Many people openly lament the gradual degeneration and decline of social values, civic mindedness, and social graces coupled with the dismal performances in sports and the arts amongst our Malaysian youth over the years. Even children from traditionally prestigious schools have not been spared in this matter.
One great teacher taught that “a tree is known by its fruit”. Thus the education system must bear major blame for this downward slide and regression in our children’s overall education and development. In this matter, I feel that parents and politicians too must share the blame as they have been “calling the shots” for quite some time now with professionals hardly in the picture.
While some may argue that since the current education system produces so many first graders and children with umpteen distinctions (As) in the UPSR, PMR and the SPM on a scale never witnessed before, the current education system must be fine and near perfection. Some have even started calling it a world class education. To them I wish to remind that the best education is one in which there are no examinations and education is really a life-long process with a sum total achieved only upon death. Schooling merely provides the basics for this educational journey. This is what every major thinker in education since the early Greeks has been saying.
There was a gradual build up of emphasis on vocational, science and technical subjects at all levels from as early as Merdeka itself as Malaysia sought to come out of an agrarian base towards a more technically based one. I myself was put in Form IV Science at the Muar High School in 1958 when this trend first began. As the trend slowly spread over the years, children who had a clear aptitude for the arts were also slowly forced and/or coerced into the science stream by both schools and parents.
This new direction for education also began to slowly give inconsequential focus to the liberal arts, sports and the humanities subjects in the schools which continued to erode over the decades. Today parents have started to “stampede and frenzy” more noticeably towards their children getting as many distinctions (As) as possible and preferably all in the sciences in public examinations irrespective of their children’s latent aptitudes and talent.
Let us develop both the child’s IQ and the EQ. The arts, sciences and the sports should not be artificially separated anymore. The activities that children undertake in the school should not all be so similar in kind and content to the extent that children whose abilities lie elsewhere are totally ignored or even given second class treatment.
One must remember that many are the benefits that the arts and the sports have to offer across the board and also racial barriers. Positive values such as patriotism, sacrifice, skills in leadership, communication and teamwork, cross domain intelligence, discipline, creativity, self-respect, respect for others, self-restraint and firm commitment should not remain ignored anymore. Let our children learn to articulate their thoughts, debate, think critically and analytically, solve problems, sing, swim, paint, carve, play games, recite poetry, read literature and socialize in the school just like it used to be in the good old days. Only then can we fulfill the National Education Philosophy of truly providing a well rounded education to our children. Let us then correct the over-correction. It is time for a total review of our education system and also the way in which it is implemented.
Joe Chelliah @ Johami Abdullah
Malaysian Association for Music Education