Can we have a truly Malaysian education system for all?

Judging from the heated debates stemming from a remark by Prof Khoo Kay Khim that the Chinese education system produces copycats, which prompted Dr Kua Kia Soong to give a lengthy comment in The Sun (Wed, Dec 9, 2009) to defend the system, one would conclude that when it comes to the Chinese education system in Malaysia, Malaysian Chinese are deeply divided. It seems that whenever someone tries to critic the system (especially from one who is deemed un-Chinese for not speaking the language), the supporters of the system would come up in arms to defend the institution that symbolizes its racial and cultural identity which is deemed at risk of diminishing in this Malay-dominated country. It is precisely this huge fear of losing one’s Chinese identity and eventually, one’s relevance in this country, that prompts Chinese educationists and its various movements to make very loud noises in order to be heard and to stay relevant to the community.

However, this line of thinking works to cloud the mind from seeing the bigger picture. And the bigger picture, when one detaches oneself from one’s narrow views on the subject, would be going beyond the race-based systems to reach an all-embracing education environment for all. An environment that will prepare a child that who will be living in a world with a future we cannot truly predict. We need to go beyond race, beyond cultures and even beyond nationalities. This does not mean that a Chinese becomes less Chinese, or a Malay, less Malay. On the contrary, we become more encompassing – by internalizing our cultural knowledge and wisdom beyond the external cultural heritage that everyone tries to uphold and preserve.

At present, the education environment in schools and institutions of higher learning leaves much to be desired with their race-based, discriminatory practices and even political patronage. Politicians and educationists may argue from their pedestal (while their children are educated overseas), but way down on the ground, if they even care to look, are the real stake-holders – the children, the students.

Do you see how big the bags these children have to bear on their backs day-in and day-out?
Do you feel the weight of schooling bearing down upon their minute bodies as they climb up countless flights of stairs,
To reach their classrooms where knowledge is supposed to be imparted by certified and qualified teachers?
Do you hear the cries of children being muffled by stacks of homework that seems endless and meaningless?
Do you see the irrelevance of much of what they are learning?

If we truly care about the education of our young, we should all sit down together – the teachers, the parents, the policy makers, the students (especially the students!) – to openly discuss about the purpose of education, the approaches and the processes to reach a common goal. We need to ask the right questions, like:

“What does it mean to be a Malaysian?”
“How is Malaysian identity shaped through education?”
“What is it and what does it take to get there?”
“How do we make learning relevant and meaningful to the development of humanity versus ‘human capital’?”
“What does it really mean when we say that we are a multi-cultural and multi-religious nation?”

Because every country has its own unique issues and problems and hence its own unique ways to tackle educational issues, we have to rely on our country’s unique history and come up with creative and significant ways to reach a common goal. We cannot do this when we are still fighting each other for racial or cultural relevance. We have to put aside our differences (but that does not mean to throw them away!) and genuinely work together for a common purpose.

Seeing how the politicians are still fighting in the political arena, the rakyat would have to come forward and work towards a solution themselves. This is where the academicians, the educators and the “educatees” should be a force to be reckoned with by coming together with one voice, not for selfish reasons, not for personal or political gains, not for short-term benefits, but for the national good of the country, so that as a nation, we are comparable and respectable force in the international arena. We desperately need to do this if we want to stand tall and proud as a united nation in a globalized world. We have to go beyond politics, beyond language and beyond systems to reach a place that would make us a people with pride and principles.

It is not a matter of who is right or who is wrong. It is a matter of our very own survival as a nation in this fast-changing and highly competitive world!

Beyond all this, it is about the happiness and the future of our children.

Wai Leng & KV Soon

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3 Responses to Can we have a truly Malaysian education system for all?

  1. Audrey Lee says:

    Yes, I do agree that policy makers should listen to parents, educators and students’ views before they implement any policy. I send my children to Kebangsaan primary school and was happy that the Govt announced that there will be Mandarin and Tamil classes in the schools. However, my children’s school only offered were Bahasa Arab and Tamil. When I asked, “What about Bahasa Cina?”, the teacher answered, “There are not enough chinese students to run a class” I was surprised that the school headmaster has made this decision. I think it is important that the headmaster should let the students and parents decide. Many non-chinese parents may opt for chinese class as well. I ended up sending my son to the Arab class. I know he finds it difficult and as encouragement, I tell him, I am happy if he pass the subject and told him that I learnt Jawi in school as well. I think if language classes are conducted in a more interactive style, eg. drama, talentine, role-play, etc., students will find it more interesting and useful and they will like to learn the language.

  2. Nerrad Tan says:

    DEBATE: Tan Sri Dato Dr. Khoo Kay Kim(KKK) & YB Datuk Dr. Wee Ka Siong(WKS)
    ISSUE: Does the Chinese Education System Produce ‘Copycats?’

    I happened to watch the so-called debate between Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Dr. Khoo Kay Kim and Datuk Wee Ka Siong (Deputy Education Minister) last night. The topic of the debate “Chinese School Education, is it an advantage?” and “Chinese School produces copycats.”

    This debate reminded of the controversial statement that KKK mentioned sometime back that Chinese School produces copycats. I would have agreed with him partially as I was a product of National School. I send both my children to Chinese School just for them to have an advantage of mastering another universal language.

    KKK was already fidgeting even before the debate starts and when he was given the microphone to speak first, I almost dropped dead. This old fart can even speak properly and whatever that comes out from him mouth does not explain to the issue of Chinese School producing copycats. Before the debate start, I thought the old horse (KKK) will kick the ass out of WKS but instead KKK made a donkey out of himself with some stupid explanations that my eleven year old son can do better. Every word that came out of his mouth is not related to the issue of the debate. One can see the response of the audience in utter disbelief. If not for the NTV censorship, KKK would have been the most disgraceful to all Malaysian. He should be watching last night and regretted that he attended the debate.

    KKK should not have accepted to attend the debate in the first place. He only thinks highly of himself and the British and American Education System which in the first place not adopted in our National Schools. He even lambasted the Singapore and China Education System knowing well that National University of Singapore ranked 4th best in Asia and Chinese Universities littered the top 20s. NUS is also rank as the best in South east Asia and MU where KKK works ranks 18th. Don’t even asked where MU stands in the world ranking. With people like KKK around in MU, no wonders the standard of education in Malaysia has dropped so badly. I have great respect for KKK based on the articles written about him and I read history books written by him. As of this moment, I think he is fits to teach only in the kindergartens.

    Of course WKS came well prepared with the data and reference names of students from SRJK (CINA) with roll of honours and those who have done extremely well on the global scene.. KKK came holding two books, probably history books and then he mumbled throughout the debate without any substance and we can see the audience laughing at his unintelligent and incorrigible explanation. WKS should have whack the hell out of KKK instead of mumbling of the Constitution and the present education system which both of them are part of it. Well, that what politician does.

    What did we gain from this debate? Nothing! The issue was not properly debated and the answers to the copycat’s issues remain as it is. I hope my children will gain some advantage from the education in Chinese School which I think is the reason why parent send their children to, irrespective whether there are Malay, Chinese or Indian. As for KKK, I think it is time for gardening and look after the grand children and keep his mouth shut before he losses out on his status as an Academician in Malaysia. For me, I am learning Mandarin from my children, helping out in their homework by looking into the dictionary as I have no formal Chinese education. I have learn a lot in the past few years from my children and that the advantage. Copycats or not, I will wait and see.

    PS: For those who miss the debate on NTV7, you can find the full debate on Youtube and the best part uncensored.

  3. Shirley says:

    I truly agree with you. In fact, I did put up some suggestions to get the ball rolling here:

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