Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Reform Malaysian Education at the Basic Levels

Written by johnleemk on 8:57:17 pm Apr 4, 2007.
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In reply to Malaysians Aren't Intelligent At All, consequence writes:

Yeah, Malaysians aren't intelligent at all. Look at what the education system bred. Politicians who aspire to send astronauts to space eating NASI LEMAK and ROTI CANAI. Way to promote Malaysia, I salute you!

The education system is continuing to be in an inevitable downward spiral. When in the past we had visionary leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman or even Mahathir, we have more idiot leaders now than we have visionary ones. A direct result of the trash Malaysian education system, obviously.

We have undergrads in public unis who don't have any opinions even when prompted, whose sole existence in the public unis is to pass exams and be robots, regurgitating facts and figures without even attempting to think about things critically.

These same undergrads enter the job market when they graduate and they suddenly find themselves unable to cope, because Malaysian tertiary education system doesn't pay much focus on churning out marketable workers.

But this goes back to the basics: the fundamentals of the Malaysian education system which begins at the primary school stage.

Being spoonfed all the time, by the time these students step into unis, they will beg for lecture notes without even once taking the initiative to do their own research, simply accepting every word in the main textbook.

And so they join the workforce as a group of people that lack critical thinking skills, who do much talk but are essentially empty husks without any practical knowledge.

Therein lies the failure of the Malaysian education system.

But I could be wrong. After all, I was bred by the same system, so what I have said could probably come from a stupid Malaysian.

I just pray (using this metaphorically since I'm impartial in my belief in god) that I'm not.

These comments are spot on, although I am not sure that we had that much better leadership in Mahathir's time. If I'm not mistaken, many of the present woes with our education system really took root then.

Anyhow, it is absolutely correct that the problems with our education system lie in the primary schools of Malaysia. We see the symptoms at the university level, but in reality, the root causes are mainly at the formative years of primary school.

As I've suggested in the past, racial polarisation in universities can be traced to our voluntarily segregated primary school system. But a lot of other problems similarly stem from the primary school level. If a student has a terrible primary school education, it is difficult to see how secondary school can remedy this — even with one year of remove class.

The poor academic standards of university students and unemployed graduates are often lamented. But what is done to solve them? Almost nothing, and worse still, most things that are done focus on improving the state of university education.

There is nothing with fixing our admittedly far from perfect tertiary education system. But what's the point of focusing on the apex when the base itself is in tatters? Our primary and secondary schools are generally inadequate when it comes to preparing students for the rigours of academia. (As an aside, it's questionable that all students are cut out for academia in the first place — university education should be for those who are intellectually capable, not for any Tom, Dick and Harry.)

For example, I am willing to bet that we could cut down the number of unemployed graduates and abysmally performing university students if only we either reformed education at the primary school level or provided tuition for them. The present higher education system admits just about anyone (specifically, almost any Malay) who applies, so if it's going to do that, the focus should be on improving the quality of applicants — and we need to go back to basics for that.

Study habits, as consequence says, are also set in primary school. If students become used to rote memorisation and reliance on tuition and workbooks at that stage, they will never be used to doing the real intellectual work that a university education requires, nor will they be prepared for the kind of skills required to cope with daily life.

In secondary school, I remember that many of my classmates copied their coursework reports and essays from friends and relatives who had written similar such works before. Was it because these people were dumb? No — it was because they had become used to not having to deal with any sort of such work in primary school, and furthermore, because they knew they could get away with it.

Our education system is in dire need of reform. And this reform is most badly needed at the base of the education system — the primary and secondary school levels. It is no good to have a brilliant higher education system, but to have primary schools only capable of churning out mindless zombies unprepared for either daily or university life.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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