Archive for category Bakri Musa

BN — a stable of stale, stunted, stultified, spent and short-of-intelligence politicians!

By Martin Jalleh

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Suaris Interview: Future of Malays #5

by Bakri Musa

Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays #5: It appears that you are cynical towards things labeled “Islam.” Many feel that you do not subscribe to conservative Islam as practiced by the vast majority of Muslims rather the basic teachings of our faith. What is your comment?

[The original was posted on on Feb 13, 2013.]

MBM: I am a Muslim, by birth and through practice. I believe in God and Muhammad, s.a.w, as His Last Messenger, as well as the five pillars of our faith. That of course is the belief of all Muslims.

What is the essence of the teachings of our Holy Koran and Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.? Command good and forbid evil! That is repeated many times in our Koran and hadith. That too is agreed upon by all Muslims.

That is the “golden rule” of our faith. I am less interested in labels, those can be easily printed. Content is something else. If a state does not subscribe to the creed of doing good and forbidding evil, then I do not consider it to be Islamic regardless of the label. It is easy to carve the names “Allah” and “Muhammad” on arches and buildings; likewise for leaders to don overflowing robes and huge turbans.

The question is whether corruption, bribery, and abuse of power are deemed “avoidance of evil.” Likewise, if leaders ignore the sufferings and deprivations of their citizens, could that be considered “doing good?” When I make judgment on whether a state is Islamic, those are the crucial factors, not how often the leaders have been to Mecca or how exquisite their recitation of the Koran. Read the rest of this entry »

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Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays Part 4

by Bakri Musa

It is said that Malays are at a crossroad. This is particularly so with the upcoming General Election 13 where the choice is between feudalism and liberalism. To what extent do you agree with that viewpoint?

[The original in Malay appeared in on February 6, 2013.]

MBM: I agree that we Malays are at a critical juncture. Our choice is between continuing on the present path that has led us to where we are today, with our minds still trapped, or make a sharp turn towards liberating them. Remember that the path to the dumpsite is the one well-trodden.

I do not agree that the forthcoming election (GE 13) will be a choice between liberalism and feudalism, as I understand both terms. Instead it will be between a party that has grown old, tired, and bankrupt of ideas versus another that is young, vigorous, and full of fresh talent.

As an aside, “liberalism” to me means a system that treats every human as having certain inalienable rights or freedoms granted unto him (or her) by Almighty Allah, among them, the freedom of thought, to choose our leaders, own properties, and pursue happiness. Feudalism on the other hand was the social system prevailing in Medieval Europe where humans were either lords or peasants. Land, property and peasants belonged to the lords. Your fate and place in society was determined at birth and remained fixed throughout life. Meaning, born a peasant, and you would remain one until death.

Clearly from the perspective of respect for human lives and values, liberalism is closer to Islam than is feudalism. Read the rest of this entry »

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Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays Part 3:

by Bakri Musa

[The original, in Malay, appeared in on January 31, 2013]

Suaris: You advocate strategies that are generally deemed to be evolutionary in nature to change the collective Malay mindset. Should Malays be “shocked” with revolutionary changes as we saw with the Japanese and South Koreans that led to their quantum leap in achievement?

MBM: When Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to death in Tunisia on January 4, 2011, it was not his intention to start a riot or revolution. He had simply given up hope; he just wanted to end his misery. His personal action however, triggered a revolution not only in Tunisia but also the entire Arab world.

Gamel Nasser was frothing at the mouth in wanting to revolutionize the Arabs; he was lucky that his Egypt was not totally whipped by Israel in the 1967 War. Senu Abdul Rahman and other Malay leaders like Abdullah Badawi, together with our intellectuals, were also intoxicated with their Revolusi Mental back then. Today, you could not even find the book of the same title that they wrote, and we Malays have remained the same.

Whether a change is evolutionary or revolutionary depends not on action or intention but on results and consequences. Bouazizi merely intended to end his suffering but his action reverberated throughout the Arab world, taking down hitherto strong men like Ghaddafi and Mubarak. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview with Suaris: The Future of Malays, Part 2

[The original in Malay appeared in on January 25, 2013).

