Unity Amid Diversity: The Malaysian Multicultural Experience
Multiculturalism is not a new phenomenon in Malaysia. Being a cultural-rich and a pluralistic society, Malaysia has always been diverse culturally since her independence in 1957. In retrospect, the end of the cold war held forth a promise for emerging and progressive democracies around the world. This promise recognized the basic human right of people of all cultures, races and religions to live and prosper in harmony together. It promised a society where cultural differences are honored and not just tolerated; a society where the enduring ideals and ideas of humankind can thrive. In many ways, Malaysia upholds these aspirations. At the school level, the Malaysian government has introduced "Vision School" to enhance cross-cultural understanding and national unity among different races and diverse cultural backgrounds. The lack of cross-cultural understanding or sensitivity on the part of the teachers has serious implications because it affects classroom management and consequently students’ learning. An overall understanding of the significant role of cultural variables in cross-cultural interaction may act as a bridge to mutual understanding and acceptance in situations of cultural conflict. Cross-culture understanding, however, involves more than knowledge of how and why other people think and behave as they do. Understanding someone from another culture also involves adjusting one’s own world-view. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to present the reform initiatives in Malaysia in promoting intercultural understanding.
Keywords: Multiculturalism, Diversity, Vision Schools, Malaysia
Dr. Ramlee Mustapha
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia