The Education Ministry under Maszlee Malik (photo, above) has been bogged down by one controversy after another, ranging from black shoes to matriculation and most recently the khat issue, but comprehensive education reform is still found wanting.
Some 15 months after Pakatan Harapan came to power, there are now growing calls for the coalition to show concrete plans for education reform to ensure Malaysia does not fall behind in the fourth industrial revolution.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, during his meeting with international chambers of commerce, had also acknowledged their call to ensure Malaysia's education system is tailored to industrial needs.
"Education cannot be more on the arts side but on the industrial side. Of course, the German system is the best system, where one-third of the time is spent in the class and two-thirds is at the workplace," he had said.
This was later echoed by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, who in a commentary on Tuesday in The Edge Financial Daily, criticised the Education Ministry's misplaced priorities.
“To participate in the Industrial Revolution 4.0, we must go through a knowledge-based economy and here Malaysia has failed because the government, through the Education Ministry, has not got its priorities right. The Education Ministry must not fail our nation.
"While we are still mired in the political rhetoric of languages, others around us have moved beyond English or Mandarin or Bahasa Malaysia into the language of programming and coding.
"When will we realise just how far behind we are lagging?” said Daim, who is a key adviser to prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Former international trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz too had criticised the Education Ministry over how it is shaping the education system.
"The education system is overloaded by all kinds of nonsense. Don't overload (the education system) with unnecessary, frivolous subjects," she had said during an economic discussion on Thursday.
The criticisms came amid another round of controversy to hit the Education Ministry following a move to introduce six pages of Jawi khat (calligraphy art) lessons to the Year 4 Bahasa Malaysia textbook, which has since been slashed to three pages and made optional due to strong pushback from the non-Malay community.
The non-Malay community have given various reasons for their objection to the khat lessons, ranging from its relevance to fear of Islamisation as Jawi, though it is the predecessor of the current romanised script for Bahasa Malaysia, is often associated with Islam.