Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today stressed he had never at any time urged that vernacular schools in the country be abolished.
He said that instead, he had asked for the curriculum of vernacular schools to be improved upon so as to strengthen national unity in a multiracial society like Malaysia.
“The National Education Policy clearly states that the mother tongue should be encouraged in primary schools, but with a consolidated curriculum so that national unity goals can be achieved.”
Zahid said this to reporters after opening the Kuala Kangsar-level 'Ekspresi Negaraku' programme at Dataran Pavilion in Kuala Kangsar today, which was attended by over 10,000 people.
Also present were Perak Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir and Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak.
He was asked to clarify his statement suggesting that the education system in the country be reviewed in the interest of national unity because the existing system that consisted of various mediums made it difficult for cross-cultural interaction among pupils.
During a question-and-answer session after delivering a talk entitled 'A Knowledge Culture is the Foundation of the Nation’s Strength' in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Zahid was reported to have said that the existence of various medium schools from the pre-school stage up to secondary schools was somewhat an obstacle to achieving national unity goals.
“I had never at any time urged that vernacular schools be scrapped. Don’t misinterpret my statement,” Zahid said.
Meanwhile, PKR's Kapar MP G Manivanan said Zahid should not blame vernacular schools as hurdles to unity.
He said the National Unity and Integration Department should implement proper policies to foster unity.
He said among the steps that can be taken would be to abolish the race category in forms.
"All forms, be they government or private sector, should exclude the 'race' category immediately.
"Only one category is necessary - whether one is a citizen or not," he said.
He added that a single national identity was necessary to foster unity.
"The ideology of a single identity cannot be created if racial sentiment is played up to maintain power in Putrajaya," he said.
Manivanan said education should also be depoliticised.