Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ismail has warned that without a single stream education system that uses English as the medium of instruction, a ‘5Malaysia’ will emerge instead of 1Malaysia.
"The Malays go to national schools, where the Chinese feel alienated, while the Indians go to Tamil schools. Where is the unity?" he asked in an interview published by The Star today.
"All this is driving the races apart," Sultan Ibrahim added.
Early last month, he said Johor should emulate Singapore's single stream education system, which uses English as the medium of instruction, as it has succeeded in fostering unity, regardless of race or religion.
This has also set the island republic ahead of Malaysia, the ruler said in the interview, citing the example of how Singapore students were faring very well in mathematics and science subjects.
The Johor Sultan also criticised Malaysian politicians for remaining in self-denial or trying to play politics with education.
"They want to be heroes of their races. They talk about nationalism but in the end, do they send their children to boarding schools in Australia and the United Kingdom to learn in the Malay medium?" he questioned.
Class issues will arise as well
The sultan also pointed out that Malaysia currently does have English-medium schools, referring to private and international schools.
"But they are only available to the middle and upper-middle class from urban areas. So, soon, we will also have a class issue.
“This is all due to the myopic planning and thinking of our politicians," Sultan Ibrahim lamented.
The Malay language should not be forgotten either, he added, saying it should be taught in schools as it is the country's national language.
He further explained that the other languages could be compulsory subjects in schools, even with English as the medium of instruction.
Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan has welcomed Sultan Ibrahim's suggestion and claimed that higher usage of English has always been incorporated in all levels of education in Malaysia.
Kamalanathan said the strengthening of both the English and Malay languages was specifically mentioned in the Malaysian Education Blueprint to improve the country's education system.
"We have always adopted the best practices from around the world to enhance the Malaysian education," Kamalanathan said.
However, he could not say if the Malaysian education system would adopt English as the medium of instruction in schools.