I am telling it like it is, as an educator who would like to see radical changes in the way we educate the curious young minds to excel to the fullest of their potentials and beyond. In a culturally, economically, and cognitively diverse country such as Malaysia, we ought to have put in place an education system that capitalises on the strength of our diversity rather that see the seeds of destruction grow into a forest of damnation and despair.
Many of the leaders in our society have spoken on the need for radical changes in our system.
Here are my thoughts for policymakers to take note and put into action:
We are endangering the minds of our children. Our education system is breeding mediocrity and an unthinking citizenry. Our curriculum is not challenging enough to meet the needs of globalisation and to create the next generation of children who will become global thinkers able to produce ideas and to translate them into artifacts and applications that would help advance the social, creative, critical, and ethical purpose of humankind.
There is a disjuncture between what we wish to showcase (e.g. the Multimedia Super Corridor or MSC and BioTech Nation) with what we are teaching children in school. We have created spaces of knowledge and power in the framework of education and national economic development.
We are only interested in producing a generation of students skilled in memorising facts and to regurgitate them when the need arises - we have little interest in giving birth to thinking citizens who are able to relate to each other inter-culturally, and able to be transformed into life-long learners, imbued with the passion of changing the nature of society and government when the ruling class no longer serves the interest of the rakyat/masses.
We have created many generations of followers and a silenced the majority, happily living their lives as one-dimensional beings, blind and mute to the massive corruption unfolding before their very eyes destroying the fabric of our ethical culture.
We are leaving our children in the hands of those who are ill-prepared to develop them into the “everyday genius”. We are full of slogans on success - “world-class this and that”, “regional hub for education”, “smart schools”, “vision schools”, “independent schools”, etc.
We are interested in rhetoric, in pleasing political visitors to our schools, in preparing our students to get 20As and to create showcase schools so that foreign and local corporations can also showcase their “generosity” and commitment to our educational system, paving the way for gentler and newer way of “glokal-styled” colonisation.
We are interested in cutting ribbons and displaying huge mock cheques and forcing our school-teachers to work long and late hours on things other than teaching and preparing for classes - on things that would only please the headmaster and the local politicians who do not have any idea how children develop cognitively.
We have been systematically killing the creativity of our teachers by burdening their minds with mundane activities to be completed out of unreasonable fear of authority.
We have successfully created classes of society through our classification system of schools and through the class ideology we directly or indirectly teach in our classrooms. We have schools for the rich and schools for the poor.
Wasting good talents
Like chicken eggs, we assign “grades” to our schools. When our schools are failing, we try to create independent schools and profit from more private schools, leaving behind the children of the poor of all races to be recycled in the system of structural mental-ideological violence. We are wasting good talents. Instead of making the slogan “brain gain” a reality, we are making “brains go down the drain”.
We have also created Mat Rempits, Ah Longs and gangster in the estates. We have neglected the development of their minds and created successful failures through the schools we build. We have appointed educational leaders who perhaps have not set foot in the classroom, let alone in those of the most impoverished areas of our country.
We have created the worst group of people in our society whose job and passion is to promote hatred of others; using religion as a launching pad, as if the dangerous rhetoric of race and ethnicity is not enough to call for violence between and amongst races. This is what we are seeing as a violent reproduction of outr education system as well.
The above ills are what we are seeing in our education system - after more than 50 years.
What then must we do for our gifted children of all races! A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
There is still hope for our children. But we must act now before the next generation of mediocre citizens are reproduced.
DR AZLY RAHMAN, born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored four books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), and the latest Dark Spring: Ideological Roots of Malaysia's GE-13 (2013). He currently resides in the United States. Twitter, blog.