Sunday): It is a sad commentary of the deplorable state of
undemocratic, unrepresentative and unprofessional education planning in the country that tonight’s forum is
the first public discussion on the 10-year Education Development Blueprint
2001-2010 since it was approved by the Cabinet 13 months ago on June 20, 2001 or
publicly unveiled by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad some 10 months
ago in October last year – when for the past one year, there should have been
hundreds of public forums, seminars, dialogues and discussions up and down the
country on the Education Development Blueprint which Musa had described as
“revolutionary” in proposing sweeping changes to the 45-year Malaysian
But there had been a complete absence of public discussion
on the Education Development Blueprint although Musa had welcomed public
comments, feedback and a national
consensus when he unveiled it in October last year, saying that the blueprint
would be discussed by various parties before a final draft is presented to the
Cabinet for the simple reason that the Education
Development Blueprint was not available to the public.
Although it was not classified under the Official Secrets
Act making it a criminal offence for anyone to have possession of it, the
Education Development Blueprint was for all practical purposes,
as good or as bad as an official document because of its total
inaccessibility as far as members of the public, whether individuals or
organizations, are concerned. The Blueprint was never tabled or debated in
Parliament although there had been three parliamentary meetings since last
It had to take the DAP two weeks of polite
request, criticism, badgering and bludgeoning with several caustic media
statements directed at Musa himself before copies of the Blueprint were forced
out from the Ministry on 15th July, 2002
– and now we are prepared to make
photocopies of the Blueprint easily available to the public at the cost
price of RM20 a copy.
It is regrettable that up to now, Musa is still
equivocating and refuses to make a clear statement as to whether the Education
Development Blueprint 2001-2010 is still a draft which allows for public input
and policy proposal alterations or whether it had been adopted as a policy
document, giving only room for public inputs on its implementation.
Reading the Blueprint, there is no way this could be a
draft, as it is a full-fledged and fully endorsed policy document, where every
chapter is accompanied by a special section outlining its
implementation strategy, action plan, time-frame and the agencies or
departments responsible for implementation.
If the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010 is a
full-fledged policy document in the second year of implementation, it is most
irresponsible and even dishonest for Musa to continue to pretend that it is a
draft and that he is still waiting
for a national consensus on its policy proposals – especially as he had never
created a mechanism for public discussion and consultation to get public
feedback for the “secret”
Yesterday, the Education Development Blueprint again made
history at the dull and tame MCA 49th General Assembly, where MCA
delegates were banned by the Mahathir “peace plan” from electing their new
party leadership resulting in the
AGM debate being held to a fourth-fifth
empty hall as shown by a Malaysiakini photo online.
Among the resolutions passed without debate at the MCA
General Assembly was one which expressed “support for the setting up of a
special MCA committee to study the implications and monitor the implementation
of the 10-year 2001-2010 Education Development Plan and all other education
policies formulated by the Education Ministry”.
Although the MCA should be commended for being the first
Barisan Nasional component party to have passed a resolution at its national
party conference on the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010, better than
Gerakan, MIC, PPP, SUPP or even UMNO, this was nonetheless a classic example of
its “unknowing, unfeeling or last to know, last to feel” syndrome as the
whole MCA would not be aware of such a 10-year Education Development Plan if the
DAP had not catapulted the issue into the national limelight at the DAP
Education Forum on May 23, 13 months after it was approved by the Cabinet and 10
months after it was unveiled by the Education
Minister – raising the question as to what all the MCA and Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders are really
doing in Cabinet and in government!
There were two other references to education at the tame
and dull MCA General Assembly yesterday.
There was firstly the clear and unambiguous admission by
MCA Secretary-General and former Cabinet Minister, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew that
teaching science and mathematics in English will change the nature and character
of Chinese primary schools.
Ting outlined two possible scenarios from such a measure in
Chinese primary schools -
(i) slight improvement in the
standard of English but sharp decline in the results for mathematics and science
- the gain not worth the
loss; or (ii) no improvement in English standards but decline in the standards
of mathematics and science – a loss for all three subjects.
It is significant
that he completely excluded the
possibility of the third scenario - the
improvement in the academic standards for all three subjects, mathematics,
science and English – by ignoring it altogether.
It is tragic that
Ministers or those who aspire to be Ministers, like Datuk Kerk Choo Ting, the
Gerakan Deputy President, wear blinkers so that they could not see what is so
obvious to ordinary laymen – that
the change in the medium of instruction in the use of English to teach
mathematics and science affects the nature and character of Chinese primary
schools. Probably if Ting is still
a Cabinet Minister, he would still
be wearing the same blinkers and would
not be so clear-sighted as at present!
However, the most
pertinent relevance to education was the lament
by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his opening address
that race-based extremism is
getting worse among the younger generation in the country compared to previously
where people of different background could mix with each other.
If what Mahathir
said is true, then this is the greatest failure
of the national education system and policy encapsulated in
the 1996 Education Act which was committed to achieving an “united,
democratic, liberal and dynamic” Malaysia.
Development Blueprint 2001-2010 however showed
neither awareness nor urgency to re-prioritise the task of creating a Bangsa
Malaysia by moving Malaysians away from the extremes and returning them to the
middle road of nation-buidling to check the double polarization of race and
Development Blueprint 2001-2010 suffers from five fundamental
failings - not transparent, unrepresentative, undemocratic,
unprofessional and sadly lacking in vision.
