A parent's wish list for M'sia's education system

Introduction

As the general election draws near, I would like to put up my request that the political parties competing for this country's administration, and the future of my children's children, should put up their manifesto on education as the first and foremost priority.

As a 25-year veteran academic and as a 27-year veteran father of five (the eldest is now married and eight months pregnant), I feel somewhat qualified to put down my thoughts on a new primary and secondary school curriculum.

Let's face it, I don't care how many thousands score 12As in SPM or 5As in UPSR, I do not put much stock into rote learning which is unhealthy socially, physiologically and politically to our beloved nation.

It will never in a hundred years produce critical minds to grapple the problems of today and in the future. It will only produce mindless robots waiting for their next pay cheques.

Anyway what's 10 As as compared to the total tuition and motivation courses that have been forced onto the students and let's not forget some planned 'leaks' in SPM which I have personally found to be true.

Truly we are living in a fantasy world of thinking that our children have the best if they score those many As. I have put down my own thoughts on what our children should be educated in and I hope there are many comments so that we could help the work of the Education Ministry.

Years One to Three

The emphasis of the early education years of Years One, Two and Three is to strengthen the children's personal community identity as an entity within their own cultural construct.

We should not try to make them patriotic citizens of Malaysia yet but enough for them to know their own cultural and religious world. In this effort, ‘reading' must be emphasised and let no student get through without learning to read and to comprehend.

I have met many Year Four students who are Malay but can't read their own language. Rituals of religion must be practiced well and not learned or memorised.

Trips to mosques, churches and temples of each group are a must. English and Bahasa Malaysia should be taught in reference to reading stories and simple descriptions.

Please don't give any more assignments of speeches to ministers and directors or writing letters to factories.

The children should be introduced to simple calculations of numbers of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. But please do not make hard thoughtful questions to turn them into little Einsteins.

Come to think of it even Einstein failed his Maths! The subject of creativity must be laced with ‘fun' elements and not too laborious and no ‘homework' please! Homework assignments in art tend to be mum's or dad's creation or product at the end of the day.

Nope. You started it and you finish it right there and then. Never mind the beauty of the product.

Just mess around and complete it! With respect to grading and examination, I think we should do progressive reports and no numbers or letters should be awarded but such words as ‘great stuff', ‘nice going' or ‘good attempt'.

As with UK schools, each student has a file of work in which the parents are shown once a term. The contact hours of each subject are as follows:

Years One to Three

  • Bahasa Malaysia 20%
  • English Language 15%
  • Mother Tongue or Third Language 15%
  • Religious Studies 15%
(Islam, Buddhism, Christianity or Hinduism)
  • Mathematics 10%
  • Healthy Lifestyle and Physical Education 10%
  • Art and Creativity 15%

Year Four to Six

For the primary level of age 10 to 12, I feel the student is well grounded already within their community and thus able to understand other communities and thus the subject of Malaysian People and Places is introduced.

In this class the students learn about the rituals and beliefs of other cultures and they would be taken to the different places of worship of other religions of their own.

I do not understand why Malays are too frightened of visiting churches and temples when the great Umar al-Khatab once prayed in a Christian church during the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

The subject of Healthy Lifestyle and Physical Education was introduced earlier and continues to be emphasised in our Coca-Cola drugged generation.

The proper dietary information, physical workouts and stress reducing systems should be encouraged.

As for the language subjects, writing will be emphasised but again no letters to ministers or debates about the strength and weakness of co-education should be given.

Simple basic description of familiar surroundings should sharpen observational skills rather than turning them into tiny tycoons.

Science should be introduced sensitively and carefully without disruption to the religious beliefs of the communities.

Even science doesn't know everything, right?

But again no turning our children into little scientists in laboratory apparel. Just a simple understanding of nature and its workings at a surface level with wonder and inspiration of questions as the keys. And please get rid of the word ‘hipotesis' and ‘inference' at these tender years, pretty please!

At this stage some grading of marks can be introduced to subjects like Mathematics, Bahasa Malaysia and English. Other subjects should be with progressive markings via projects and not tests.

I do not see the value of such subject as Kemahiran Hidup at this stage of development and turning the children into little contractors and the likes. The contact hours of each subject are as follows:

Year Four to Six

  • Bahasa Malaysia 20%
  • English Language 10%
  • Mother Tongue or Third Language 10%
  • Religious Studies 10%
(Islam, Buddhism, Christianity or Hinduism)
  • Mathematics 10%
  • Healthy Lifestyle and Physical Education 10%
  • Art and Creativity 10%
  • Science 10%
  • Malaysian People and Places 10%

Forms One to Three

For their teenage years, the subject of turning them into young Malaysians should be emphasised.

