Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Sun Interview with Dr Rais Yatim

I've quoted the teaser quote publised in the Sun a few days back here, and the full interview is published in this weekend's the Sun. You can also read the full interview here.

The bulk of the article deals with the National Cultural policy for Malaysia, the problems he faces such as religion vs culture, multi-racial & inter-racial culture which are fairly sensitive issues for Malaysia. For this post, I'll just highlight the sections which were relevant to our education policy.
The Sun: You mentioned education just now. I remember our second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak said in 1965 "our National Education Policy is aimed at bringing children of all races together, learning the same thing in the same way and under the same roof so that they will feel that they share the same ideal and the same country". But this is not happening.

Yes, it is not happening. You are right. To a certain extent it does happen. Let me admit again. Culture can be nurtured. It does not happen by chance. Culture can be nurtured in the cocoon or in the testing bed. Now what is the testing bed? The testing bed is education, the schools. Instead of sharing a common experience, we see polarisation of the races. No shared experience. This because there are Chinese schools and Tamil schools. And Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) today is not what was envisaged long ago as a place our children learn and grow up together. We want all races to pass through the same schools, but they are not. In the 60s and 70s, yes, but not now.

The Sun: Why is this happening?

Because they see certain things in the Sekolah Kebangsaan which frighten them. Too much religion, too much Islam. They became frightened. That is the big impediment to the races studying together under one roof. Therefore, if Islam in schools can be reduced, SK can once again play the role intended for it. Now it is not about the teaching of ugama that is being questioned. No, not that. Have religious classes by all means. But keep away Islam from other aspects of life in the school. No doa at the assembly, no doa in the classroom except during religious classes. Then, and only then can Sekolah Kebangsaan be the crucible where shared experience is cooked. Finally, we must improve the quality of teachers in SK.
Yes, the last sentence was short but its importance probably the greatest - the Chinese community will unfortunately continue to shun the national schools if the quality of teachers in the Sekolah Kebangsaans do not improve. See also example of obnoxious head of school here.


John Lee said...

That's why I'm always harping on improving national schools when the issue of vernacular schools comes up - so we can slowly phase out vernacular schools. Unfortunately, after people read the second part, amnesia seems to kick in, and all they can remember is "You said you want to get rid of vernacular schools!"

Anonymous said...

I have read the obnoxious head of school post, and really regret this type of incident does happen in Malaysia.

The school principal is behaving more like bureaucrat than an educator.

Look it from a positive point of view, it is a good learning opportunity for this small kid to
learn how to deal with the actual life in Malaysia, where bureaurats alwyas think they are above others.

I learn this first experience back when I was 14 years old, where my order of first day covers was straded in Butterworth Main Post Office, on the pretext that they want to impose levy on the purchase.

My dad took the trouble to bring me there. There is no clear cut procedures, except we met 3 different officers before we were allowed to pay the levy and get the parcel.

Looking back now, I wonder if that is necessary to be presence in the Buttwerworth post office to solve that ???

They could just send the parcel to the nearest post office to my house, and request me to solve the matter.

Well..bureaucrat mentality -- a mirror of Malaysian society.

They often forget that they are public servants !!!

And they forget they are put in the
position to serve the people and the nation in the first place.

Well, should they forget this,
let us not hesitate to remind them again !

Anonymous said...

Well, at least Dr Rais's effort is a bold first step to correct things. As an aside, anyone notice how the older politicians / bureaucrats have been speaking up recently?

Frankly, and in response to BigJoe's comment that religion is the primary issue and quality a secondary one, I feel both share equal importance. Don't know about other parents though.

At risk of incurring the wrath of our privileged friends, I'd ask how much time is spent on the doas. This is the logical part of me speaking. After all, there is only so much time to cover the syllabus, isn't there? Then again , it's hard to deal with their laid-back nature which precedes logic.

Non-Malay parents also fear that their kids will be converted by the incessant conditioning of the doas. To be brutally logical again, if our kids are strong enough, they ought be able to treat it "one ear in, the other ear out!" But young minds aren't.

Then there's the issue of quality. The govt can say it's investing in all the hardware but I believe our primary concern is the quality of the "live" and "soft"ware.

It all boils down to attitude. As the other comments show, it's their thought processes which are the problem.

As long as they have the "this is my land ... so I'll do as I like and you listen to me ... else you go back to your land" attitude, there will be no change.

Still, a promising start I think. How about that Bakri Musa guy? He seems to be talking some sense. Only thing is that he's ranting from over in the US - so his credibility in the eyes of our privileged friends is suspect?