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  • Datin Noor Azimah Abd Rahim, The Edge

“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

Education.


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

mathematics.


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

gullible.


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.


The Edge

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