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International Schools: Read the original report, not FMT’s misleading headlines

On 16 September 2022, I took part in a forum entitled “Malaysia After 59 Years: Separate and Unequal Education” organised by the Architects of Diversity and the WAO at the KLSCAH.

Malaysiakini, which covered the event, published excerpts of my remarks in an article entitled “Improve education system so parents won’t send kids to int’l schools – MP” ().

It noted that: “Nik Nazmi said he does not mean international schools should be shut down, but he is merely pointing out some of the issues plaguing the education system.

“‘I think the government has no choice but to make national schools work and to convince parents to get kids back to national schools. It has worked in the past before, and it can happen again with the right policy,’ he said.”

Free Malaysia Today, which did not cover the event, also published an article (), based entirely off Malaysiakini’s reporting. The FMT’s initial headline however was: “Good policy to bar Malaysians from international schools,” says PKR man”.

Later this was amended to: “Bar on Malaysians from international schools was a good policy, says PKR man”.

I would argue that both of FMT’s headlines are misleading. As I was quoted in the Malaysiakini article:

‘”During my time, the government did not allow most Malaysians to go to international schools. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think that’s a good policy because if you go to private school, you still … go through the national education system. Today, as long as you have some money, it’s an aspirational thing. I don’t blame parents for sending their kids there (to international school)…but it breaks up the (education) system…Then the national schools become more and more mono-ethnic and dominated by one race,’ Nik Nazmi said.”

I was simply explaining how Malaysia’s education system got to the place it is today. I did not call for Malaysians to be barred from international schools nor did I blame their existence for ethnic polarisation.

As one of the organisers tweeted in response to the FMT: “A deeply misguided headline by FMT, that transformed YB Nik Nazmi’s quote for a provocative title. Within the article itself you’d find the full quote that itself contravenes the implied title” ().

The very fact that the FMT amended their headline suggests they realised their mistake.

However, it is unfortunate that several politicians, media and civil society groups, have chosen to adopt the FMT’s rather than Malaysiakini’s more accurate line of reporting. As noted, the former did not even bother to show up at the talk—the latter did.

To set the record straight, I have always supported Malaysian parents being given CHOICE when it comes to their children’s education.

For my part, I strongly believe that the national school stream is the best way forward for Malaysia in terms of unity and social mobility. My children, I should add, goes to a national school.

I also believe that Malaysian governments must work, whether in terms of improving quality and access, or making such schools more inclusive, so that the national stream becomes the first, most desirable option for all Malaysian parents.

However, I have also defended the continued existence of vernacular, private, religious and international schools. While I may not send my children such schools—I will always defend the rights of parents to choose to send their kids to them.

I have stood, all my life, against any kind of gender, racial and religious discrimination. That is why I took part in the Architects for Diversity event.

Parental choice in education while empowering the national stream are two imperatives that can exist and be accomplished side-by-side in Malaysia. Education cannot be a zero-sum game in our country.

I hope that all parties that wish to criticise or respond to my supposed comments will do themselves a service by reading the more factually accurate Malaysiakini report of the event first.