LETTER

Four education ministers and a national mess

M'sia Sekolah Pondok

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

How can Malaysia produce competent graduates when we have such a fickle education system that changes with the whims and fancies of whoever is appointed education minister?

Consider all the changes, political and otherwise, that our politician-education ministers have willed according to their own agenda:

  • Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a former education minister, emulated Tun Abdul Razak Putra in his nationalistic fervour. He went one step further by ordering a change in the medium of instruction for all subjects from English to Malay.
  • He was dreaming of course that Malaysia could be in the league of countries like Japan and France where their languages have achieved international status. Alas, he forgot that we were only a developing country and few outsiders cared to learn the language to do business with us or to know us better.

  • Then along came Anwar Ibrahim, jailed former deputy premier who in 1988 as education minister decided that Bahasa Malaysia which followed the Johor-Riau pronounciation was not 'nationalistic' enough and ordered it to be replaced by Bahasa Baku (standard phonetic Malay).
  • He ordered that all textbooks must adhere to the new system and tried to force the change in the broadcast networks as well with disastrous results. Needless to say, bahasa teachers were caught in a dilemma and the poor students ended up utterly confused.

    It was also during his time that religious studies were given priority and students were made to take the subject. Not forgetting the chaos he create by introducing the '3 M' — membaca, menulis, mengira — or the English equivalent of the '3 Rs' — reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic.

  • Najib Abdul Razak, now defence minister, as the education minister did not do very much but nevertheless asserted the emphasis on Malay language and tried to rewrite history textbooks. Everyone and everything connected to colonial Malaya fell out of favour and foreigners contributed nothing to the country.
  • Musa Mohamad, the incumbent education minister seems like the worst of them all, mainly because he does not accept any criticism and denies all wrongdoings. Under his tenure, the racial segregation and most recently, the 'meritocracy' problems exploded in his face.
  • If the parents do not seem to be making lots of noise, it is because they know they would be complaining to a wall.

    They feel so helpless that they have to resign to seeing the education system go down the drain and their children's future along with it. Many just do not have the choice but to sacrifice all they have to give their children a better future.

    Dr M can forget about achieving his Vision 2020 if nothing is done to stop the rot. If we don't get back on the right path, the status quo will never change.

    I am not a supporter of our neighbouring country but I can't deny that Singapore's education system is at least consistent and the government has the foresight to do the right thing for its citizens' future, like making the students learn English and Mandarin for instance.

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