“Move on” and race to embrace diversity
The Malaysia National Philosophy of Education (NPE) declares that, “Education in Malaysia
is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and
integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually,
emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion
to God. Such an effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable
and competent, who possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of
achieving high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the
harmony and betterment of the family, the society and the nation at large.” – Ministry of
Interestingly, the NPE was officially formulated in 1988 during the first premiership of Dr
Mahathir Mohamad and then Minister of Education, Anwar Ibrahim. It is now 34 years later,
and having just concluded the 15 th General Election, one wonders how much of the NPE has
been achieved notwithstanding that it is on-going and which may perhaps take forever
albeit with measurable success, and whether or not the final results of the polls was a
reflection of such a philosophy.
What was obvious and rather surprising was that in spite of the broad aspirations set by the
NPE, voters were still choosing candidates along racial and religious lines rather than on
merit implying a mutual distrust among ethnicities and religious beliefs. Such an imbalance
would probably have stemmed from the severe racial and religious polarisation among
schools. If the NPE is the foundation of all establishments under the Ministry of Education
then the results of the polls would have been more balanced. Instead, it was more skewed
towards a conservative religious slant. It now appears that while the NPE had good intention
it failed in its implementation.
An exemplary start by the new education minister would be to re-emphasise the rationale
of the NPE, the reasoning behind the Rukunegara rather than making students regurgitate
endlessly at every assembly, the importance of mutual respect and the equal acceptance of
every Malaysian regardless of origin and form. Teachers should re-start meaningful
conversations with their students and lecturers with their undergraduates about the rot
that corruption brings, creating a bigger economic pie and sharing it fairly, embracing
diversity and the synergistic effect of togetherness and the practise of a value system
second to none. The priority should be the progress of the nation at large rather than mere
support for race-based parties regardless of intent embodied in their respective manifestos.
Unfortunately, some fringe groups of hatemongers did not get the memo and the mis-use of
tiktok videos depicting Pakatan Harapan as anti-Muslim, while emotions were running high,
could have triggered untoward incidents. The play on divisive hooligan politics and the
blatant exploitation of race and religion to incite hatred has become endemic, which
beckons its elimination and thus requiring the urgent attention of all state rulers and its
religious institutions overseeing these sprouting establishments of learning.
However, the education system does not merely comprise pre-schools, schools, colleges
and universities under the Ministry of Education including religious secondary schools or
SMKA and government-aided religious primary and secondary schools or SABK. Incidentally,
at primary level, religious studies have more time allocated than for science and
There are still the Islamic religious schools which fall under the administration of their
respective responsible agencies such as the State Islamic Religious Department, the State
Islamic Religious Council and the State Islamic Foundation. These schools total over 700 in
number. In addition to that is also the informal religious education system of well over
1,200 “tahfiz” schools including at least 400 “pondok” schools with many still unregistered
and thus accounted for dotting the country.
It is from these formal and informal establishments of religious learning that caused the
“green wave” of votes for the Islamic political party, PAS. While it may appear righteous and
romantic for Malaysia to be an Islamic country, the question that begs to be answered is,
whether or not PAS can govern, should it happen. If the state of Kelantan is anything to go
by, PAS cannot.
Numerous suggestions to introduce and invest in modernisation, state-of-the-art
technology, skills programmes and co-curriculum to these schools will help raise the brand,
image and status of these religious schools and make students more holistic, employable,
accepting of diversity and open to having a world view.
As Nouman Ali Khan, a Pakistani-American Islamic speaker, quotes from the Quran on
governance, he reminds us that Islam emphasises on the rights of all citizens, justice and
transparency and what is best for the nation. He opines that Islam has been over-politicised
and that it has become far more extreme than ever before. Therefore in deciding on a
leader make the responsible choice as a citizen and not as a Muslim and it will not make one
any less Islamic. This is Islam by the Quran and not what is spun by evil politicians to the
Let us all move on. Cut out the noises and do not be swayed. And race to the finishing line of
embracing the unity of diversity which is Malaysia.