Suaris: In a recent interview with Astro Awani, Dr. Mahathir said that Malays would be left behind unless given continued help. He referred to such help as crutches. Do you agree that we continue to need crutches? If so, for how long?

Dr. M. Bakri Musa: If we Malays still remain backward and marginalized after over 55 years of “help” from the UMNO government, then we ought to examine critically the nature of that help.

As parents we readily acknowledge the importance of how we guide and help our children. Be too indulgent and protective, we lose hope of their ever able to shine on their own. Be too strict and controlling, they will never acquire self-confidence; likewise if we constantly criticize and highlight their weaknesses.

In modern medicine, we rarely give crutches to patients following hip surgery. Instead we give them to physiotherapy so they could be self-ambulatory as quickly as possible. I encourage, in fact insist that my surgical patients be up and about the very next day. It is dangerous to keep them in bed; the most serious complication being potentially lethal blood clots.
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Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays (Part I)

Interview with Suaris: The Future of Malays, Part 1.
[The original in Malay appeared in on January 19, 2013).


Dr. M. Bakri Musa’s perspective may appear alien to some readers, especially those less exposed to the Internet and the English language. It is their loss not to have ready access to his clear thinking and substantive ideas. is taking this initiative in bringing to readers especially those versed only in Malay his commentaries. Born and raised in Negri Sembilan, Bakri represents the earlier generation of Bumiputras that had been given the opportunity for an education abroad. Yet he never forgets his roots as evidenced by his extensive writings and many books. Even though he resides in America, but through his books and essays we feel close to him.

He recently released his latest book, Liberating the Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications.

In this interview, Dr. Bakri Musa discusses a critical issue, the future of Malays in our country. We are at a critical juncture in many respects, from politics to economics, and from education specifically to social arenas generally. What is the future of our people in the decades ahead and how can we best prepare for that future?

Follow the series in its entirety.
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Myth of “UMNO is Malay; Malay, UMNO” Forever Shattered!

M. Bakri Musa

While UMNO apologists and sycophants in academia, blogosphere, and mainstream media quibbled over such minutia as the number of participants at last Saturday’s massive KL112 (January 12, 2013) rally, two facts are indisputable. First, that peaceful and largely Malay demonstration, the largest the nation had ever witnessed, forever shattered the myth that UMNO is Melayu, and Melayu, UMNO. Second, given a modicum of respect by and without provocation from the authorities, Malaysians are quite capable of partaking in peaceful rallies.

On this second point the authorities, specifically the police under its new leadership, are finally learning that water tankers, personnel with anti-riot gears or tear gas canisters, and other crude displays of power often precipitate rather than prevent violence. BERSIH 3.0 demonstrated that very clearly.

The size and orderliness of the rally, together with the bravery and determination of the participants, was reminiscent of the transformative event of over 66 years earlier, the opposition to the Malayan Union Treaty. That altered the course of our history. Insha’ Allah (God willing), last Saturday’s rally too, will.

The power imbalance between those demanding change and those in power back in 1946 was enormous. Then it was mostly illiterate and unsophisticated Malay peasants facing the much superior and more formidable colonial authorities. Yet in the end, right won over might, and justice prevailed!

Today, while the UMNO Government is detested to the same degree as the old colonials, it is nowhere as sophisticated wielder of power as the British. Meanwhile, those clamoring for change are far more worldly, more committed, and in far greater numbers than their adversary, UMNO and its supporters. More importantly, unlike the colonials, today’s UMNO government is crippled with corruption and incompetence while also being crude wielders of power. All the more we should expect that right and the truth, as well as justice, will again prevail. Read the rest of this entry »

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Longing For Enlightened Leaders

by M.Bakri Musa

Before Malaysians grant Prime Minister Najib’s request for a mandate in the coming election, we should examine his performance during the past four years. It has been mediocre, satiated with slogans, and drifting amidst an abundance of acronyms. If Malaysians are satisfied with KPI and PEMANDU, or One Malaysia This and Two Malaysia That, then expect more of the same, this time with ever incredulous inanity and flatulent fatuousness.

