Sunday, January 31, 2010

Education problems in Malaysia

(Mingguan Malaysia, 31 January)
Dr. Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Senior Lecturer, National Defence University Malaysia cum Secretary General of Islamic Chamber of Commerce Malaysia.

The conflict between Zulkifli Nordin (PKR) and Khalid Samad (PAS) pertaining to the name Allah draws the attention in the study of political Malay Muslims. I do not need to comment on the views made by UMNO on the name of Allah. Since beginning, UMNO had been accused for taking the opportunity to profit them in this issue. In other words, nothing good is in UMNO in the eyes of both of the Malay opposition party, similarly with the non-Malays. The name Allah was considered as a drama played by UMNO yearning the sympathy from the voters in the upcoming elections.

I feel strange, before they accused UMNO for not being democratic, are they really practicing what they struggle? I also fear if they ever rule? If indeed the claim to be truly in practicing the freedom of speech, why the need to take action against Zulkifli Nordin? Shouldn't Zulkifli Nordin be given the freedom of speech? As Muslims, Zulkifli Nordin is free to speak out in the scope that is allowed. I do not see what Zulkifli Nordin did was in conflict with Islam or democracy. Do not find the faults of others when own self is at fault. Pity Zulkifli Nordin, I sympathize with the fate of our brother. Hopefully the rakyat of Malaysia especially the Muslims understood the drama being played. Do not simply accuse others of playing drama.

I pondered until when will the Malay Muslims unite? Why on such basic issues we are still unable to unite? Do our hearts ever tick that the name Allah should be protected, or are we allowing others to use the sacred name to their likings in order to protect the political interests? Why must we need to split up in all aspects of life? If not 100 percent agreeable, at least we can agree to 50 percent or 40 percent, or at least 10 percent, so as not to reveal our big quarrel or split from A to Z.

Instead, we quarrel in every aspect. All that were good were rejected just because only a group that did not had the same understanding with us. Sometimes I pity the Muslims. How long do we need to be like this? When can we sit together to reach an agreement on issues with fundamental features? I do not deny that we can agree to disagree, but not in every issue. At least we can agree with the basic issues. Unfortunately, in basic issue also we quarrel.

As Muslims, we feel very unfortunate, because those unrelated with the name Allah also do not support us, or at least to be neutral. I only heard the statement made by the President of the MCA which was neutral, wanting us to stop pointing fingers to UMNO in this issue. However, his statement was highly criticized by the ultra kiasu group and in the internet. He was considered as trying to earn UMNO sympathy and to conceal MCA internal problems.

The ultra kiasu group is also completely against UMNO and the Muslims who want to defend the name of Allah. If they are sincere, certainly among those who are not Christians i.e. Buddhism-Taoism-Confucius would have acted neutral, because they do not worship Allah. Instead, they supported the use of the name Allah among the Christians, whereas this issue was unrelated to them. This is the fate of UMNO always alone in defending the Muslims internally and externally in the Barisan Nasional. I wondered when will be the moment the non-Muslims would support the Malay Muslims. Is it true that the ultra kiasu party supports the cause of Islam brought by PAS? Haven't the Muslims realized sometimes they are being used?

I can conclude here, meaning that whatever the Muslims do, it will still be considered as wrong because of different political ideology. I fear with these kinds of sign happening. Others are clapping and shout with joy to see our weakness and disunity and possibly waiting for the right moment to take advantage.

Let us learn on how others unite. Avoid questioning religion that is fundamental in features for this will unite them. Just look at the recent issues related to their secondary education. When the government was busy improving the education standards through the improvement of primary and secondary national schools, the Chinese associations led by Dong Jiao Zong were busy requesting for the need to support and increase the number of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools (SMPC). The vernacular schools would require a sum of money 300 million a year to cover the operating costs. Currently another school was opened in Kulai, Johor making it into 61 units all together with over 60,000 students. They provided a simplistic reason that the demands for such schools are increasing and the operating costs is increasing, too. The Government assistance is needed to ease the burden of the Chinese community and the relevant parties. The effects and consequences of the emergence of this school have never been studied, especially in terms of performance of the Malay language and their association with the Malays in a country with the roots of Malays.

I was never surprised by the increase in demand over this SMPC. In fact, if build 100 more, it will never be enough. As long as there are national-type schools in the country's education system, the demand for secondary SMPC will increase. I am very confident, entrepreneurs, alumni, associations and bodies of Chinese business will continue to provide undivided support and financial assistance. That is how united they are, as if they actually respond to Islam as Allah says in the Qur'an, hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not be divided (Al-Imran: 102).

If it is destined that tax exemption be given to those who help the SPMC, I believe most of the income tax will be poured into these schools. That's their attitude which I praised them, united in silent regardless of background or political ideology. To them, their ancestors’ education should be prioritized compared to others, including matters relating to the nation building and patriotism. This does not include their support for the Private Institute of Higher Education (IPTS) such as the Tunku Abdul Rahman College and University, Wawasan Open University and others.

