Malaysiakini News

Replacing BTN with a common course for all Malaysian students

Nathaniel Tan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | I think there is absolutely no question that the National Civics Bureau (Biro Tatanegara, BTN), as we know it, has been a deplorable hotbed of raging racism and hate mongering.

There is likely no doubt that it was used as a political tool to attempt to instil divisive ideologies meant to propagate Umno supremism.

Thus, the outcry when BTN was not on the list of agencies Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has abolished within the PM’s Department, is eminently understandable.

Most importantly, the Pakatan Harapan GE14 manifesto clearly states that the BTN will be dissolved.

Mahathir has already once reversed a decision (on appointing himself as education mnister) when it was pointed out to him that the decision was in contradiction with the manifesto.

Perhaps we will see the same in this case, or perhaps it is not that BTN is not being abolished - merely that it has not been abolished yet.

The issues raised here bring to mind another recent comment by the prime minister on reviving the Vision School model, as well as the question of whether National Service should be continued.

These issues concern whether or not (or to what degree) Malaysians should have a shared, common experience.

Any variation of BTN for adults is unlikely to be a good idea, so let us focus instead on the idea of a shared experience for Malaysian students.

The value of a shared experience

The education landscape is certainly not as it once was. The proportion of Malaysian children attending national schools is likely to have diminished considerably over time, considering the proliferation of private and international schools, and the increasing popularity of mother tongue education.

It would thus follow that where once more Malaysian children had the similar experience of attending a national school under the national syllabus, this number is growing smaller and smaller.

The wide range of experiences a child can have was brought home to me when I found out that a nice young man in his early teens, whom I was helping to tutor in Bahasa Malaysia, did not know how to sing Negaraku, despite being a Malaysian and having grown up in Kuala Lumpur his entire life...

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