Najib has not demonstrated any ability or inclination to clean up his administrative house. An early indication of his second term performance is this. Thus far no cabinet minister has voluntarily withdrawn from being an electoral candidate. As Najib will not drop them, if they win they will end up in his cabinet again. Nothing would have changed.

A wisecrack definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. That is true only if you let the same cast of incompetent characters carry out the task after they have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated their inability to do so. Pick others more competent and diligent, and the result may well surprise you. It would be far from insanity.

The best advice a science teacher could give a student who repeatedly fails to perform an experiment is to suggest that he pursues music instead, where “practice, practice, practice!” (doing the same thing over and over) may take him to Carnegie Hall. Likewise, the kindest gesture to Najib after he has clearly demonstrated his inability to lead would be for Malaysians to force him into another line of work, by not voting him and his party in.

After over half of century in power, what has UMNO, a party that claims to champion Malays, achieved? Malays today are even more morally corrupt, deeply polarized, and economically disadvantaged than ever before. Those are not my observations. I am merely summarizing what Mahathir, a man who led the country and UMNO for over two decades, said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hard To Be Part of the Solution When You Are Part of the Problem

M. Bakri Musa

The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Part 5)

[In the first three essays I critiqued the Blueprint’s recommendations: specifically its failure to recognize the diversity within our school system and thus the need to have targeted programs; the challenge of recruiting quality teachers; and the link between efficiency, efficacy, and quality. Part Four discussed the report’s deficiencies. This last essay focuses on the very process of reform, or how to do a better job of it.]

The greatest weakness of this reform effort is its exclusive dependence on in-house or MOE staff, the very personnel responsible for the current rot with our schools. These individuals have been part of the problem for far too long; they cannot now be expected suddenly and magically to be part of the solution. That would take an exceptional ability to be flexible, innovative, and have the willingness or at least capacity to learn. Those are the very traits not valued in or associated with our civil service.

The Blueprint’s local consultants included Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez, Khazanah’s Azman Mokthar, and Sunway’s Jeffrey Cheah, presumably representing the three major communities. These individuals are terribly busy. Unless they took time off from their considerable corporate responsibilities, they could not possibly do justice to this important national assignment.

The international consultants were equally impressive. Again here I wonder how much time they actually spent talking to teachers, students and headmasters. Another significant flaw is this: With the possible exception of the Canadian, the others are from systems not burdened with the Malaysian dilemma of low educational achievements identifiable with specific ethnic or geographical groups. In Ontario, Canada, only the Toronto School System which is separate from the provincial has significant experience with the “Malaysian” problem. The Canadian is with the provincial system.

Many of those impressive consultants were conspicuously absent during the many public sessions leading one to conclude that they were more window dressing. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Part 4 of 5)

By M. Bakri Musa | October 7th, 2012

Fourth of Five Parts: Roar of An Elephant, Baby of a Mouse

[In the first three parts I critiqued the Blueprint’s recommendations; specifically its failure to recognize the diversity within our school system and thus the need to have targeted programs, the challenge of recruiting quality teachers, and the link between efficiency efficacy, and quality. In this Part Four, I discuss the major areas the report ignores.]

Education Blueprint 2013-2025 lacks clear authorship. The document carries forewords by Najib, Muhyyiddin, and the ministry’s Secretary-General as well as its Director General, while the Appendix credits a long list of those involved in this “robust, comprehensive, and collaborative effort,” but the Blueprint itself is unsigned.

