Home > News > Nation
Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 8:02:00 AM
Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 11:29:05 AM
by zaid ibrahim
Endless possibilities await our school system and if stakeholders are willing to cooperate, a new model for the advancement of quality education will be possible.
NOW the buzzword is “quality education” and this comes ahead of the much-awaited launch of the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 next month.
Malaysians are waiting anxiously to see what difference the new blueprint will make to our schools and our students.
We must remember that there has been no shortage of plans to reform national education in the past but they were all made up mostly of slogans and mere expressions of ideas from politicians and administrators.
These old plans fell far short in terms of implementation and execution. They had zero impact in making concrete changes to the school system, particularly the curriculum. For the most part, they have been an unfunny joke.
Well, at least we actually have a blueprint. We had a similar document under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration but there was no implementation. Let’s hope there will be no repeat of past failures.
The current Education Minister, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, is known for his firm views on many subjects.
He is unafraid to defend his policies and opinions in public. This time, he has taken a swipe at the Chinese educationist lobby – the United Chinese Schools Committees Association of Malaysia, or Dong Zong – and has said that the Education Blueprint will be implemented regardless of what anyone might say or do.
I like his style and I hope that more of our leaders will display the same kind of commitment to policy.
That said, many Malaysians are still not convinced that the blueprint will be implemented or that a new curriculum will be put in place. The Education Minister, I am sure, will listen to criticism if that criticism is justified.
Dong Zong and its allies always focus their arguments on the future of vernacular schools and education in the Chinese medium.
They rarely make any reference to educational issues outside their immediate sphere of operation.
This is understandable – Dong Zong does not pretend to represent anyone else except Chinese schools.
Nonetheless, I think that their approach is wrong.
I think they are being unnecessarily selfish in this particular case because a quality education for all Malaysians is of critical importance. If we widen the discussion to include Malaysian access to quality education, the Chinese educational lobby will naturally also benefit.
How? Dong Zong will have the ability to play a central role in shaping the future of education in our country if only it would exploit its ability to contribute positively to the discussion. In this, I hope it will widen its area of interest beyond vernacular schools and seize the opportunity to be more than a single-platform organisation.
From my brief reading of the core principles of the blueprint, I don’t believe that the Government envisages doing away with vernacular schools at all. As such, I don’t know why this particular fear always makes it to the top of the list of priorities for Dong Zong and its allies.
Quite the contrary, the blueprint contains a plan to pair up national-type, religious and private schools for the purpose of promoting greater unity through shared co-curricular activities. The blueprint also sketches a plan to have all pupils become at least trilingual in Bahasa Malaysia, English, and one other language including Chinese, Tamil, Iban, Kadazan Dusun, and so forth.
Don’t just take my word for it. Read it for yourself here:http://www.moe.gov.my/userfiles/file/PPP/Preliminary-Blueprint-Eng.pdf
Surely there is nothing wrong with making friends outside one’s own ethnicity, language community and socio-economic background? If anything, it will strengthen respect for and understanding of one’s own background.
If I have a criticism to make here, I might say that perhaps we aren’t going far enough or quickly enough.
As a first step, I would encourage pupils – as well as their parents – to master as many of the languages spoken in our country as possible.
We will then have less of a chance to misunderstand one another when we go on to discuss complex issues.
There is another reason why I think my friends in Dong Zong should champion a quality education for all Malaysians. The more we depend on an exclusivist style of ethnic representation, the more we will appear “chauvinistic” in the eyes of those outside our community. Here, I refer directly to Chinese-Malay relations at a time when Malay ultranationalism has gone completely off the rails.
I hope that Dong Zong won’t wait for someone else to make the first step at rapprochement.
If it can interest itself in the larger question of the future of the national educational curriculum, it can provide invaluable feedback on how the blueprint can be implemented more effectively.
Maybe Dong Zong can present its own plans for implementation too – and none of us need reminding that there is probably still a huge disconnect between the elegant phraseology of the blueprint and intended final result.
Education in this country must be improved. Almost everyone agrees with this, and yet when the Government introduces a policy, there is always insufficient discussion of the nitty-gritty by stakeholders – individuals, organisations and even political parties.
Every paragraph of the blueprint should be analysed, dissected and criticised. Every action plan must be practical and practicable.
Here, I hope that Pakatan Rakyat will put forward its own ideas on the national curriculum and how the blueprint should be implemented.
This kind of engagement will help bring us all back to the discussion table.
If cooperation among different groups is possible, I am sure that the “tough measures” that we will undoubtedly need can be implemented smoothly and a new model for the advancement of a quality education in Malaysia will be possible. Endless possibilities, to use another catchphrase, await our school system. We must seize the moment.
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)