Before its approval by the Cabinet on June 20, 2001, nobody
knew that the Education Development Blueprint was being drafted. Even after its
approval by the Cabinet in June
2001, it never captured the imagination of Malaysians as “The Definitive
Education Plan” for the next decade – which explained the series of calls
for Royal Commission of Inquiry into the education system and policy as if the
Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010 never existed.
Former deputy prime minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, when
delivering the inaugural Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Memorial lecture in Penang in
April 2001 spoke of the failure of the education system in its main objective of
achieving national unity and proposed a National Commission of Enquiry with the
specific objective to review the shortcomings of the education system and with a
mandate to make recommendations.
In the past one
year, political parties like the DAP, organizations like the National Union of
Teaching Profession (NUTP) and educationists including a Vice Chancellor of a
public university, had called for commissions of inquiry into the education
system and policy – which would not be necessary if the Education Development
Blueprint 2001-2010 is regarded and accepted as the definitive education blueprint for the next decade.
Last week, the
country was surprised by the media report of a
National Brains Trust, the education system think-tank of the National
Economic Action Council (NEAC), which had been set up two and half months go,
consists of 68 distinguished members from the education industry and which had
held over 23 meetings to prepare a report to the government
– as nobody has heard of it before.
The National Brains
Trust chairman, Tan Sri Dr. Nordin Sopiee, said the Trust had submitted to the
government 13 “strategic intervention
points” which would have a “catalytic effect” in changing the present
education system to one which could create a world-class workforce.
In his foreword to
the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010, the Prime Minister had written
that the Blueprint is to deliver “quality
education of world standard”. If
the Blueprint had done its job well, then there would be no need for such a
National Brains Trust or its proposal
of 13-point “strategic
intervention points” in the second year of the 10-year Education Development
The Blueprint is
unrepresentative of plural Malaysia. A look at the composition of the Steering
Committee (Jawatankuasa Pemandu) and the Main Committee (Jawatankuasa Induk) of
the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010, headed by Musa, shows that it
does not reflect the multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and
multi-cultural characteristics of Malaysia.
The Blueprint is
undemocratic. As the definitive
education policy document for the next decade, it should be prepared by
policy-makers comprising not only Barisan Nasional leaders, but also leaders
from the Opposition and representatives from the civil society.
review of the education policy and system should have been conducted once a
decade. There had been three education policy reports in the history of the
nation – the Razak Report 1956, the Abdul Talib Report 1960 and the Mahathir
Report 1980 - and although they were not fully representative of all
cross-sections of the Malaysian society, they were represented by leaders of the
most important members of the ruling coalition.
This is not the case
with the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010 which, apart from the
Education Minister as the chairman of the committee, comprise heads of the
various divisions in the Education Ministry.
There must be a
clear distinction between policy makers and implementors, but in the case of the Education Development Blueprint
2001-2010, the implementors have usurped the role of the political leadership to
become the policy makers – a reflection not only of the continuing
emasculation of the rightful role of Parliament
but the marginalisation of the other component parties in the Barisan Nasional
where UMNO increasingly exercises unchecked hegemony.
Development Blueprint is also unprofessional, or it would not be overtaken so
quickly by so many educational developments and events
– as the use of English to teach science and mathematics, the so-called
meritocracy system for admission into public universities, the serious problem
of unemployed and unemployable graduates who are mostly Malays and other
bumiputras, the poor academic performance of bumiputra university students, and
most serious of all, the total neglect in the blueprint about the future and
development of Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
The Blueprint also
lacks vision. Our three panelists,
Prof. Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid and Dr. Tan Seng Giaw
have given us thought-provoking contributions about what should be in the
Syed Hussein in
particular challenges us to focus on the philosophy and purposes of education
– the philosophical, intellectual and functional underpinnings of any system
of education, whether it is just to produce employable as well as
unemployable graduates or whether there is also the equally important
purpose of producing good citizens.
Ibrahim is one of
the country’s leading advocates of life-long learning which he describes as a
pillar of Malaysia as a learning and information society.
These concerns are
not reflected in the Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010.
Malaysia is in fact
three decades behind the concept of a life-long learning.
During the debate on my motion on the Mahathir Education Report in
Parliament in June 1980, I lamented that the Report had failed to give new
re-thinking of the aims and functions of education.
The same complaint applies today, more than two decades later.
In Parliament in
1980, I had asked the government to
embrace the concept of lifelong education as in an age of rapid scientific and
technological changes, there is a need for a new vision of education which
conceives of it as an enterprise transcending the framework of schools and
I stressed that
education must cease being confined within school-house walls and each person
should be able to choose his path more freely, in a more flexible framework,
without being compelled to give up using educational services for life if he
leaves the education system.
I pay tribute to
Ibrahim for his strong advocacy of life-long education in Malaysia, but it is a
reflection of the utter failure of the education planners
to keep abreast with the times for the last three decades.
The concept of
lifelong education was the dominant theme of the Edgar Faure
report Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow
was published by UNESCO in 1972.
This theme has been
developed by the Jacques Delors International Commission on Education for the
Twenty-First Century whose report,
Learning: the Treasure Within was
published by UNESCO in 1996, which stresses the further imperative: None of the
talents which are hidden like buried treasure in every person must be left
Malaysia had let the
world pass by as far as life-long education is concerned for three whole decades
after the Edgar Faure Report and we should not continue to be behind times after
the Jacques Delors Report!