It is also impossible to tell who actually is in charge of this whole reform effort. According to the complicated box-chart diagram, the entire endeavor was anchored in a 12-member “Project Management Office” (PMO) that reported to the Ministry’s Director-General as well as to an 11-member “Project Taskforce” that in turn reported to Muhyyiddin. Both the PMO and Taskforce are manned exclusively by ministry officials. Then there are the local and international panels of experts.
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The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Part 3 of 5)

by M. Bakri Musa

Third of Five Parts: Quality, Efficiency, Efficacy, And Trimming of Fat

[Part One discusses the Blueprint’s failure to recognize the diversity within our school system, and with that the need for specific solutions targeted to particular groups. Part Two discusses the particular challenge of having competent teachers especially in science, English, and mathematics, a critical problem not adequately addressed by the Blueprint. In this third part I discuss the inextricable link between quality, efficiency, and efficacy, points not fully appreciated in the Blueprint.]

The one diagram in the Blueprint that best captures what’s wrong with the Malaysian education system is Exhibit 6-4, the ministry’s organizational staff structure. The diagram is described as rectangular; it’s more fat Grecian column. Incidentally, that diagram is the best graphic representation of data in the entire document; it captures and demonstrates well two salient points. One, there are as many Indians as there are chiefs in the organization, and two, the overwhelming burden of administrative staff at all levels.

“Malaysia arguably has one of the largest central (federal) administrations in the world, relative to the number of schools,” says the Blueprint, quoting a UNESCO report.

We do not need those highly-paid international consultants to remind us of the bloat. The gleaming tower that is the Ministry of Higher Education in Putrajaya is emblematic of that. It reveals the government’s perverted priorities. That edifice shames that of the Department of Education of the US, or any First World country.

By any measure, relative to the economy, population, or total budget, Malaysia funds its education system generously, much more so than countries like Finland and South Korea. Yet our students and schools lag far behind. The answer lies in Exhibit 6-4. The bulk of the resources expended do not end up in the classrooms. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Part 2)

by M. Bakri Musa

Second of Five Parts: Quality Schools Begin With Quality Teachers

[In Part One, I discussed the Blueprint’s failure to recognize the diversity within our school system and the need to have different solutions for different constituents. In this Part Two, I discuss the particular challenge of having competent teachers especially in science, English, and mathematics that is not adequately addressed in the report.]

In the 1950s, the headmaster of my Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah, lived in a palatial bungalow up on the hill, next to the residence of the District Officer. Two decades later, his successor was renting a modest house from my father, a retired Malay primary school teacher. As for that hilltop house, it is now occupied by a civil servant.

In the 1960s when the Minister of Education visited Malay College he was noticeably deferential to its headmaster. Today, the threat of a visit by a lowly ministry functionary would throw the headmaster and his senior staff into a tizzy.

Those are the realities of the teaching profession in Malaysia today. The folks that produced Education Blueprint 2013-2025 see the world of Malaysian teachers differently. They brag about having 38 applicants for every teaching slot, way over the eight in Finland, acknowledged as having the best schools and teachers.

What gives? Just a few lines away and easily missed by careless readers, the Blueprint reveals that over a third of those applicants lacked even the minimal (and very low) current qualifications. Imagine! The perception students have of the teaching profession is this: If you are not qualified for anything else, apply to be a teacher. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025

by Bakri Musa
17th September 2012

First of Five Parts: Education Blueprint – Transparent, But Not Bold Or Comprehensive

Education reform is inflicted upon Malaysians with the regularity of the monsoon. Like the storm, the havoc these “reforms” create lingers long after they have passed through.

In this five-part commentary I will critique the latest reform effort contained in Preliminary Report: Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 released on September 11, 2012. The first three essays will address the Blueprint’s findings and recommendations; the fourth, its omissions, and the last, the flaws in the process with this particular reform effort.

The Blueprint clearly identifies the main problems and challenges at both the system and individual levels, but fails to analyze why or how they came about and why they have been let to fester. Consequently the recommendations are based more on conjecture rather than solid data; more towards generalities and the stating of goals rather than on specifics and how to achieve those goals. On the positive side, the goals and milestones (at least some of them) are clearly stated in quantifiable terms, so we would know whether they have been achieved going forward.

Despite extensive public participation and the inclusion of many luminaries (including foreign ones) on the panel, the report has many glaring omissions. It fails to address the particular challenges facing Islamic and rural national schools. This is surprising considering that the constituents in both streams are Malays, a politically powerful group. Even more pertinent, those schools regularly perform at the bottom quartile; they drag down the whole system. Improving them would go a long way in enhancing the entire system. Yet another omission is the failure to analyze and thus learn from earlier reform efforts.