Some understanding of the country's ideas about nation building can be introduced in relating again to intra-cultural understanding. Let there be no more Chinese who don't know how many times the Muslim prays or what bersunat means.

Let there be no more Malays who do not understand the meaning of the Ching Ming ritual.

The present syllabus of science and mathematics should be reduced to half and equal time be given to creative thinking and other studies.

Healthy lifestyle studies should include teenage stresses and inter personal communication so that the tumultuous years of adolescence could be handled amicably by parents and social leaders.

This three year period presents the last core studies of the student being a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan and a Young Malaysian.

It serves as a core of language skills and thinking skills of science, mathematics and creativity. The Kemahiran Hidup course should be assimilated into the Arts and Creative Design course.

I do not like our children memorising types of instruments and procedures of work.

They should build or cook or sew something and assessment should be on the product not on the instruments.

I remember having to memorise the ridiculous piston movement on the two stroke and four stroke engine blocks, which was nonsense.

My son had to memorise at the age of ten, mixtures of cement and water which he hardly saw in his whole school life. Let's not turn our children into mechanics, carpenters and electrician and simply get down to the real basics. The contact hours of each subject are as follows:

Forms One, Two and Three

  • Bahasa Malaysia 10%
  • English Language 10%
  • Third Language 10%
  • Religious Studies 10%
  • Mathematics 10%
  • Science 10%
  • History 10%
  • Geography and Malaysian Cultural Studies 10%
  • Healthy Lifestyle and Physical Education 10%
  • Art and Creativity 10%

Forms Four and Five

The last two years before embarking on tertiary education should see the student dropping all the language subjects totally and concentrating on their intended career paths.

I do not see the relevance of the Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Ibunda or Bahasa Inggeris to be relevant any more since the students are conversing in each language in their profession related studies and electives.

Religious studies should be continued as it acts as a communal anchor.

The ustaz and ustazahs should be retrained not simply as religious scholars but as real teachers with varied ideas of using multimedia, drama, singing, trips to old folks homes and many other methods to instill the right values.

At the moment learning religion is the most boring subject of all! It's like walking into a madrasa or a seminar room.

Teaching religion, especially Islam, must be changed to more dynamic ways.

Once I suggested the reading of Enid Blyton's books to teach moral values to some ustaz. They never talked to me again after that.

Malaysian Studies is given prominence as the student will soon embark to be full citizens upon graduation.

They must be made to understand their sacred constitutional rights such as peaceful demonstration, addressing the people's representatives and watching their leaders debate on issues at Parliaments.

The fate of our environment should also be a focused area and how we can instill the new agenda of recycling and energy conservation. The profession related studies are broken down into three subjects of 15% each.

All subjects will be examinable with the exception of Religious Studies, Health and Physical Education and the electives.

I have also introduced a host of electives subjects to provide a creative outlet for our children who are not too comfortable being little scientists and engineers.

We give too much emphasis on the science and mathematics anyway and too little time on the arts.

According to the eminent scholar Prof Dr Shamsul Amri of UKM: "If you're are not good enough to do arts, then you do science and mathematics!"

The electives also offer subjects that could open up the children's mind across the shores of Malaysia. The contact hours of each subject are as follows:

Forms Four and Five

Malaysian Studies 10%
Religious Studies 10%
Professional Streams (Choice of 1) 45%

  • Science Stream (Biology, Chemistry and Physic)
  • Business Stream (Accountancy, Economics, Management)
  • Design Stream (Arts, Technology and Design)
Healthy Lifestyle and Physical Education 5%
Computer Technology 5%
Electives 20%
Art
Music
Drama
Advanced Computer
Entrepreneurship
Design
Literature
World History
Advanced Third Language

So there you have it. The shining New Blueprint of Education for our children and their children in the future.

I have of course left out a great deal of stuff like co-curriculum, soft skills, generic ones, teaching methods, teacher training and what not because this essay is just about storming an idea, any idea, just so that we can throw out the current curriculum.

We should have several think tank groups work on the ideas and compete to present to a group committee of Malaysian of diverse backgrounds as judges.

We, the people, must take back the power of educating our children. I am treating education as the building of a person and not simply as a work force.

Educating our children should be exciting and interesting or else, let us not teach at all. I have told my children that they should save money to send their children to private schools with international curriculum, if Malaysia does not overhaul her education policies.

We should not view our children as a simple work force but as tolerant, creative and critical individuals.

These traits are most important as survival skills and no amount of science or extra computer time can replace such core characteristics as these.

Dear Malaysians... let us vote in the political party that can deliver this important educational reform for the sake of our future generations and... the basic survival of this country.