Embracing Change

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By Mahathir Mohd Rais

The Malaysian education system has always been considered as a system that is not as efficient as the system of all the other developed countries. Even Singapore, our neighbouring country has found a way to make their education system fair and globally recognised as of today. So what is wrong with our country? Why is it hard for us to achieve the same amount of praise that other countries got when it comes to education?
First and foremost, it must be noted that the individuals in our country are very capable. Malaysians have made breakthroughs over the years of independence and it is something that we held high and very dearly to. However, only a fraction of our population managed to climb high and break free from the very system that claims to be ‘helping’ the people of this country. Thus, blaming our students for being lazy and lacking in terms of potential is outright despicable.
As said by Benjamin Disraeli, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, “Great countries are those that produce great people.”
So why isn’t Malaysia producing enough great students as of now? 
The question can simply be answered by analysing how our students view and deal with the way the education system is presented to them. We are encouraging students to not be who they want to be. The system focuses on delivering ‘top tier’ education for those who are in science and business streams compared to the art stream. The stigma is that art stream students aren’t as capable as those who are in the science and business streams. This is not true. By implanting this idea into the heads of the students, they are pressured to endure the stress of studying things that they don’t want to. Who is it to blame for this stigma? It is the educators in schools and even parents who are not open to the idea of change.
Students should be allowed to express their interest without being downgraded for it. Those who are in art streams should understand that their opportunity to become successful and happy in the long term is just as high as those who are studying to become doctors and engineers. The government should emphasise on this. Ensure that students and parents are aware of the importance of letting their kids choose the fields that they want to be in. Additionally, the government should promote all streams equally, proving how being who the students want to be is the best way to ensure good grades and an excellent future. 
The second issue that must be addressed is the quality of the educators. Recently, a video of a professor mentally, verbally and emotionally abusing a UITM student went viral. In that video, the professor clearly thinks very highly of herself. Just because she possess the title ‘Professor’, she might’ve thought that she has the right to make fun of a student, who is going through a lot during these unprecedented times. However, she didn’t just make fun of the student in particular, but she made fun of the whole B40 community by mentioning how incompetent and lazy these people are. She generalised a fraction of the population just because a poor student did not have the money to buy a laptop, which isn’t as essential as having food on the table.
This recent issue showed us how certain educators does more damage than good. Are we expecting our students to learn from this behaviour? The answer is a definite no. The B40 community already has a lot on their hands and to be given more stress, especially for students who are struggling trying to make ends meet, it is just plainly unfair. This issue was talked about for weeks and more promises were made by the government. Yet, are those empty promises really the answer to the real messed up situation that resides in our education system?
As per the video that went viral, the professor is of old age. Sometimes, people assume that those of old age are the wise ones however this is not entirely true. The reason being is because the older generation prefers not to accept change. This is the same with the political system in our country. By letting the older generation take control of everything, change could never be possible. The same mindset of how things ‘were’ would never lead to any development.
As of today, the political situation in Malaysia is very bland. There is no real change that can be visibly and emotionally felt by the people of this country. When it comes to the education system, issues like the recent one turned into dust after a few weeks. Real change isn’t necessarily made. So the government should focus more on changing, instead of verbally promising.
For starters, the government could think of a long term plan of how they want the future of Malaysia to be. As we all know by now, the future of this country is in the hands of the younger generation. The long term plan should consists of levelling up the whole education system and changing the syllabus into one that will be globally recognised by every nation. Right now, the system is very biased and lacking in term of information. Giving more freedom to the students to choose and determine how they want their pathways to be would be a great start to developing independent individuals who are brave enough to fight for the future of Malaysia when the time finally comes. 
On the other hand, the current government must focus on giving quality and fair education to all. Ensuring that the educators have good moral values is essential to ensure that they won’t spread negativity to their fellow students. Taking the first step, which is reviewing how the Malaysian schools are doing and getting feedback from the students themselves is a good way to ensure the latter. 
Every individual, despite the differences in race, age, religion, and status has the ability to become the best versions of themselves. A nation’s job is to ensure that they encourage their people to become just that. If change isn’t made today, our country is doomed for failure.

About the author: Mahathir Mohd Rais is the Bersatu Segambut Division Chief of Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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