This Blueprint does not live up to Najib Razak’s assertion of being “bold, comprehensive and transparent.” Transparent perhaps, but not bold or comprehensive! That is not surprising as the panel is dominated by civil servants. They have been part of the problem for so long that it would be too much to expect them now to magically be part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib Razak as Property Developer and Investment Banker

By M. Bakri Musa | August 5th, 2012

With great fanfare, Prime Minister Najib Razak recently announced the mega property development, The Tun Razak Exchange (TRX). The project would symbolize the nation’s aspiration to be “the leading global centre for international finance, trade and services.”

Najib wants that to be his legacy. Even if successful (and a very big if), it would simply be a physical monument, in the same manner that Petronas Towers is to Mahathir. The only thing Malaysian or Malay about that much-hyped tower is the land on which it is sited. Everything else – from the design, engineering and construction – was done by foreigners. The only work done by a Malaysian (or Malay) was the ribbon cutting at the glittering opening ceremony.

The legacy of Tun Razak the father is his imaginative rural development schemes, like the massive FELDA program that benefited millions of poor landless rural dwellers. The beneficiaries, let it be explicitly stated in case this fact is missed, are mostly if not exclusively Malays.
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The Impact of Growth in International Schools

by M. Bakri Musa

The government has gone beyond removing quotas, as with granting tax and other incentives, to encourage the growth of international schools. However, growth depends more on market forces, principally the demand which in turn is related to costs. Lower the cost and you expand the market. Reducing red tape, as with making it easy to get permits and secure visas, would lower costs far more effectively than any other move.

If there is a market and profit to be made, entrepreneurs will come in. That is the beauty and genius of the capitalist economy. I have no problem with education being “for profit”. That would be no different than the health and other sectors. Profit is just another measure of discipline, effectiveness, and productivity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Removing Quotas in International Schools A Positive Development

by M. Bakri Musa

In striking contrast to the horrendously expensive and unbelievably stupid idea of sending our teacher-trainees to Kirby, the Ministry of Education’s other decision to remove quotas on local enrollment in international schools is very much welcomed and definitely positive. The Minister confidently assured us that because of the small number of students involved, the move will not impact our national schools. I respectfully disagree; his confidence is misplaced and analysis flawed. On the contrary, this measure will have a tremendous impact on our national schools and ultimately the nation, for good or bad depending on how it is managed.

Consider the liberalization of higher education instituted in 1996. The rationale was to increase access and save foreign exchange by keeping at home those who would have gone abroad. It achieved both, the most successful of government initiatives. And it did not cost a sen except for the pay of government lawyers who drafted the enabling legislation.

The policy’s impact however, went far beyond. It permanently and profoundly altered the academic landscape of our public universities. Their current emphasis on the use of English for example, is the consequence of the impact of these private universities. Local employers (other than governmental agencies of course) made it clear that they prefer these graduates over those from public universities because of their demonstrably superior skills in English.

There were initial attempts at imputing ugly racial motives to this preferential treatment of private university graduates as most of them were non-Malays. That worked, but only temporarily. Ultimately the horrible truth was exposed. That realization was the impetus to the current greater use of English in public universities, with their erstwhile nationalistic Vice-Chancellors now fully embracing the move. They had to; the pathetic sight of their unemployed graduates was a constant and painful reminder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Resurrecting Kirby Is Fiscally Irresponsible

By M. Bakri Musa

It is incomprehensible that with the Ministry of Education still in the midst of its review of our schools, the Minister and his Deputy saw fit to announce two decisions that could potentially have a profound impact on the system. The first, announced by the Minister, would resurrect the old Kirby/Brinsford Lodge program of the 1950s, and the second, announced by his Deputy, would remove the current quotas on local enrollment in international schools.

