The younger generations of today may not know that we once had a great mainstream education system in place during the earlier period of our country's history. In terms of physical infrastructure it was nothing to shout about but our school leavers with the OSC and MCE certificates were recognized well all over the world. Of course the medium was English and the teaching profession had the best of the Form V "graduates". It was, however, only in 1962 we had our first university - UM. The Razak Report of 1956 built the education system slowly over the years since Merdeka up till about the mid 70's.
Today, we still have a good system in place with far better infrastructures and facilities.....BUT....yes, a big "but" comes into play. Our school leavers now mostly go on to do diplomas and degrees in the many many IPTs that abound. This country has never had this amount of graduates ever. Illiteracy has been brought down but..... Yet, most of them end up failing to get the thumbs up from employers. The standard of English too however was sacrificed.
Besides the lack in English language proficiency, work attitudes and bad ethics are often mentioned of the new generation of local grads.....some even say they are half-baked products with very little general knowledge of not only their own subject but also of the world including Malaysia itself. So where and when did we go wrong.
I have been in the system between 1951 and 1996 as a student as well as an education officer. If I was asked when it all started going out of focus I would put my finger on the early years of the 70's when the medium was switched from English to Malay. But it was not too bad in itself but numbers swelled with the opening of more and more IPTs. The whole meritocracy system imploded in 1986 when Anuar Ibrahim was made the Minister of Education, a portfolio that the next prime minister held traditionally. Quantity over quality became the axiom....
Anuar was too young, too ambitious and too idealistic esp. with his ABIM and activist background. He wanted to build Rome in a day. Academic standards and entry level bars were lowered to enable more and more Malays to enter tertiary institutions....non university material found themselves graduating with degrees. There were two exam systems for entering university, STPM and Matriculation. Matriculation exams are reputed to be much easier and have an intake that is 90% Malay (Bumiputera) - positive discrimination gone mad. Bars were lowered. Traditionally one had to have 2 principal passes and a pass in the General Paper to get the STP and thus qualify for university entrance. This was changed and I personally know how many with one principal pass only in say, Malay Studies, qualified for university entrance.
Besides all that, Islamic fundamentalist cards were flashed all over the place in an effort to outclass PAS politically. Tun Mahathir must also bear the bigger blame for allowing Anuar to have a free hand in messing our education....that was his gravest mistake. Many more moderate, senior, more experienced and capable Malay leaders were sidelined. Anuar even tried to change the very core Malay language itself with his Bahasa Baku. It was not received by one and all and was discarded the moment Anuar was out of the picture. He also sidelined professionals in preference to his own political whims and fancies.
Former Education director-general Tan Sri Murad Mohd Noor has complained of a “overly bureaucratic education system”...the folks at the MOE are sometimes clueless and even if they have any, political decisions and interferences has put down academic considerations and thoughts.
"A college should remain at college level first. Only the best should be universities. We are so concerned with expanding enrolment at our public and private institutions of higher learning that we fail to ask whether some of these students are ready to pursue degrees................."Should they be pursuing diplomas instead? I think a quarter or even half of the existing number of students pursuing degrees should be doing diplomas. Perhaps this is why we now have a problem of unemployable graduates." - Tan Sri Murad Mohd Noor.
Yes, my analysis is over-simplistic....but I can write a full researched academic article on this subject if not a book......anyway, that would be the work of the current