Celebrating patriotism

Together we stand: There needs to be a deep understanding and respect for the diversity of the various ethnic cultures. – Filepic

PEACE and harmony are very important. For those who remember, the country went through dark times with the May 13, 1969, riots.

I was only 10 years old when the chaos broke out, and was stuck with my parents at our shophouse in Kuala Lumpur’s Loke Yew district, next to the infamous area behind the Shaw Road Fire and Rescue Services Station.

It was a fiercely guarded Chinese area. We stayed in for days, giving refuge to our neighbour’s Malay security guard until we were rescued by the authorities some days later.

While touted as racial riots, there have been many stories of neighbours, be they Malay, Chinese or Indian, who rallied and protected each other.

Whenever disaster occurs, many in our society step up to help. We saw the spirit of togetherness during the Covid-19 pandemic, the floods, and the Bendera Putih movement.

Malaysians always rally together to help those in need. This is the Malaysian spirit I have come to know and love.

In recent times, however, Malaysia feels like it is being shrouded by a cloud of uncertainty as racial and religious polemics are being bandied about. It is not a new occurrence, but what was exceptional is starting to be normalised. We must thus ask ourselves: Is it worth it? Access to education for all Racial and religious polemics often arise from a place of insecurity – economic, cultural or social.

Quality education is the solution because it is the most powerful tool that is able to lead people out of such insecurity.

The most developed countries in the world, despite having their own challenges, are often able to rise above, thanks to access to quality education for all.

A review on data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2022 for its economic and social outcomes report concluded that with education, people have better and more equal opportunities to move up the social ladder. which in turn leads to more just societies.

Additionally, education leads to increased levels of civic engagement, which encompasses participation in volunteering and voting, which in turn contributes to the development of more secure communities.

Individuals with higher levels of education also experience improved health outcomes, leading to enhanced longevity and overall well-being.

Let us look at the Nordic countries. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland have consistently topped global surveys as the happiest people in the world.

In these countries, education is free based on the principles that everyone should have the same opportunities in education, regardless of social or economic background.

We also live in a time too obsessed with quantitative outcomes that we forget about the qualitative aspects – values, humanity and kindness.

Educators, be they teachers in school or lecturers in colleges or universities, must not compromise on taking time to instil positive values and ethics in their students.

We must seek to not only educate our students with textbook knowledge, but also prepare them for life by providing experiences for personal development in terms of character-building with emphasis on values such as integrity and humility, as well as grooming them to be responsible citizens by having them engage with local communities to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Whatever we are teaching our students, from coding and cooking to engineering and events, we must strive to provide them with a holistic well-rounded education, aim to be a place of learning which will open their eyes and minds, and also be that place where they can see the world from a different perspective.

The emphasis of education now is on equipping students with relevant skills for the 21st century workforce.

For a brighter future

We need to acknowledge the youth community, who plays a crucial role in ensuring unity in the country.

There needs to be a deep understanding and respect for the diversity of the various ethnic cultures, and that people are truly important in encouraging ties of friendship, tolerance and mutual respect.

For a better and brighter future of Malaysia, let us all celebrate what makes us different and unique, for only by doing so can we recognise the positive impact diversity has within our own circles of friends and family, not to mention our communities, our workplaces and of course, our beloved nation.

A shoutout to young Malaysians: the future of this country is in your hands. You need to step up to be responsible, honest and respectful citizens.

Look at the broader picture, embrace democracy, learn, understand and appreciate the values and customs of our fellow citizens, especially those of other races, ethnic groups, cultures and religious beliefs.

All areas of our country’s growth, be it political, social or economic, depend on this.

As we raise the Jalur Gemilang in celebration of our nation’s 66th Merdeka celebration on Aug 31 and the 60th year of the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, I would like to ask all of you to take a moment or two to think about what you can do for our country.

The theme for this year’s National Day and Malaysia Day, “Malaysia Madani: Tekad Perpaduan, Penuhi Harapan”, which translates to “Determination in Unity, Fulfilling Hope”, is an apt reminder to all on the importance of unity.

Let us celebrate being Malaysian. Selamat Hari Merdeka and Happy Malaysia Day, everyone.

Prof Datuk Dr Elizabeth Lee is the chief executive officer of Sunway Education Group. A veteran in the field of private higher education, Prof Lee is also an advocate for women in leadership. She has been recognised both locally and internationally for her contributions to the field of education. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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live&learn , Sunway , unity , Malaysian


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