THE government is planning to revive the National Service Training Programme or PLKN (“Govt plans to revive National Service programme”, The Star, Nov 24; online at bit.ly/star_national). While the objectives might look good on paper, serious consideration must be given to affordability, timing, and the possibility of better and cheaper alternatives.
PLKN started in 2004 when Datuk Seri Najib Razak was the Defence Minister and was dissolved in 2018 by the Pakatan Harapan government. It was reported that RM8.43bil of taxpayers’ money had been spent during the programme’s 14-year period, out of which 43% went towards renting training camps. A total of 885,956 youths had participated in the training.
There has been criticism that the programme failed in its main objective of instilling patriotism and fostering understanding, harmony and unity for a more caring society.
Although studies might show the PLKN was successful in achieving a score of about 80% in instilling patriotism, youth and adult behaviour among our populace does not show it. The fact that nearly half of the PLKN’s total cost went towards renting training camps also drew criticism.
Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) believes PLKN cannot and should not proceed until these criticisms are addressed. The objectives and design of the training programme are well-crafted and relevant to our multiracial and multireligious society. However, we believe that the training should begin at primary school level and continually move up to tertiary level.
The Japanese and South Korean education models to nurture patriotism and other good values beginning at an early age are examples that we can emulate. Western models may not suit us because their societies are too liberal and may run counter to conservative Asian values.
While Patriot agrees that PLKN is a good programme, its revival at this time when the country is facing economic and financial woes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is not necessary.
As an alternative, the Education Ministry could focus on developing extracurricular activities that could produce results similar to what the PLKN is designed to elicit, and at much reduced cost.
Activities such as scouting (Brownies, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides), outdoor motivational camps, military and police school cadets, and school choirs are good examples. The Red Crescent and St John’s Ambulance are good examples, too.
The Education Ministry should have experts in motivational training capable of developing training modules that meet similar objectives as PLKN.
BRIG-GEN DATUK MOHAMED ARSHAD RAJI (Rtd) , President, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot)
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