Tear down the walls first
COMMENT: In just 12 years, the education scene will change dramatically. By 2025, Malaysia will boast students who can think on their feet, are proficient in English and can confidently compete in any field of human endeavour. It will be a brave new world where at last we can move forward by leaps and bounds and join the ranks of the most developed nations.
All these ambitious goals are spelt out in the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025), a master plan that will produce world-class students and first-class teachers. On paper, it is impressive, bold and faultless. In reality, it is a pipe dream because the racially-charged political climate will make it hard for these objectives to be achieved.
Our schools and universities have fallen far behind in academic performance as a result of the flawed policies of the government. In one moment, English was given prominence and in the next it has been downgraded. At one time, Science and Mathematics were taught in English but now the medium of instruction has switched back to Bahasia Malaysia. Once our universities were centres of excellence but now they have become “factories” churning out worthless “papers” because many believed the bar had been lowered.
Over the years, Malaysia fell into a rut while other countries raced ahead in all the vital fields like science and technology. The best brains would rather seek greener pasture abroad than stay back and have very little opportunities for advancement. While politicians made a mess of all things related to education, other countries like Singapore stole a march on us.
Education is the key to advancement but this line was lost in the Barisan Nasional script. Education became like clay in the dirty hands of policy-makers who beat it into all kinds of shapes at their whims and fancies. As a result of constant political interference and flip-flop policies and half-baked thoughts and ideas on how to improve our education system, the quality of our schools and universities went into a tailspin. It never recovered.
The blueprint for education will not work because the whole chain of our education system from schools to institutions of higher learning has been twisted to serve the interests of the dominant class. It came to a stage where no one bothered about education excellence. Meritocracy went out of the window. Teachers poured scorn on students or beat them up on account of their ethnic background. English was dumped to appease the ultra-nationalists. Standards were deliberately lowered just so the majority of the weaker students could make it past the line.
It is rather too late to envision a nation of first-class students by the time the blueprint outlived its usefulness. Malaysia has missed the train to excellence in education and it is highly unlikely the poisonous political climate will allow students of other ethnic groups to enjoy equal access to educational opportunities.
Nevertheless, if there is sincerity and strong political will, Malaysia can produce some credible results. But first tear down the wall of discrimination. Tear down the wall that blocks access to scholarships. Tear down the wall that hinders the right to a university education because of political obstruction. Treat all students as Malaysians. Educational excellence cannot be built on the shifting sand of racism, political supremacy and religious fanaticism.