What have our schools become?

— Jahabar Sadiq
The Malaysian Insider
Mar 28, 2012

MARCH 28 — Last weekend, I went back to school for a memorial. This was the second time in three years that I visited St John’s Institution. While the memorial for Master Vincent Fernandez was sombre, it ended on an uplifting note when the school rally rang through the old school hall.

The school itself appeared to be a far cry from its glory days. The field was bare but the main building had ferns and other vegetation growing out of it, showing the neglect and lack of respect for the hardware required for the education of the young. I had no heart to even peek into any of the classroom for fear of further disappointment.

As it is, the school that has produced a list of top Malayans and Malaysians since 1904 no longer boasts of a hockey or football team that dominate the Kuala Lumpur school leagues. We can only take pride that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak studied there, as did his cousin Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Perak regent Raja Nazrin Shah and a whole lot more others.

But a school is more than bricks and mortar. The Johannians past and present can and will chip in, as they did previously, to make our alma mater as good as new again and put the green in the right place — the field, not the building.

However, who will put education or the software right? For instance, my colleagues reported today that the Johor education authorities are having a weekend seminar for religious teachers to reinforce the Islamic faith, to counter liberalism, pluralism and the threat of Christianisation.

Really, that is a priority at a time when parents are hounding the government to reinstate English as a medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics?

What do schoolchildren these days learn in school? Do they have a field to even do physical exercises, let alone play football or hockey? What is our education system about? Staying in religious and racial silos? Or to acquire knowledge? To know more. To keep being inquisitive, that’s what I tell people.

My senior from St John’ Institution, Dr Farish A. Noor, wrote last week — What is Knowledge and why do I teach? where he elaborated his love for knowledge and teaching.

“Teaching is about that: It’s about encouraging and inviting students like you to think, so that we all build our knowledge together, and that our society will grow wiser in the future. That’s why your school books are the result of years of thinking and discussing and questioning, and that’s why you must always think and question in class; ask questions to your teachers, and to each other,” he wrote.

See, a whole lot of Malaysians are worried about their children’s future. Just as our parents were worried about us. But they trusted the school system, even the missionary schools to help us seek knowledge together without fear that our faith was brittle and unable to counter the onslaught of other religions. I think Najib, Hishammuddin and others are proof that Muslims can study in missionary schools or abroad and still remain faithful to their religion.

The irony is, both these gentlemen who studied in St John’s Institution and hold powerful positions were also once Education Ministers. And they have tried to shape the education system to produce men and women like them — knowledgeable and confident in their faith and abilities to rise to the top.

So why do we have such seminars for religious teachers? Why don’t we have seminars to make them teach better, like my teachers in St John’s Institution? Why do the authorities persist in chasing shadows of doubt to keep the sheep in the pen of a single-track mind? What do you hope to achieve with this? A nation of unthinking sheep?

I remember Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad outlining the nine strategic thrusts of Vision 2020 in 1991 and I wonder where it has gone.

Let me recap them —

Challenge 1: Establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia (Malaysian Race).

Challenge 2: Creating a psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society.

Challenge 3: Fostering and developing a mature democratic society.

Challenge 4: Establishing a fully moral and ethical society.

Challenge 5: Establishing a matured liberal and tolerant society.

Challenge 6: Establishing a scientific and progressive society.

Challenge 7: Establishing a fully caring society.

Challenge 8: Ensuring an economically just society, in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation.

Challenge 9: Establishing a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

Do you think we have even reached the halfway point for any of the challenges? Isn’t it a concern that we are nowhere near any of the challenges? Isn’t it ridiculous that we are suspicious of those of other faiths trying to proselytise? Isn’t it astounding that we don’t hear of emphasis on science, mathematics or sports in our schools?

Isn’t it sad that an education system that has produced thinkers, visionaries and sportsmen who once ruled the world in their time now worry about boys and girls going astray in their faith?

Seriously, please leave that concern to their parents and do your job, teach and train your students to be the best that they can be.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 5:12 pm

    ///What have our schools become?///

    Our schools have become a convenient place for political propaganda and advancement of religious agenda.

  2. #2 by Cinapek on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 5:15 pm

    “…What is our education system about? Staying in religious and racial silos?..”

    That is precisely what is happening for years now and what is causing the non Malay parents to avoid the national schools if they can and instead send their children to the SRJKs.

    It is bad enough that those in the education depts have turned the school systems into religious and racial silos, they also now wants to demonize the Christians in order to cover for their own insecurity and inferiority complex. And they are abusing the teaching service for their own bigotted tendencies.

