Sunday, January 6, 2019


The current debate about the United Examination Certificate (UEC) that applies to private Malaysian schools where the medium of instruction is mostly in the Mandarin language is a red herring.

All Malaysian educationists of all stripes should be asked to stand down on the matter. 

It is not an urgent matter. It is an aspirational matter.

Instead, all Malaysian educationists should focus on why the mainstream schools have seriously underperformed over the past few decades.

What went wrong?

In approaching the matter, the government must be the convener and facilitator. Avoid polemics. Focus on syllabus, focus on teaching talent, focus on good morals and behaviour as befits a multi-racial Malaysia, focus on skills that will help to earn a livelihood.

The new government is already moving on this. But, this new government lacks patience. It wants to be seen to have gotten things done, which usually means small issues like shoe colour, while failing to communicate on the bigger issues such as the quality of education.

My suggestion is that this new government start various inclusive processes that involves active consultation with various community groups.

Those of us who studied in mainstream schools have found that since the mid-1980s, the quality of education has gone down. 

The funny thing is that the syllabus is still good. So, why the anomalous situation?

All 3 of my children went through Malaysian mainstream schools. There was tuition, of course. But, they have gone on to tertiary studies in foreign lands and earned high scores and graduated. 

So, if the syllabus looks to be okay, what else is wrong with the mainstream schools?

I will make this one observation.

As my youngest child reached the end of her Standard 6, the new Pengetua Sekolah decided to build a huge surau at the teacher's car park right in the front entrance to the school. The teachers were told to park in the school padang. The padang was at a lower level to the school building so the teachers had to climb a flight of steps to reach the school building. And, if it rained, the padang would become muddy.

So, the playing field became smaller. The grand entrance to the school was obstructed by the surau building. Teachers had to park far away and trudged to the school.

I was quite perturbed as to why the education system was unable to tell the Pengetua that his faith is his personal business and, plonking a building at the teacher's car park would affect the school's processes. The teachers were griping  about the situation but felt emasculated.

Let us leave aside the UEC for now. All educationists must be invited by the new government to contribute to the rebuilding of the mainstream education system.

And, just to put things in stark perspective, understand that whatever that is decided now will take at least a decade or, a generation, to reach fruition. That is how dire the situation is.