Education system needs drastic transformation

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YOURSAY | ’Progress and success of a nation depends on a good education system’

COMMENT | Open letter to our minister – fostering quality education

MS: Congratulations Ranjit. This well-written article comes across as a timely one given that Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek is said to be a reformist in the mould of her mentor and boss Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim – on the surface at least.

Even if the ascendance of “reformasi” is the case, we must never forget that Malay politicians without exception, have over the decades, weaponised education in furtherance of a supremacist ideology which they continue to wear as a badge of their Malay identity and right. This is why, despite its obvious factual sense and logic, your well-set-out argument is unlikely to persuade this and all other politicians who have embraced “ketuananism” both as a duty and as a religion.

The dismal state of Malaysian education which has failed in every measurable aspect is a direct consequence of that ideology. Tinkering about superficially (what Malay politicians have always done with education) without addressing and removing the root cause will only continue to give us more of the same.

Maintaining the status quo is what Anwar and his appointees will do to make sure they remain relevant to their supremacist Malay base and in the saddle. Especially because they are now forcibly working in cahoots with those who destroyed it in the first place.

My apologies for being a wet blanket. Your enthusiasm and courage to say so eloquently what needs to be said are commendable. But I see only a half-empty glass and that too will be emptied of all hope in no time.

Kilimanjaro: Frankly, I have given up on our education system a long time ago. It is not just broken. It has become regressive enough that attempting to repair it may not be the answer. It has to be revamped. Disasters have rocked the system.

Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s education blueprint must be gathering dust. For its glaring shortfalls, the blueprint name is a misnomer – it should have been named as a “red print”. Besides, we were cursed with leaders who lacked vision – former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob could have talked of the importance of further strengthening Bahasa and simultaneously pushing for better English literacy.

Instead, he put both languages at the polar ends. With such leaders, what can you expect? The greatest failure was the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). Those who insist on fondly quoting the Japanese and the Koreans to emphasise Bahasa Malaysia should aim their target for criticism against DBP. Just like Bahasa Malaysia, English is a language with vast volumes of original and translated works on very technical subjects.

Instead of doing a commendable job, the stalwarts of DBP were proposing punitive measures and actions against those who “disrespect” the language.

Shame on them for their failure. Just like a member of the Advisory Committee of Unesco’s Regional Centre of Quality and Excellence in Education Ranjit Singh Malhi, there have been concerned scholars and citizens who have reminded the government of the day to pursue a similar course as suggested by Ranjit.

The suggestions he has given would help the nation to wake up, but I doubt it is possible for now. The education system has streaked too deep into a tunnel that any exit or entrance will have very strong political and religious tremors. The preferred choice is not to rock the boat. If at all, it will get worse. We now have more than one Malaysia, all pulling in different directions.

There will be more talk and papers but very little coming by way of will and way. Going by merits – Ranjit, don’t tell me you are joking or daydreaming. You are asking the cat to look after the milk, putting it mildly and in a saner way.

Cogito Ergo Sum: I wonder how many in the Education Ministry read past the third paragraph of this article? It is impossible to ask when the administrators themselves are trained in passive and surface reading. Engaging with the text, asking critical questions and analysing passages are considered seditious and dangerous skills.

This is because it will nurture a society that questions very dubious policy decisions by the authorities. This will not do! There is an invisible agenda woven deep into the education system that purposely dumbs down evaluative skills. It’s a “yours is not to question why, but do it die” mantra hidden in the official pedagogical template of the system. It would be unthinkable to make our students think.

No outside-the-box thinking but stay inside it to be safe. To say it’s an uphill task is an understatement of the millennium. Too much to lose, and many former education ministers will be embarrassed.

Anon25: Ranjit I am amazed by your knowledge. About how to measure its value, why and where the faults are and how to fix what went wrong. To me, the root cause of the decline of our education system is the abolition of English as the medium of instruction in national schools. Restore that and the schools would simply recover.

The evidence – the students who went to schools between the war years and 1970 were the people who populated the civil service and helped Malaysia perform admirably among the newly emerging economies. They were all English-speaking. I am sure the education ministry will contact you. When she does, I suggest that you (and Malaysian-born and Canadian-trained surgeon M Bakri Musa) be senior advisors to advise her on how to fix our disgraceful education system.

Open minded 2281: There is no way our present government schools can improve as over years we have used race and religion to bring in underperforming ministry officials, school principals, teachers and so on. They have introduced more teaching time for religion than teaching maths and science.

Now to make changes would mean replacing huge numbers of staff which will not be possible. Maybe a better way is to encourage the setting up of private schools with some compulsory subjects and allow them the freedom to hire teachers. The cost savings of lesser government schools should be passed on to B40 children to attend these schools.

Fair Play: Ranjit, I suppose it is too little too late. I just hope that I am wrong. The damage done to the educational system would take about one generation to bear fruit. A generation, from the writer’s point of view, is about 25 years – from the point of entry – from birth to Primary One to fully trained teachers. A long journey indeed.

Do we believe there is the political will to make a wholesale change to the system where the mastery of the English Language is a prerequisite and the priority given to all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects?

Hothi: An interesting read Ranjit. The progress and success of a nation depend on a good education system. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can utilise to transform the world”. Your recommendations made to the education minister are timely and relevant. We hope she will give it a thought.


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