Since my post about DemiNegara's concept of 1School for all. I have received some flak for it. Some of the words that have been hurled at me are “racist”, “unpatriotic”, “abnormal”, “stupid”, “narrow-minded”, “delusional”, “chicken”, “egotistical”, and “anti-Malay”.
But hey, I got no problem with that! Free speech is your right. Suka hatilah what these fellas wanna say. Their ignorance and hate and doesn't affect me. I mean, I can't control how stupid you sound to other people now, can I?
But there have been one or two calls for me to come up with an alternative if I'm so smart to dare oppose the brilliant DemiNegara 1School concept.
Well, I don't dare say I'm smart enough la. Obviously KijangMas and gang are very clever. You can see from their blogs that some of them have high-flying, jet-setting careers. It's obvious that they belong to the intellectual and economic elite of the country.
Me? I'm just a humble teacher trying to cari makan. Earning my 2 meals as the Chinese say...
Anyway, I did write something about this whole One School issue way back in the middle of December 2008 (shortly after this blog went online). That was about the time when DemiNegara posted his famous "testicular fortitude" article. I won't describe just how biased, prejudiced and downright insulting his article is. You can visit his blog if you want and decide for yourself.
But that post pretty much showed that for all his eloquence about the Malaysian school system, this dude knew a whole lot of nothing about the problems faced by schools, teachers, students and the Malaysian education system in general. I tried engaging him, but all I got in return was bucketloads of gutter language. So I decided to write something constructive on my own blog instead of trying to talk sense to the bunch of rocks at DN.
So I'm re-presenting that article, but it has now been expanded. It may be a good idea to read my other posts regarding education to get where my perspective is coming from. Please feel free to comment.
The Solution For Malaysian Education
The "Vernacular Schools vs Sekolah Kebangsaan" debate has been a contentious issue among parents, politicians and the public for some time now. Many points and counterpoints have been raised - language supremacy, Constitutional rights, racial polarisation, racial harmony, patriotism, etc. Sadly, almost all the points that have been raised from both sides of the divide STINK OF POLITICS!
Isn't real crux of education about the quality of the curriculum/teachers and our schools' ability to nurture intellectuals and innovators among our children?
Why then isn't anybody debating THAT?
Amid all the noise, has anybody thought to pause and think of the people most affected by the current education system we have - our children? Are all these issues of language supremacy/rights etc really that important to our kids? Will it really prepare them to face the world when they leave school graduate in about 10 short years?
Why is so much energy and resources wasted on screaming for language rights and supremacy and all that CRAP?! Rights? Supremacy? Those are political slogans! Phrases calculated to be lightning rods to attract political support. Just what has politics got to do with education?
And while politicians argue, our children continue to muddle through our fractured and anemic education system. That's because we are so busy arguing about which education system has a right to exist in Malaysia, no one is concerned about creating a world-class education system for our children!
Just look at the points of argument – aren't they all inward looking? It's all about fighting for who has the right to do what to our schools. I can only surmise that our so-called leaders are too busy trying to look good for their party elections to stop politicking and properly discuss what's good for our future generation! Where's the global vision and mission for our schools?
Why are our children being held ransom while politicians fight for control of schools like pirates fight over booty? It's time to really take a stand to kick all these political shenanigans out of our schools once and for all! It's time to go back to the basics – for the sake of our children.
To that end, I want to propose a STRICTLY NON-POLITICAL, NON-PARTISAN PLATFORM for education reform in Malaysia. Let's call it:
A School For Every Malaysian
Satu Sekolah Untuk Setiap Warga Malaysia
What is "A SCHOOL FOR EVERY MALAYSIAN"?
It is a vision to realise the dream of creating a TRUE ANAK BANGSA MALAYSIA – who will view diversity as an asset, differences as an opportunity to gain understanding, and respect as a right to be earned and not regulated - tied together by love for our country, passion to be the best and equal concern for citizens of all colours!
How can we achieve this?
1) IMPLEMENT A SINGLE OFFICIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM
Government should only pay for a SINGLE NATIONAL STANDARDISED education system. There is absolutely no justifiable reason why the government should pay for different school systems. A parent will not cook different dinners for different children. All the children in a family eat the same dinner - that is, whatever is on the table! If that child doesn't like what's on the dinner table, he has 2 options: get his own dinner or don't eat. The same principle should apply in the larger context of Malaysian education as well.
