IN another three months, Malaysia will be celebrating National Day again on Aug 31.
Back in my schooling years, National Day was a day when schoolchildren were given free coupons to watch black and white movies in cinemas such as Savoy, Lido, Capitol, Rex, Federal and Cathay, just to name a few.
Going to the cinema was a luxury back then even though it only cost 65 cents for a ticket (and only 40 cents for seats in the first few rows in front of the giant screen).
Fast forward to the present and we will see teachers and pupils in a typical government school in Peninsular Malaysia busy decorating their school with the national flag, Jalur Gemilang, by mid-August.
Schools will also organise various patriotism-related activities associated with the National Day and Malaysia Day on Sept 16. In addition, an assembly will usually be conducted to kick-start the launching of Bulan Kemerdekaan (Independence Month). Next comes another assembly on the eve of National Day and finally one more for the closing of Bulan Kemerdekaan, which usually coincides with the eve of Malaysia Day.
During these assemblies, most pupils get truly energised. Patriotic songs with catchy tunes like Tanggal 31, Keranamu Malaysia and Jalur Gemilang are played and the children will sing along while waving miniature national flags.
Understandably, many young schoolgoers today relate National Day to the singing of patriotic songs, just like how I associated it with free cinema shows decades ago.
Without a doubt, schools are great platforms from which to inculcate patriotism among the young. However, are teachers – under the instructions of Education Ministry officials perhaps – over-doing such assemblies (and activities) at the expense of lessons in schools?
Sadly, some pupils choose to skip school on days when these assemblies are held. School administrators need to honestly relook at the effectiveness of such programmes. Are they truly impactful or counterproductive?
Something is definitely not right when children opt to stay away from schools.
In fact, every adult inside and outside the school has a role to play when it comes to instilling patriotism among young Malaysians. The arguments among politicians and leaders of various organisations over race and religion certainly do not help.