Time to move beyond Maszlee

K V Soon


Has Mazlee Malik done a good job? Some people do not agree and some have even created a petition to reappoint Maszlee as education minister.

Just before he announced his resignation, Maszlee presented his report card on how well the ministry did including some of the major achievements under his watch as education minister. 

Guess what, if I were to create my report card and try to get my parents to sign, I don't think it's going to work. I am sure he knew this.

This is why this position is a tough job and I cannot deny that Maszlee worked hard to make changes. 

What's the gameplan and strategy?

Firstly, with all due credit, he did a pretty good job. He worked hard to get schools fixed. He reworked the Internet access and opened it to a larger pull of providers ensuring much better connectivity.

Getting stateless children into schools and making available places for special needs so that no one would be left behind are worthy of praises.

The more important question on the quality of education, capability and capacity of the teachers, quality of delivery and relevance of the current syllabus are all equally important questions that needed to be addressed.

This brings me to my main point. While there has been a lot of activities, we have not seen the bigger picture. What's the game plan and strategy for education and the future of our children and Malaysia as a nation?

Education 4.0

Other ministries and even the prime minister have spoken about the digital transformation and industry revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0). Education must be in tandem with this revolution.

We are now seeing many traditional jobs being taken over by computers and machines. It is already happening. 

Are we doing enough to focus on educating our children for a future dominated by globalisation, technology, automation and artificial intelligence? 

Some of the jobs we are preparing our children for may not even exist by the time they leave school or graduate.

Here are some stats. More than 2 percent of jobs in the US are experiencing high levels of disruption due to automation. This figure amounted to 36 million jobs in 2016, with more than 70 percent at high risk of being replaced by automation. 

The same research on jobs at risk of automation found that 36 percent of American workers face medium-level exposure to these disruptive technologies by 2030, while 39 percent – or 57 million jobs – will face low-level exposure. (Brookings Institution).

In Malaysia, the majority of those who lost their jobs over the past year were working clerical jobs or in factory or machine operations, where automation is gradually taking hold. 

This is based on Employment Insurance Scheme records, which show that as of Dec 14, 2018, Socso received over 33,000 claim applications by 22,268 workers who had lost their jobs. 

Its chief executive Mohammed Azman Aziz said: “Automation is the trend now, we cannot deny that.”

What are we doing? How are we innovating and transforming our education to be aligned with the Industrial Revolutions 4.0? How can education help bring out the of human potentials - such as creativity, problem-solving and entrepreneur skills so that we can continue to value-add to the automation process, not be replaced by it? 

While we are in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country, how will education help to reinforce a peaceful and inclusive society?

This is what the Education Ministry needs to address.

Strategic and effective stakeholder engagement

While some good things did come out for the 20-month administration under Maszlee, some of us were left shocked with policies like changing the colour of shoes from white to black and using hotels pools for swimming classes. 

I am still wondering where those came from. Then, of course, there is the issue of learning Jawi in schools.

Without a big-picture strategy and game plan, these initiatives are interpreted as ill-conceived. This situation allowed for parties with interest to misinterpret some of these initiatives for their benefit. 

This is when social media gets abuzz with activities. People become emotional. At times, the top-down authoritative was used and the tone of the approach, unfortunately, did not go down well with the people.

Strategic and effective stakeholder engagement is lacking. I am not aware of the existence of consultation with major stakeholders on such topics. In areas where there were consultation and feedback, nothing came back. 

We were invited to a session to gather feedback on the homeschooling, we never got any feedback or response so far.

There seems to be hardly any strategic engagement with the media too. Most of the time, minister or officials had to react after the fact to give press statements to clarify when people were not happy.

If the ministry is to introduce new initiatives, it would be great if a clear change management strategy be put in place. Change needs to manage.

In the bigger scheme of thing, it is not about Maszlee whether you like him or not. It is about getting the job done effectively. 

More importantly, it is about the future of our children and the nation they will 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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