PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has given the media a heads-up on a possible overhaul of our education system, suggesting a change in the school curriculum.
Dr Mahathir, who is in Singapore to attend the 33rd Asean Summit, said the revamp would change what students learn in school. About time. Many parents, teachers and students will likely welcome this, though they will be asking: when will there be a final, holistic education blueprint to end all blueprints? Fair question.
There have been far too many revamps over the years, and that many blueprints too. Even the National Union of the Teaching Profession welcomes the move, though its support is rather qualified. NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock told the New Straits Times that the revamp should not overhaul the primary and secondary school curricula because
what exist are fit for the purpose. Instead, NUTP wants the revamp to aim its cross hairs at the curricula of vocational schools.
Be that as it may, we cannot deny that our students are losing 3.1 years of their 12 years of schooling. Khazanah Research Institute’s “The State of the Household 2018: Different Realities” report calls this “...potential deficiency in the Malaysian education system...”
What is important is to begin with the end in mind. What really is the end of education? We venture to suggest that the whole point of education is to produce a good man. We rarely teach one how to build a life and on which foundation such a life should be built on. This is the world of values, the realm of ethics. It is of such stuff that good men are made of.
And a great nation is but a collection of such good individuals. Instead, we teach things mechanical to be regurgitated in examinations. And we start them early too.
How would such tender minds cope with the idea of failing at exams? Finland just has one exam at secondary school level. But we should not go Finnish for this reason alone. There must be some larger end for us to emulate an education system. What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander.
Higher education institutes, too, need to address the question of the purpose of education. Every year, we seem to be churning out between 200,000 and 250,000 graduates from our institutions of higher learning. Yet close to 20 per cent of them remain unemployed on an annual basis. Employers tell us that graduates from local universities are not employable. Interestingly, the employers find half of the graduates to have character and attitude issues. Is it a question of quality? Or are the employers being unrealistic?
Perhaps the likely reason is that the academia and industries are at cross purposes. Education—from preschools to universities—should serve one end: to produce good individuals. Left alone, the industry and academia would travelaparallel path. The Education Ministry has to help make their ends meet.