The Education Act and the contested space of education
Education occupies a controversial and heavily contested space in Malaysia with multiple claims made on it by what is still essentially a plural society; on issues such as mother tongue education (vernacular schools), the medium of instruction, community and home education and the basic school curriculum. The Act attempts to balance these claims using nation building and racial unity as mediating principles, but not all claimants are satisfied by what they find in the Act, or even with the argument that the National Education system (NES) has contributed to greater national unity. To the extent that some of the dissatisfaction stems from facing the monopoly of a single monolithic NES that left little choice to dissidents, that particular issue may have been somewhat mitigated in recent years by the new policy, (itself paradoxical, given the battle for a common education for all), of allowing the expansion of private schools teaching to different curricula imported from all over the world. The creation of choices in basic and secondary education and even in Islamic education, is the most spectacular change taking place in the education landscape today. (Learners always had a choice in higher education, which developed through the private sector). The recently published Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015 makes much of the diversity that is found in our education system;
. . . with multiple schooling options at the primary and secondary level, both public and private, the Malaysian education system provides an unparalleled degree of choice for parents and students (Page 3-21). This variety is a result of the nation’s historical legacy and rich diversity. The Ministry is committed to providing quality education to all students across all types of schools. Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015, 2014, p. 7-17
Whether this will be for the better for everyone concerned is a question that only the future will answer.