The Never Ending Debate on Education

In the this post I mentioned – that the debate on education is never-endingly divisive. This debate has been going on for years.

Perhaps some readers may have read the Hikayat Munshi Abdullah [more commonly known as Hikayat Abdullah]. I did read the Malay version when I was quite small. But currently, I refer the English version – The Story of the Voyage of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir translated by A. E. Coope (1949).

According to the story – Munshi Abdullah greatly lamented the state of total neglect on education in the Malay states which at that time were still free from British rule. (Those were the days after the creation of the Straits Settlement but before the British encroachment in other Malay states).

Munshi Abdullah prophetically predicted that without education the Malays will perish. The Malays almost perish as not long after that the British came. There was one state which tried to reform – Johor (nevertheless, I am not sure if Johor reformed its education system), but ultimately it gave up its independence 1914. Under the British the education system did improve, but only for the elites. Further more the education system was fragmented to cater for the different ethnies – Malays, Chinese and Indian (Tamils). And the effects can still be felt until today.

And so today, the debate on education system still rages. Of course, the specifics have changed – but the essentials are still the same. Munshi Abdullah lamented that the kind of education during those days cannot make the average person to be productive and make him participate in the British dominated economy. Today many would say that the Malaysian education system is not doing enough to prepare its citizens to be meaningful participants of the ever-changing global economy. And there are some who make doomsdays prediction if the current education system is not reformed.

One aspect of this debate is the performance of an education system – be it Malaysian, Australian, American or the British. This aspect is quite important. After all, if one were to argue that an education system is in need of reform, one has to argue that the present system is not performing up to standard.


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