Criticisms about our Malaysian education system are rife; especially now that vernacular schools are under fire for not being “nationalistic” enough. Both parents and youths think that our education system does not do justice to the word “education”, simply because of the syllabuses and their execution. Now that I’m done with formal education and pursuing a tertiary education, I’ve noticed something else that is rather pressing, something that I feel I have to admit to as well.
Being in a public, government-funded university has taught me many new things I never knew about. I love how we get great facilities, and have our tuition fees subsidized by the government, so much so that I only pay RM600 every semester! The lecturers are great, and the lingua franca in my university is English (as far as classes are concerned anyway). I love the variety of subjects that I learn, from Political Science to Gender Studies; subjects that really open my eyes to the world.
The one thing I find the most flawed about our education system is how, although modeled loosely according to the British education system which prioritizes the results of public exams, our students still leave school being unable to think critically. Apparently, steps are being taken to combat this, what with PT3 containing more questions that require Higher Order Thinking Skills, but it comes as a huge setback for those of us who are already in university.
When I look at people my age overseas and the people my age here, there is a stark difference in maturity and level of thinking. We are unable to take criticism, neither are we able to accept opinions that differ from ours. “Agree to disagree” does not exist in our vocabulary because we are so caught up in our own ideologies that we refuse to believe that anyone else has differing opinions. Like I said, I am like this as well and I realize that.
Which brings me to the root of the problem. A typical high-context Asian culture, in all its entirety, teaches us to be subservient to our elders, and to never question what they say. We grow up appreciating tradition, yes, but to the extent that we never question it. Maybe I can be found guilty for being a liberalist, but I sincerely believe in everyone being afforded a chance to think for themselves, especially when we live in an era so different from our elders’.
We aren’t taught about inequality and injustice, because we are too busy learning traditions and values. We aren’t taught about war and hate crimes because we are too busy learning about piety. As a result, we grow up not knowing that the world is full of problems that we need to help solve. We push it aside and say it is “none of our business” because that is what our elders taught us; to only involve ourselves in personal matters.
We are so shielded from the cruelty of this world that we do not learn how to be optimistic. Our parents shy away from teaching us about the harsh realities of life because they love us too much and refuse to let us see that the world needs a lot of fixing. Education starts at home just as much as it does in schools.
Now, I’m not saying that things like traditional values, norms and piety are not important. I just think that it is just as important for us to realize that there are other issues out there that needs to be brought to light.
If there is one thing I really want in the future for our Malaysian youths, is the ability to open our minds to see the bigger picture. There are so many things in this world that require our attention, and shielding ourselves from these problems does not make them go away. Ignorance is not cool, and no one should be content with ignorance.
P/s I do hope that those of you reading this know that this is just a rough generalization based on the people I’ve observed. If you don’t know that, then there’s a 99% chance that you’re the person I thought of when I wrote this post.