Malaysians Must Change Everything
Today, I met a number of students from some top universities and liberal arts colleges in the United States. When explaining to them my motivation for quitting the local education system, I briefly ran through the extremely (and thus atypical) horrid educational experience at my previous secondary school.
After I told the tale of teachers who would have let a student bleed to death, one premier liberal arts college alumnus said something I found very illuminating, along the lines of: "The education is like that because the government is like that. The government is like that because society is like that."
The necessary implications are crystal clear. We cannot hope to change our education system without changing our government. And we cannot hope to change our government without changing our society.
But at the same time, if you think about it, how can we change our society without changing our government and our education? These two things mould society just as much as society moulds them.
I believe that the traditional linear thinking of single cause and effect cannot hold true very often in the sphere of the humanities and social sciences, and especially so in the case of Malaysia.
If you approach things in a linear manner, you will try to change what you consider to be the sole root cause. But sometimes, there can be a vicious cycle where two things are both cause and effect; without breaking both, the problem persists.
I think a fine example of this is the present state of public education, with three separate education streams for the three different races. Defenders of the status quo argue that this is justified because they must protect the minority communities from the onslaught of the majority's racist ideology. But at the same time, the majority's racist ideology is partially justified by the present segregation of the school systems. Both are inputs and produce the same output of racial tension and social inequities.
In the same way, I believe that change has to be effected simultaneously in at least three different sectors. We must see a change in our society, in our government, and in our education.
All three things are interconnected and to effect change in one of them, there must be change in the other two. Focusing on one aspect is probably a non-productive route; at best, you might accomplish some minor goals, but you will not see the kind of drastic change we need to prevent the death of Malaysia.
It might seem impossible to change any of these things, let alone all three, but as always, take heart in incremental change. Changing things step by step is more than doable.
After all, what is society other than an aggregation of individuals? If you want to change society, you must first be the change you want to see in others. Too often we are surrounded by hypocrites who operate on double standards, demanding one sort of change while rejecting another.
Changing the government and the education system is more difficult, but also doable. Play a part in changing the government and vote appropriately. Lend your voice to quiet dialogue in your community; even a talk in the coffee shop can be productive if it is directed towards tangible results rather than simple complaining and blaming.
And as for education, from time to time, there are mavericks who do the right thing rather than simply and mindlessly conforming to the pointless rules and regulations of our educational bureaucrats. Lend these educators your support in PTA meetings and play a role in keeping the paws of the bureaucrats off them.
This is just a small sampling of the small change which can be accomplished at the microscopic level. It sounds cliched, but it is this microscopic change, in all three spheres, which is what will lead to change in the big picture, at the macroscopic level.
We have to change, and we must be that change we want to see. It is our choice; change, or perish.