a system does not cause disunity.

“You may have different streams of schools but if everyone is instilled with the values of patriotism, love for the country, equality, would our children become divided or learn to discriminate against others?”   she said.

She said it is more important for the government to ensure that teachers have the right mentality and school syllabus promote unity, diversity and equality.

She added that politicians and community leaders who have been exploiting race and religion to sway the people need to stop doing so and set a good example themselves to the youth.