*Ong Sheau Wen & Ihediwa Samuel Chibundu
The vernacular school system in Malaysia has long been controversial, with national integration a focal point. Oftentimes, the range of voices over issue definition and interpretation is linked to a process of inter-ethnic negotiation and contestation with media becoming an important platform for public debate. Building on the notion that media framing has important implications for public discussion and government policy through content selection and emphasis, the present study analyses the framing of the vernacular school system in the news coverage of Malaysia’s multi-lingual newspapers. A total of 555 news stories published throughout 2015 were content analyzed. It was found that both Chinese and Malay language newspapers have somewhat different focus in that they were primarily concerned with reporting education issues from a specific ethnic perspective. Interestingly, the English newspaper with its mostly English-educated, ethnically more diverse readership inclined to provide a bigpicture understanding of the issue under study. Results of the study suggest that the ethnic focus of Chinese and Malay newspapers posed an obstacle to reporting on diversity and thus limiting the experience of their readers in a culturally homogenous setting despite their popularity. One strength of the English newspaper lay in the inclusiveness of its coverage where the readers could receive news from every nook and corner of the multi-ethnic society. This study will contribute to the literature on news framing of education issues by providing a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing vernacular schools, which could serve as a consideration of the government policy-making process towards equitable development of public education at all levels.
Keywords: framing, vernacular education, national integration, ethnic identity, Malaysian media