Of the temple attack, black shoes, iPads and the future of schooling

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | I am both saddened and hopeful of the future of the Malaysian education system.

Saddened by the fact that the incident of the fracas outside the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Subang Jaya not only reflects the May 13, 1969 syndrome we are still in, but also the dangerous tipping points of race relations and religious complexity we are plagued with.

The planned Dec 8 'victory rally' against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) by the Umno-PAS coalition of desperation under the ill-defined umbrella of ummah is troubling, and symptomatic of the schools we have built.

We hear of the Education Ministry planning this or that, sending circulars on black shoes, black socks, and using Islamic values as instructional strategies to be used on children and students of multi-religious backgrounds.

And, in a show of symbolism and attunement to the digital age and the Internet of Things, all children are to be provided with iPads so that they can use digital books instead of carrying those heavy, printed ones.

But we are not sure what the plan is to have teachers and students use digitally driven, constructivism-based, critical thinking and enhanced practices in teaching, thinking, and learning.

Remember the 'smart schools' slogan of the 1990s? Remember the promise to turn each of the 10,000 schools into 'smart schools' under the Mahathir administration?

In 1998, the Education Ministry stated that schools would also have Olympic-sized swimming pools. Schools then were supposed to prepare the young to be citizens of this utopia called the Multimedia Super Corridor.

And today, we hear that iPads will be supplied (though we do not know who is the vendor) and that schools are to teach swimming, so that not only will children be digitally-enhanced and technologically-driven, but also be able to swim ashore when the tide of globalisation threatens to drown us.

Now the news about the Seafield temple riots. Realistically, we need to critically examine why the riot occurred, and why it was seen as a prelude to a race riot, à la May 13.

The point of this essay – written in anger – of why we are still a racist nation, and how we are to start thinking that nobody owns this land except Malaysians who are legal residents who toil for the nation, is to say that we are failing in this enterprise called “schooling.”

We have created 10 types of schools that need to be restructured big time, in the name of sustainability, human rights, peace and justice...

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