End the secrecy of  the  two-year-old Murad Report to revamp and strengthen national schools – Abdullah should make it public immediately for  full national and parliamentary debate

Media Statement (1)

by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Saturday): The Bernama report yesterday that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would meet former Education Director-General Tan Sri Murad Mohd Nor as soon as possible to find out more on the latter’s suggestions to revamp and strengthen national schools has come as a great surprise to all who have been following closely educational developments in the country .

Bernama quoted Abdullah as saying to reporters at the end of his visit to Selangor yesterday: "When I read the article on the front page of Utusan (Malaysia), I decided to call him so that we can discuss his views further."

The national news agency reported Murad as saying  that the present education system should be revamped if the Government wanted to strengthen national schools – and that strengthening of national schools meant students from these schools should not only possess good moral and discipline, they should also be good in academics, sports, religion and culture.

Murad said a thorough study of the education system should be carried out for the purpose because an ad-hoc approach would not work. Change should not be carried out "bit-by-bit" as this would be ineffective. However the revamp should not change the National Education Policy.

Murad  said any  move to "strengthen" national schools should begin with trained teachers who understood the education system.  The Government should  review the curriculum on teacher training to keep it abreast with current and future needs.

He said the revamp should include teaching students the cultural practices of the various races in the country including the dos and don'ts in each culture. This should be taught to all races and not just to one race.  The teaching of Mathematics and Science in English should also be given greater emphasis.

The  Bernama report  has created “great surprise” because it has given the wrong impression that Abdullah was hearing for the first time  Murad’s views on how to revamp and strengthen national schools, when this was clearly not the case. 

In fact, two years ago in his final six months as  Deputy Prime Minister before he took over as Prime Minister from Tun Dr. Mahathir , Abdullah had  the responsibility to study the Murad Report which was specially  commissioned  to submit  recommendations to revamp and strengthen national schools.

The Murad Report to revamp national schools  is one of the most conspicuous unfinished business of Dr. Mahathir during his  premiership, as Murad was commissioned by Dr. Mahathir in December 2002 to head a group to  propose far-reaching educational reforms to redress what he had vividly described at the time as the “double hijacking” of the national school system from its original objective of catering to all races in Malaysia – sabotage of the Pupil’s Own Language (POL) programme and the attempt to turn the national schools into Islamic rather than Malaysian schools.

The Murad  task force took about six months to complete its report and  recommendations on the restructuring of  the national school system, and  Murad was quoted in the media in August 2003 as stating that the report had been presented to  Dr. Mahathir, with another media report stating that Abdullah as Deputy Prime Minister was assigned to deal with  the Murad Report.

Murad had said in August 2003 that the education system would  undergo significant changes “with far reaching effects” under the recommendations made in the Murad Report.

For the past two years, the Murad Report to revamp and strengthen national schools to make them the first choice of parents had been kept a closely-guarded secret, when it should be the subject of an extensive public debate involving parents, teachers and the civil society in a meaningful consultation process on the best ways to reform the national school system to provide quality education for primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT education.

Abdullah should end  the secrecy of  the  two-year-old Murad Report to revamp and strengthen national schools and direct the Education Minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein to make it public immediately for  full national and parliamentary discussion and  debate.

This is particularly urgent and important, as Cabinet Ministers, particularly those who are not from UMNO, whether MCA, Gerakan, MIC or SUPP, had  claimed that they  had no access, knowledge  or information about the Murad Report.

Even UMNO Ministers seem confused about the proposals of the Murad Report, which may explain why Abdullah’s reaction to the Murad interview yesterday was different from that of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who made the non-committal statement that “any change in the country’s education system must be studied in depth because the impact would be long term and felt by the next generation” – as if  the Murad Report had not existed in the past two years!



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman