Education Ministry Needs Progress, Not Just A Minister

Maszlee, has he walked into the lion’s den?

I find it curious many are upset that Maszlee Malik becomes education minister over his religiosity, and feel Mahathir Mohamad should hold the portfolio.

There are arguments on why Mahathir should not be education minister, there are arguments on why passing executive power to more inside Pakatan’s majority is good in developing a future base of competent leaders, and finally arguments for why Maszlee Malik should be or not the education minister.

I’ve posited the first one, and the second one is self-evident. The third one, on Maszlee himself, I’m obviously not leaning to him since I am an avowed secularist.

Let’s call a spade a spade. All our educations have been Muslims, and therefore it’s not them being a Muslim is the issue as much as the type of Muslim.

Islamists, and it is a wide spectrum with always the danger of oversimplifications, are seen as those who approach daily questions and problems using the understanding of their faith.

Just as often we see engineers, doctors and lawyers approach most problems outside their field using their industry training, there was a level of incredulity when Anwar Ibrahim was made education minister in the 1980s. Looking back, it probably set the tone for the unfettered Islamisation in Malaysian public schools. Schools, and by that, students and staff had to display piety.

But if Malaysians feel it got in the way of integration, fairplay inside school compounds and the continued politicisation of education, then they have to step back six year, to 1982 when Mahathir in order to stave off the rise in political Islam worldwide and PAS at home, recruited Anwar from under the Islamic party.

They shook hands on the Islamisation of government. It was the price to have the prince of ABIM inside Umno, and to cut PAS at its knees. Bank Islam, International Islamic University — where Maszlee was based at — and a slew of measures.

I find it an irony, today, liberals seek Mahathir’s help to save education from politicisation. That ship sailed a long time ago, and the only way education can be steered back to its function, to liberate young Malaysians to cope with a borderless world where competition is ruthless, then it would need civil society and Malaysians in general to engage.

A mountain of problems

Our public schools system is broken. To expect any one man or woman to save it is a bit melodramatic. There are layers and layers of bureauracy in the largest single ministry. It affects millions of Malaysians deeply while they sit in those classrooms, teach that classes or help their offspring with homework.

It won’t be merely reignited by teaching tech subjects in English. Or increase the economies of scale by reducing four type of public schools to one. Or increase tuition vouchers, so kids can learn how to game the national examinations at a tuition centre rather than acquire the knowledge in school. Or increase the number of subjects so that the 22A kid can have his photo taken by the local paper.

Objecting Maszlee is not the answer. Not engaging his ministry after he starts work is the likelier culprit for our education woes in the future.

If he refuses to engage, then there is a problem.

He alone is not responsible for the slide in our national education. We, the rakyat, are responsible for it. And we, the rakyat, are responsible to fix it.

Students at SMK Beaufort, in Sabah. They deserve better, all our students do.
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