    If one’s faith is strong, no amount of proselytising will change it. If a religion teaches good, any right thinking person will embrace it. But if does the opposite and try to use coercion or force to keep its faithfuls, they will resent it and leave.

    And shouldn’t the preaching and teaching of religion and strengthening one’s faith be left to the mosques, churches, temples and other places of worship and leave the schools to teach young people to excel in their studies and contribute to nation building and development?

  3. #3 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 5:42 pm

    What hv our schools become? They became grounds for propagating umno-ism and umnoputras’ untouchable and unquestionable ketuanan rights.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 6:26 pm

    Yes we had an education system that has produced thinkers, visionaries and sportsmen but nowadays? We may still have thinkers, visionaries and sportsmen but the problem is we churn out more and more opportunists. This is dangerous. It is not that opportunists can’t think. Some undoubtedly can, very well indeed, but they do so – by leveraging on creed, political and religious affiliation to score points to advance personal interests heedless of what is right or wrong, let alone the adverse consequences of their actions and speech to others or the nation. When you have a situation of the Compromised and the Opportunists being rewarded – and those deserving on merits and integrity marginalised if not punished for speaking to or and acting contrary to Power – then we have a morally inverse system that provides social/economic incentives to and produces more and more opportunists who will scr*w up everything that they get involved in and touch, whether education, politics or business. The problem is wider than just what’s happening in the schools.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 6:33 pm

    “demonize the Christians in order to cover for their own insecurity and inferiority complex” – Cinapek

    In many cases yes – to cover for their own insecurity and inferiority complex. however in many other cases it is to advance their own personal political agenda and benefit. They will twist every truth for these ends. This is then a clear example of rising Opportunism. It is no point if for every five thinkers, visionaries and sportsmen produced ten more opportunists are produced including three from soon become opportunists and besides the three another

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 6:35 pm

    Correction in last sentence of preceding posting- “ten more opportunists are produced, including three converted from the ranks of the earlier five thinkers, visionaries and sportsmen…”

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 9:33 pm

    Study after study shows one simple fact – Education should largely be decided between the teachers and parents – the govt should get out of the way and at best just decide who gets the money..

  8. #8 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - 11:45 pm

    There is no doubt that education has been used as political tools by UMNO and the outcome to create the false hope of the nation is to churn out as many As as they could. As I have noted that if we are so confidence of our quality, we should take part in the PISA study. This the Gomen has rejected as unnecessary! LoL!! We prefer to bluff ourselves through slogans and proclamations! The pride that one has for the Alma Mater has been thrown out of the window!

  9. #9 by raven77 on Thursday, 29 March 2012 - 12:26 am

    At least SJI has to be grateful that the church has some sway and it has in some ways remained secular…..

    Right across town, the Victoria Instituton founded by Yap Kwan Seng, Thamboosamy and Sultan Abdul Samad…should be called Sekolah Kebangsaan Melayu Islam Jalan Hang Tu Ah to justify the giant mosque built right smack on its once perfect lawns…..

    Dont waste time, just send your kids to private schools, Chinese schools or schools that have a very good racial mix in Damansara, Taman Tun or Subang..

    The days of RMC, VI, SJI, MBS are long over in case if you have been on Mars the last three decades

    In fact SJI should be ashamed that it produced the likes of Najib and Hishamudin….

  10. #10 by monsterball on Thursday, 29 March 2012 - 8:06 am

    Our schools have become the pleasures of our Government….bringing them backwards.
    These crooks send their children to study overseas…mastering the English language…and back home…idiots are yelling no English subjects allowed.
    You can say…UMNO b have succeeded to make their own race backwards…with countless excuses..for them to slowly catch up with the Chinese.
    After 55 years…..still catching up.

  11. #11 by sotong on Thursday, 29 March 2012 - 9:58 am

    Education is the most important for unity and nation building.

    Our ” leaders ” don’t care…..as long as their self and narrow interests are protected.

  12. #12 by Taikohtai on Thursday, 29 March 2012 - 2:26 pm

    I have been informed that one of my Alma Maters, St George’s School Balik Pulau, Penang is going to close very soon. Started as a Brother school, it was nationalised back in the 1970s. As a result, most Chinese moved away to Sacred Heart School across the road and SHS is now one of the top schools in Malaysia, with three students scoring 10As in last year’s SPM.
    Cry baby WKS can ‘Cry Father Cry Mother’ for all I care but Penang shall always be with LGE all the way!

You must be logged in to post a comment.