Malaysiakini Letter

Thorough revamp of schools needed in this new era

SS Jothiratnam  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | To Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, well done on selecting people for cabinet posts irrespective of race or religion, and based purely on their merit and ability: kudos to you for that.

It was an idea touted decades ago by the PAP, and picked up by the DAP. I am very happy to see it finally becoming a reality in our beloved Malaysia. Could you continue to so do, and to gradually extend this practice throughout the civil service, and into the universities and school system please?

I know that you have much to do, but though not immediately pressing, a matter of profound national importance is a thorough revamping of the schools:

  • You need to ensure that the teachers are competent, which means they need to be competently trained.
  • You need to ensure that the people can speak both English and Malay fluently (later on, you ought also to work on ensuring competence in at least one other globally important language).
  • You need to appoint a proper group of academics, without nationalist or Islamist axes to grind, to undertake a thorough-going revision of the history syllabus in order to make sure people get a proper balanced sense of their own national history starting with the pre-Islamic past. This is also important as a way to make sure that we are never again exploited by those who would dumb the people down and keep them ignorant, parochial, and communally divided.
  • The civics classes need to be thoroughly revamped, and the people need to learn what it means to be Malaysians. This needs to be done both with school children, and with adults, who may be re-educated through well-designed grassroots movements.
  • The National Civics Bureau needs to be dismantled, and a new untainted body set up staffed by people who really are committed to national unity, and to the creation of a Malaysian nation. It ought to be patently obvious to everyone by now that, to adapt a concept from the late S Rajaratnam of Singapore, being a Malaysian is not a matter of genetics, but rather a matter of conviction, but in order for that conviction to take root, the people need to feel a sense of pride in their nation. What we have achieved in getting rid of the corrupt and exploitative government of the past has provided us with just the springboard to build up this sense of pride in ourselves. Let us now take that in constructive directions;
  • The people badly need to know how to think for themselves, rather than allowing themselves to be misled by charlatans. This too needs our attention urgently.
  • Finally, religion, particularly extremist variants of it need to be curbed sharply. One approach of course is to thoroughly vet all the religious schools in the country in order to make sure that they teach useful things, and do not disseminate perverse and distorted ideas. That however is only one part of it: teaching people how to think for themselves will ultimately make us a strong nation, one which in a couple of decades could easily start to become like any First World country. In order to get there though, we must have the will to do what it takes. With our resource base, we could easily better the living standards of a small resource-poor land like Singapore, but in order to get there, competent people must be put in charge of everything.

As former opponent of yours, I never thought I would say this to you, but I am glad you are at the helm again, and I wish you every success.

I, and no doubt many of my fellow citizens too, pledge to do everything we can to help make this Malaysia of ours the best country in the world to live in.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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