The structure and content of the standardised Malaysian education system should be decided on by academicians and stakeholders. Politicians should be kept out of the system on pain of death! Politicians have been the source of all our education system's problems and it's time to get rid of political influence once and for all. More about this in my next point.
The medium of instruction for the official school system of Malaysia should be Bahasa Malaysia for all subjects - Maths and Science included. This is our National Language – the official lingua franca of all Malaysians as stated in the Constitution of Malaysia. As Malaysians, we must be fluent in the language of Malaysia, and the best place to start is in schools. This is indisputable.
(Now I know that the statement above is going to rile some people who support the teachiong of Maths and Science in English. But with all due respect, DrM's and others' assertion that these subjects should be taught in English as the world studies it in English and all the great journals are published in English, etc, etc, etc....is just PURE POPPYCOCK! I'll explain this point in more detail in another post.)
There must also be strong emphasis on mastering English as a second language. This is inevitable as it is the most common language used in the globalised world. The paltry 2 sessions a week schools currently practice now is pathetically inadequate. I suggest daily lessons, with 1 day a week dedicated as “English language day” for the entire school, where everyone must speak the language.
There should also be a strong incentive to learn an optional 3rd language. When I was is school it was compulsory to learn Pupil's Own Language. That's not a bad idea, but what I find disagreeable is that pupils had no choice in the language they learnt: Chinese had to attend Mandarin class, and Indians had to attend Tamil class. I would suggest that these language classes be open to whoever wanted to learn the languages offered. And let there be as many language options as possible (French, Spanish, and Japanese would be among the world's next most important languages), teacher and student count permitting. Also, encourage the setting up of language clubs.
2) REFORM THE MALAYSIAN SCHOOL SYSTEM
A complete review of the entire Malaysian education needs to be urgently undertaken by academicians and stakeholders - NOT POLITICIANS. The focus must be on how to improve the entire school system in Malaysia - from the syllabus structure, to the teachers salary structure, to the quality of teacher recruitment and training, to...EVERYTHING.
The Malaysian syllabus must be streamlined. Look at the America system - their children do not lug 10kg bags to school, yet they can produce articulate thinkers and innovaters. Look at Switzerland – their children hardly do any homework, yet their citizens are among the highest per capita earners in the world, and they are rated as having among the best quality of life in the world!
The national syllabus must also seriously take children's physical, mental, and emotional needs into account. Our schools' responsibility is not to produce drones to drive Malaysian industry. It is to equip our students to be able to realise their own dreams, whatever they may be. So take note of the best education systems from around the world and the kind of citizens they produce and humble enough to learn from others. If you don't know how to learn, how can you teach our children?
The current remuneration system for school staff is alright. But it must be further refined to reward performance and merit, not seniority and political connections. Teachers and principals should also be incentivised to be innovative and produce results.
The Malaysian school system should be governed by an independent government body. This body could be made up of scholars, teachers, parents and civic leaders. The constitution of this body must explicitly state that neither it or its members are to have any political affililations. Only then, can our education system be free of the tyranny of politicians' ambitions to use our schools to experiment with and propogandise the next generation of our beloved country!
Politics & politicians, can please bloody PISS OFF from the school scene altogether!
3) FREELY ALLOW ALTERNATIVE STREAM SCHOOLS
ALL other alternatives to the official government system of education (including vernacular schools) should be freely allowed, but they should be privately-funded. Vernacular schools must open their doors to welcome other races without any discrimination, just as the Sekolah Kebangsaan are open to all races without discrimination. Those who can't afford the fees to these schools should send their kids to National schools.
Alternative schooling streams here is not limited to mean just vernacular schools. Malaysia should encourage the setting up of even MORE types of schools - home schools, private schools, sports schools, music schools, art schools, dance schools, schools for the gifted, schools for the handicapped, etc.
The governing bodies of these alternative stream schools should be given the freedom to decide the exact structure and content of the syllabus, but it should conform to the competency standards as prescribed by the Malaysian government. Government standard competency tests should be administered upon graduation from these schools so that these children can enter college or the workforce on equal footing with students from the government schools. These competency tests should not be based on specific subject matters. Instead, children should be assessed based on their ability to think, reason and argue points (this structure would be similar the the SATs in the US).
The government should not be burdened to pay for “alternative stream” education. If we assume that the official school system has gained the quality and popular appeal to win the approval of the majority of Malaysians, and some people still feel that what the government provides is not suitable for their kids for whatever reason, they are free to find alternatives. Just don't expect the government to pay for their personal preferences – I think this is a fair enough expectation.