To me, as long as the vernacular schools exist in the system, the SMPC issue will continue to ring. I am very confident that if the government continue to fund or build more SMPC, there will be no Chinese students studying in the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK). Just imagine the situation of our country at that time. Will unity be increasingly strong or fragile?

Every week there are issues raised by the Chinese education Dong Jiao Zong and its allies in the newspapers and those condoning it? It seems as though the issue of education in our country has not been solved. I do not see those facing financial problems as highlighted. It is intentionally caused in order to attract sympathy and strategy for the upcoming election. In fact, we should together discuss on how to provide input into the existing national schools to further enhanced their standards. Instead, they continue singing and give pressure to the government. This ultra kiasu strategy must seriously be addressed and carefully handled.

In my opinion, we do not need to be noisy rising up problems and lack of provisions here and there. A simple formula, enter all of them into the government schools. They already have a good foundation in Mandarin while in the vernacular school. Why should hands be itchy in opening national type private schools? When experiencing difficulty, the government will be blamed for not helping the private schools. All that are bad is UMNO while the good are with them. Imagine that after this, upon their completion of their studies in SMPC, they would continue their studies into the racist private. When would they have the time to socialize and mix with the Malay students?

I am very confident that this situation exists because of our attitudes that are too racist and looking down at the ability of the national schools. If you do not believe, conduct a study and look at their views of the national schools compared to the national vernacular schools. The majority will say that the vernacular schools are better than the national schools. Their teachers are more diligent and dedicated compared to the National School teachers. In other words, all good schools are the racist schools, while the less good are the National School.

Sometimes it is quite disheartening to hear a principal in a large national school in Johor recently, when asked for the recipe of success until the school became the first group of the 20 selected High Performance Schools (SBT). The answer given was so simplistic, because by practicing to read the yasin and greet to kiss the hands of the teachers. In principle, I do not deny that both factors had also contributed. But other solid factors should have been highlighted based on our studies and researches to provide a much acceptable answer. Do not give such simplistic answer. Otherwise the ultra kiasu will take the opportunity to manipulate these answer.

Moreover, I am worried that after this the students will act every day by reading the yasin and greet with kissing the hands of the teachers and do not put additional effort anymore. We should be careful in providing simplistic answer. Islam is not so as easy as assumed. Similarly with the belief that by drinking the zam-zam water resulted in more blessings and a clean heart. If it is so easy then the Muslims should not struggle anymore. Gather all the students who fail the test or the mischievous, then together drink the zam-zam water and they would be intelligent and well manner thereafter. This form of thinking should be adjusted and changed. We need to distinguish between the main arguments and the supplementary arguments, without denying Islam as the basic factor for excellence. Do not misunderstand on the concept of surrendering.

To me, the principal need to reply more academically taking into account the factor of dedication provided by the Malay Muslims (also non-Muslims) teachers in the national schools, and many other factors such as the background of pupils, parents concerns, location, and others. I have been to these places quite often. In fact it is not only the schools, even the mosques in the towns were also administered properly and had received several national awards. Congratulations!

I do not mean to aggravate this issue. But I do not want to hear the ultra kiasu group looking down and insult and condemn the national schools. This is the very bitter truth to be swallowed, but had to be expressed. In fact, many national schools are great and may be better than the vernacular schools; just that they are not clever in highlighting themselves such as the ultra kiasu highlighted their schools and themselves. They are clever in acting, giving high publicity to obscure our eyes until we are fascinated and sometimes influenced without having a second thought. Remember, today they are busy with the membership campaign recruitment among the Malay Muslims. Therefore, in an effort to divert their attention and make us more relevant, we should argue based on knowledge and research, rather than providing strange and emotional arguments.

When I presented these examples, I seek the Muslims to learn on how others have reached the stars. Do we want to continue remaining in the clouds? Can we sit together to discuss the standards of our national education? What is the level of unity among the people of different races in the country? How far do we understand the relationship between the majority and minority? What are the guidelines and formulas that need to be shared? Or do we want to use the approach of human rights which are sometimes directly unfounded?

I think the time has arrived for the Muslims to unite and think about their future. Do not be too political. It will not benefit us, but will destroy us. Why are we willing to challenge among ourselves and sometimes almost to the extent of using violence among us? Does it provide any benefits? Are we unable to discuss on strengthening the building of a race nation rooted in Islam as the federal religion?

We need to think and sweat it out to strengthen the basic issues of religion and the nation in a multiracial society. We can not deny the rights of the non-Malays because we have accepted them as it is. However, that does not mean that we need to acknowledge all the demands. We have the constitution as the basis to live in the country. It should be preserved and courageously translated. Let alone to defend the holy sacred name of Allah. I wish to congratulate Zulkifli Nordin. Continue fighting.

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