One Failure of the Malaysian Education System

It is said that the concept of democracy and human rights do not exist in a vacuum. They operate under a certain context or institutional setting. In other words: to realise the true practice of the concept of democracy and human rights, there must exist a certain set of institutions that foster and safe-guard democracy.

Many people would say that democracy and human rights can be nurtured if the political system does not concentrate power only to the executive. For example all democracies must have separation between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches in each of their polity (governance system).

But in my opinion these things are applicable only to the elites. After all, the members of the Executive, Legislation and Judiciary are all part of society’s elite. The people that run these institutions are at the apex of society.

What is more important is the general public. Do the general public consider democracy and human rights as vital? Or do they think that those concepts are secondary compared to the more task of living their lives (i.e. career, working, family and so on)?

In my opinion, Malaysians put the concept of democracy and human rights as secondary. I remember some time ago when Mahathir Mohammad was the PM of Malaysia. He said something that economic development was more important than democracy. I think he also made some other statements before – such as democracy cannot fill people’s stomach and so on. [I am not so sure of the exact wordings. Readers are more than welcome to correct me or give their opinions on what exactly did Mahathir said about democracy and human rights].

And at that time Malaysians don’t even bother to protest. Of course, during those time i.e. the 1990s, Malaysia was experiencing rapid economic growth.

In relation to that, I would say that in general Malaysians don’t really grasp the essence of democracy. I have mentioned that some Malaysian bloggers have a negative view about the recent Hindraf rally. From the PPS, I read some bloggers say that such a rally should no be held etc, etc. Fortunately there are the more democratically minded bloggers out there who chided this point of view. One of them is KTemoc, as seen in this post – Hindraf stabbed in back!

That is the PPS. Here in Australia, the negative view is also held by some Malaysians. Now, it is perfectly fine to support or oppose the position of Hindraf. The problem is in the attitude towards Hindraf articulating its view. Quite a few say that Hindraf should not demand what they are demanding. This is akin to saying that you should shut up. This negative view is in contrary to the idea of the freedom of speech found in true democracies.

So what went wrong? I would say that one reason of this apathy and negative attitude is the failure of the Malaysian education system to inculcate the spirit of democracy in the education system.

The education system has a very important role in the nurturing, promotion, and advancement of democracy. This is because where else do Malaysians can formally learn about the concepts and practices of democracy if not in schools, colleges and universities?

In my opinion, the Malaysian education system has failed to disseminate and inculcate the true essence and spirit of democracy.

Perhaps we might reflect back to our days in school. Did our teachers instil upon us the spirit of democracy and human rights? Did all of our teachers encourage us to accept, respect and cherish individual differences? Did all of our teachers encourage us to accept, respect and cherish group differences? Did all of our teachers encourage us to give contrary opinions? Did all of our teachers encourage us to give any opinions at all?

Perhaps those days are nothing but a vague memory to readers who have left school. But perhaps those readers who are still in school can see if what I say is true or not.

Of course, even in Malaysian universities, the environment is not conducive to nurture the true spirit of democracy and human rights. Should I say more? Perhaps readers should refer to this post in the Education Malaysia blog: Positive changes to the UUCA.

This post is a continuation to my post about the Malaysian education system: An Inferior Education System?

Related Posts:
Are Malaysians generally interested in Democracy?
The Travails of Democracy

What Can We Learn from Australian Democracy?
Will You Support The Pakistani People’s Fight for Democracy?
Pakistani People’s Fight for Democracy
Burma: This Must Not Happen…


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