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Survey: 1 In 2 Malaysians Have Experienced Being Discriminated Against In School

The majority said they have also never reported the incidents to their teachers, school administration, parents, or police.

Cover image via Muhd Asyraf Sawal/New Straits Times & Focus Malaysia

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A survey estimates that one in every two Malaysians have experienced some form of discrimination while they were in school

The nationwide survey – titled 'Discrimination in Education' – saw responses from 2,441 people on their perceptions and past experiences of discrimination while schooling.

The study was conducted by Sekolah Semua and Architects of Diversity, youth movements aimed at addressing identity-based discrimination in education in Malaysia.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Nadim Bokhari/New Straits Times

The survey defined discrimination as any unequal treatment, exclusion, lack of access, preference, or harassment done based on a person's identity

This includes their race, religion, skin colour, belief, gender, language, geography, socioeconomic status, physical disability, mental disability, and sexual orientation.

Of the 2,441 who responded, 36% said they have experienced verbal discrimination, 21% have experienced harassment, ostracism, or bullying, and 18% reported they were once denied access to opportunities because of their identities.

Indian respondents reported significantly more experiences of perceived race-based discrimination in schools (87%) compared to other racial groups.

The survey also found that Indian respondents reported the highest rate of experiencing verbal discrimination (54%) and being denied access to opportunities (40%) because of their identity than other racial groups.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Shafwan Zaidon/Malay Mail

As part of the survey, people were also asked if they reported the incidents of perceived discrimination to authorities

Worryingly, the majority (54%) said they did not report their incidents of perceived discrimination to either teachers, school administration, parents, or police.

Most (61%) of those who did not report said they did not think reporting would have made a difference.

Meanwhile, among those who did report, 48% cited that no investigation or action was taken.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via New Straits Times

The initiative hopes that further research can be conducted as the current survey is retrospective in nature and has its limitations

"Anecdotally, many of us know of Malaysians that have faced negative and harmful experiences in schools because of their race, gender, and other identities," said Jason Wee, co-founder of Architects of Diversity.

"With the results of this survey, we hope that Malaysia as a country can start to better confront our discrimination problem."

The full technical report of the survey can be downloaded here.

If you have experienced any form of discrimination in school, you may visit Sekolah Semua's website to report your case and contribute to the survey.

This year, social media users helped expose the culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in Malaysian schools:

Meanwhile, racism is continuously perpetuated in our education system: