What has the UEC got to do with nation building?

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By Steven Tan - a reader

If it is one thing the Chinese community hold very dear to their hearts is education and the future of their children.

One of the main reasons why the MCA which has represented the Chinese for years performed so badly in the recent general election was because the community felt they were badly let down.

The writing was on the wall, but the MCA did not see it and thought that by riding in the BN vessel, they were sure of victory.

Never mess with such sensitive issues, including the current touchy Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) fiasco.

Prior to the general election, I clearly recall the PH administration pledging to recognise the UEC - the school leaving certificate of the Malaysian independent Chinese secondary schools (MICSS).

Political analysts believe that one of the core reasons the MCA was wiped out and victory handed over to PH was because the PH manifesto and PH leaders pledged to recognise the UEC.

Today, however, we find PH leaders singing a different tune and that is certainly not going down well with the Chinese community.

I would like to refer to a recent article by Dr Mohd Tajuddin, who is a professor at a local university.

We have over and again heard that the reason why the PH administration is pussy-footing around the UEC issue was because they feared it's impact on nation-building.

Well, like what Dr Mohd Tajuddin pointed out, there is already a huge problem with the current public school system as far as nation building is concerned.

For one, as even Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed out, public schools in Malaysia already resemble religious or Islamic schools and there is a stark racial imbalance in the teaching force. 

He said there is now insistence on the  the so-called Islamic dress code and the reading of Muslim prayers during events and assembly.

"When Christians once did the same at missionary schools, the Malays complained of religious pollution in education institutions. But when the Malays do it, it seems all right because the education ministry is full of pious Muslims," he said.

Dr Mohd Tajuddin pointed out that there is a proliferation of Muslim religious rituals like prayers at school, halal canteens or stalls. Students who are not fasting must eat in the toilet, there are halal and haram drinking glasses, issues with saris and many others.

Parents, he said, are understandably frightened at these acts of outward religiosity and have moved their children to private or vernacular schools. 

"I have not heard of any religious rituals of incense burning or processions of deities in Chinese schools, thus I assume that such outward shows of religious piety or reverence do not exist," he said.

As far as public universities are concerned, he said that most such universities required students to attend lectures and complete assignments in English.

Also, he said for the sake of international rankings, public universities opened up to foreign students which inevitably dealt a blow to Bahasa Melayu.

Dr Mohd Tajuddin in conclusion said he did not see the relevance of the arguments against accepting the UEC as part of a nation-building curriculum.

"If my arguments appear lacking in substance, I ask Malaysians to remember that Azwandin, Jamal Yunos, Zamihan, Ibrahim Ali, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman and Bung Moktar never sat for the UEC examination. They all came from the national or religious school system. Need I say more?," he added.

So, based on what Dr Mohd Tajuddin has said, I too am left totally confused as to what the acceptance of UEC has got to do with nation building.

From my personal view, it just looks like the PH is becoming nothing more than a BN 2.0 - they are trying to keep a segment of the country happy while neglecting the rest.

I can gather from this, that slowly but surely, the DAP which had a good grasp of the Chinese community prior to the last general will lose it's grip and either the community move it's support back to the MCA or a new political force emerge.

Either way, it is time for PH to walk the talk and not take the rakyat for a ride. We are tired of you being such cowards and want you to make a firm, clear decision - fast.