GEORGE TOWN: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today again urged Malaysians to emulate the cultures of advanced economies of the east such as Japan and Korea.
He said these advanced economies shared common values — being hardworking, trustworthy and having high levels of discipline, while being very patriotic.
He said these values will make them remain successful in any field they are in.
Mahathir said Malaysians, while chasing academic success, ought to emulate these eastern nations’ values.
“Teachers must instil these values in students. If it begins at an early stage, it will become part of the national culture,” he told some 3,500 teachers around the country gathered here for the 48th National Teachers’ Day celebration.
Mahathir said he was honoured to be at a function with educators, as he credited his life’s success to his teachers.
Saying being a teacher was a lifelong profession, he added that when one left the profession, one carried an “emeritus title of teacher or cikgu”.
“In any tradition, religion or culture, teachers are placed on a higher plane, on the same level as one’s parents or guardians.
“So whenever I am invited to attend a Teacher’s Day celebration, I am often very touched as my life today is moulded thanks to every single teacher who taught me in my life,” he said.
Mahathir said the government was committed to bettering and honouring the teaching profession. He said in Budget 2019, the government had given RM60.2 billion to the education ministry, which was close to 20% of the federal budget.
He said Malaysia’s education level had improved significantly, with a 19th place ranking among 141 countries in the 2018 Quality Education Index.
“This achievement shows Malaysia is on the right track and is recognised as a competitive and progressive country in the field of education,” he said.
Mahathir said the government would continue to improve the country’s education standards and prepare students to adapt to changes in a world of disruptive technology.
Later, he presented the 2019 Teacher of the Year award to Nawi Ismail of Terengganu and the National Education Leadership award to Asariah Mior Shaharuddin.
Nawi, 62, a Bahasa Malaysia teacher, retired after teaching for 37 years in 2017. He last served SM Teknik Kuala Terengganu and before that, SMK Panji Alam, in the same town.
He was bestowed the “Munsyi Dewan” by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 1996. A “Munsyi Dewan” is an accreditation given to those intending to give lectures on the Malay language.
Asariah, 66, a former education deputy director-general, who had served five education ministers in her 36 years’ of service, retired in 2011.
Both received RM50,000, a gold locket worth RM10,000 and a Bank Simpanan Nasional premium savings certificate.