By allowing the proliferation of schools types, there will always a school to fit the need of every individual in the country. Every child will be able to find his place in any school system that suits him/her. No child will be left behind in Malaysia.
This is what it means to have A School For Every Malaysian. This way, every Malaysian child has a chance to receive the kind of education that is most suitable for him and his talents. Every Malaysian child regardless of talent or handicap or station in life will have an opportunity to have his potential nurtured to the fullest as there is a school somewhere that can cater to his needs.
A diverse yet inclusive system like this will also show the world that Malaysia is really walking its talk about her ambition to be a centre of educational excellence. It should be a living reality in all levels of society. And not just a cheap slogan used to sucker unsuspecting foreigners to part with their hard-earned money and enrol in below par courses in local colleges/universities.
4) GOVERNMENT GRANTS FOR NEEDY NON-NATIONAL SCHOOLS
As a people-friendly government, a certain amount of money should be set aside to aid needy alternative-stream schools. This will be given out as yearly grants. This will ensure the survival of cash-strapped schools who are providing a worthy service.
However, any government funding for these schools should be approved on a case-to-case basis, based on pre-determined criteria (with priority given to schools that serve a socially-concerned function such as schools for the handicapped), at the recommendation of an independent oversight committee. Members of this committee should be duly elected by stakeholders (maybe some kind of association comprising govt and independent teachers unions and PTAs) and not political appointees.
Politicians and politics, PISS OFF!
5) GOVERNMENT SCHOLARSHIPS FOR NEEDY NON-NATIONAL SCHOOL STUDENTS
The government should also set aside a certain amount of money as scholarships for students to study in alternative-stream schools. Scholarships should be granted based strictly on student performance and need, NOT race, religion or political affiliation.
Again, any government scholarship for these students will be approved on a case-to-case basis, based on pre-determined criteria (with priority given to help poor students who achieve outstanding results in a specific area not offered in national schools. For example, a piano scholarship for a child to go to a school for the musically gifted).
Also, scholarships should be recommended by an independent oversight committee, duly elected by the stakeholders.
Again, politicians and politics - PISS OFF!
By adopting a quality-focused and pragmatic education policy based on “strength in diversity”, alternative stream schools have a fair chance of survival, parents have the freedom to select the school system that they believe is best for their kids, and there is open competition among the various school streams to attract and nurture the best.
With the Malaysian school systems effectively opened up, children from the various races will be more evenly distributed among the various schools. With the racial distribution of talent more naturally and evenly spread within any particular school, it's a great opportunity for children of all races to interact and integrate. And with proper competition, our children can begin to learn how to forget about skin colour and instead respect each other for their abilities and achievements.
The creation of this enlightened education environment will also open schools to proper competition (both intra-school and inter-system). It would be up to the various streams to attract and nurture the best and the brightest. If the private school streams are consistently trumping the government schools in exam results, it would be immediate feedback for the Ministry of Education to buck up and do something to improve the quality of education. If the National schools system trumps the alternative streams, then parents will lose incentive to send their children there and they will die a natural death. It's survival of the fittest - and this ensures that the talent pool in Malaysia continues to grow.
It is a fallacy and fantasy to believe that government can create the perfect One School system that is able to achieve everything that everyone needs. There is no such perfect school system, just as there is no such element in nature. In fact, uniformity goes against the very essence and laws of nature.
Nature is built around diversity, with each part complementing the harmonious whole. If our Malaysian school system can successfully provide an environment of diversity in harmony, with the individual school streams complementing each other, we will be able to develop a society with diverse strengths. The sum total of these highly-nurtured strengths and talents working together would make Malaysia an intellectual and cultural world powerhouse!
Fate has been kind enough to throw the descendants of the 3 greatest empires of the world (the Malay-Srivijaya empire, the Middle Kingdom, and the Indian empire) together in this land called Malaysia. Shouldn't the way forward for Malaysia be to capitalise on each other's strengths and propel ourselves forward through the synergy of our cultures?
I firmly believe that when all Malaysians are given the framework and freedom to achieve this synergy, a naturally eminent and united Bangsa Malaysia will evolve by itself. There would be no need to enforce UNIFORMITY based on narrow definitions. Diversity is our the greatest strength of the TRUE ANAK BANGSA MALAYSIA!
Saya ANAK BANGSA MALAYSIA!
Will you be one too?