Before analyzing the two decisions, it is worth pondering as to why they were made before the completion of this “exhaustive review.” A cynical interpretation would be that the current “review” is nothing more than a charade rather than a serious deliberative process. If that were to be so, then it would be a terrible insult to those distinguished Malaysians who have been co-opted or have volunteered to serve on the panel. On a moral level, it would also be an unconscionable fraud perpetrated upon citizens, especially parents who have been banking on the review to improve our schools.
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BERSIH 3.0 Broke Many Glasses (Including A Few Glass Ceilings)

by Bakri Musa

First of Two Parts: Seeing The Bright Side
(Next Week: Part Two: Lessons To Be Learned)

In the aftermath of the largest public demonstrations against the Barisan government, the officials’ obsession now turns to the exercise of apportioning blame and the associated inflicting of vengeance. Both are raw human reactions, but hardly enlightening, sophisticated, or even fruitful. Besides, there is plenty of blame to go around. I prefer to look at the bright side and on the lessons that can be learned.

BERSIH 3.0 clearly demonstrates that Malaysians no longer fear the state. In that regard we are a quantum leap ahead of the Egyptians under Mubarak, the Iraqis under Saddam, or the Chinese under Mao (or even today). When citizens are no longer afraid of the state, many wonderful things would follow. BERSIH is also the first successful multiracial mass movement in Malaysia. In a nation obsessed with and where every facet is defined by race, that is an achievement worthy of note. Another significant milestone, again not widely acknowledged, is that the movement is led by a woman who is neither Malay nor a Muslim. Ambiga Sreenevasan broke not one but three Malaysian glass ceilings!

On a sour note, BERSIH 3.0 revealed that Barisan leaders (and a few from the opposition) have yet to learn and accept the fundamental premise that dissent is an integral part of the democratic process, and expressing it through peaceful assembly a basic human right. At a more mundane level though no less important, the authorities’ performance in BERSIH 3.0 also exposed their woeful incompetence and negligence in basic crowd control. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reforming Education: Futility of the Exercise

by Bakri Musa
Last of Six Parts

Earlier I reviewed the challenges faced by three groups of students who happen to be mostly if not exclusively Malays: kampong students, those in residential schools, and those in academic limbo following their Form Five.

There is another group, this time also exclusively Malays, being poorly served by our system of education: students in Islamic schools. These schools see their mission as primarily producing ulamas and religious functionaries; they are more seminaries, with indoctrination masquerading as education. They are more like Pakistan’s madrasahs and Indonesia’s pesantrens.

I would prefer that they be more like America’s faith-based schools which regularly outperform public ones. They are also cheaper and produce their share of America’s future scientists, engineers and executives. Religion is only one subject in these schools, not the all-consuming curriculum. Thus they attract many non-Christians. Contrast that to Islamic schools in Malaysia.

If Malaysia were to serve the aforementioned four groups of students well, that would go a long way in ameliorating the “Malay problem.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Reforming Education: Post-Form Five Options

by M. Bakri Musa
(Fifth of Six Parts)

In the previous four essays I reviewed the particular challenges facing students in rural and residential schools. This essay delves into the six-month period in which our university-bound and other students find themselves in academic limbo following their Sijil Persekutuan Malaysia (SPM) examination.

In reviewing the recent SPM results, Education Minister Muhyiddin did not once pause to ponder what those nearly half a million 17-year-old Malaysians were doing since they sat for their test last November. These are the youngsters infesting our shopping malls, roaring around on their motorcycles, or otherwise getting into mischief. For over six months they are unable to plan for their future. They cannot even enjoy their break as their future is uncertain. The government’s myriad post-SPM programs like Sixth Form, matrikulasi, polytechnic institutes, and teachers’ colleges depend on the SPM scores, and therefore do not begin until the middle of the year.

This long period of uncertainty and inactivity during a critical period in a teenager’s development is unhealthy. The expression “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop” is never more true than for teenagers. Even if they could ward off the devil’s machination, with the long hiatus would come considerable attrition of knowledge and good study habits. This is particularly critical for those aspiring to go to good universities. Read the rest of this entry »

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