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WE have achieved 53 years of independence but sadly, we still hear and read
about racist statements being made every other day.

These statements wound not only the sensitive hearts of Malaysians but act as a solid barrier to unity, patriotism and
most importantly, racial integration.@

Having been born and bred in a small town, Taiping, Perak, and having not had any problems mingling with the other
races, I realised, however, that youngsters in the urban areas seem to lack friends from other races. Perhaps, my
observations are wrong, but they can¶t be entirely so because I always come across groups of teenagers mixing only
with those of the same race; be it at shopping malls or food stalls.

I am not exaggerating as I can actually count the number of times I have bumped into groups comprising different
races. Could this be because teenagers in cities do not have the opportunity to mingle with the other races? There
could be many factors behind this. In my opinion, one of the main reasons are the schools these children attend.
During my primary and secondary school years, I was in a national school and I must say that I enjoyed my carefree
student life. Throughout my growing up years, I learned so much about diversity, and the cultures and traditions of the
other two main races ² the Malays and Indians ² and how these have made Malaysia special in the eyes of the
world.

Until today, I can proudly say that the friendships that I have cultivated throughout my school days are still intact. I,
therefore, believe that the national school system has its merits. But if I had to choose ² I would agree with the idea
of having only single-stream schools in the country, as suggested by historian Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay
Kim.

I strongly believe that racial unity can be better achieved with a single- stream education system.

Although the subject has been thoroughly debated and several non-governmental organisations are against the idea
as they fear the unique identities of their communities will be adversely affected, I believe it will help foster better
interracial relations among the younger generation.

As seen in the Cognitive and Psychosocial Profile of Malaysian Adolescents study which was carried out in 2007 by a
group of academics from the Education Faculty of Universiti Malaya, only 52 per cent of teen respondents said they
had a friend of a different race. Only 12.8 per cent felt that it was an issue while 63.9 per cent were more worried
about contracting a disease.

As such, shouldn¶t the building of interracial relations be of utmost priority and supersede everything else? Even after
all these years following Malaysia¶s independence, racial prejudice and bigotry continue to exist.

Education is an integral factor in fostering racial integration and since our formative years are at school, it is best that
unity and understanding be built in schools.

Teachers have important roles to play in educating students. Rather than utter racist remarks, teachers should teach
their charges the beauty and importance of living harmoniously with each other. Parents too must play their role and
guide their children so they are able differentiate between what¶s right and wrong.

Read more: United, we stand http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/United_westand/Article/#ixzz0gvC4oiRO@