Two recent rankings about Malaysia have given me some food for thought. First of all, a recent study by Reader's Digest showed that Malaysian are the third rudest people among the countries surveyed. Of course, there was an uproar in our country, and as usual, some criticised the survey as being not properly done and the self-denial syndrome came into place again.
I wish to stress that the point of contention should not be whether we are the third rudest or for that matter the 10th, or even 20th rudest. The point of contention should be why we are not the first or second most courteous country surveyed. It should be why we are not among the most polite in the world.
We should take the survey as a form of constructive criticism and do some soul-searching, asking ourselves as a people, are we less polite than before? I would say yes. Gone are the days when people would knock on your door before entering. Gone are the days when you could watch a movie in absolutely quiet surroundings. Gone are the days when younger people would stand up to give their place to the elderly or pregnant ladies in public transport. Gone are the days when motorists would wait patiently for red lights to change to green before moving their vehicles.
There is much to be done for us to be more polite. Courtesy campaigns as a one-off event may not have much impact on the behaviour of the people. Education is still the key to change the mindsets. German people are known to wait for the pedestrian light to turn green before crossing the street even when there is no traffic. We may not have to go to that extent, but we need to change our mindsets to be more courteous .
Another ranking which comes as no shock to us is that Fifa has ranked our country 146 in the football world. It was not shocking, unlike the above ranking on politeness, as most of us already know how low the standard of our national football team has gone down to. But the news still saddens us.
As a country which used to beat South Korea regularly during the heyday of Moktar Dahari, Soh Chin Ann and V Arumugam, it is difficult to understand how we could go down so low. Well, the apologists will tell you that we are still better off than about 50 nations. Again the point of contention should be why we are not in the first 32 and why we are not in the Fifa World Cup final rounds. If South Korea can do it, why can't we? It is, again, a matter of our mindsets.
We have perhaps lost the urge to strive for excellence. In the 60s and 70s, Malaysia was not only strong in football, but also in hockey and badminton. We also excelled in our studies. Malaysian students who studied overseas regularly topped their classes in universities and colleges. Even our local universities such as MU and USM had very high academic standings in the world.
What has happened to us? We need to gain back the urge to do well, to strive for excellence in all our endeavours, not only in sports and in our studies, but also in our courts, our police force, our industries and our businesses. To do so, education is still the main key. We need to instill an urge for excellence in all our students. That way, a culture of excellence will slowly evolve.
There is much to be overhauled in our education system. We need to produce farsighted, thinking and liberal individuals in order to compete with the rapidly globalised world. Perhaps it is time for us to set up a commission of educationists to review the whole system; educationists who are renowned for their work, have excelled in their fields, are liberal in their thoughts and farsighted and bold enough to make recommendations to bring forth excellence, politeness, multiculturalism in all our fields.
We need that if we really aspire to be a fully-developed country in the top ranks of nations in this planet called Earth.