Deciding on a language of instruction for their children – whether it is Malay, Chinese, English or Tamil – has become a conundrum for many families. It goes to the core of a larger question that nags this multiethnic nation: What constitutes Malaysian identity?
Is there one Malaysian way, requiring Chinese and Indian Malaysians to become ever more Malaysian? Or does Malaysian identity consist of varied cultures and languages that are, or ought to be, of equal standing?
Parents complain that the quality of state-run schools has dropped while Islamic content has increased. Some Malay parents send their children to Chinese-language schools, although they are more expensive because of a lack of government support.
Racial distinctions in Malaysia and the government policy of supporting a single national school system in the Malay language make choosing a school a political minefield.