PETALING JAYA: An academic has urged the government to appoint an education minister who is able to encourage unity among Malaysia’s racial groups.
Jeniri Amir, an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said this was what the former minister, Maszlee Malik, had failed to do although several of his policies were good.
He told FMT the nation needed an education minister with the wisdom to deal with people of different backgrounds.
“The new minister needs to understand that he is also a politician for a multiracial society,” he said.
He said Maszlee’s main failing was that he and his media officers did not adequately explain his policies to the masses and did little to counter wrong perceptions.
Referring to non-Malay objections to the introduction of Jawi lessons in schools, Jeniri said Maszlee should have had better engagements with the naysayers.
He also said Maszlee wrongly handled the controversy over an examination paper prepared by Universiti Malaysia Perlis.
Several quarters were angered by the university’s examination paper for its Ethnic Relations course, which allegedly tried to put controversial Indian-born preacher Zakir Naik in a good light, allegedly insulted dark-skinned people and allegedly took a jibe at critics of the move to include Jawi in the school curriculum.
Maszlee responded by referring to a report on his ministry’s achievements.
Jeniri said he should have asked the university to apologise,
Another academic, Syed Arabi Idid of the International Islamic University Malaysia, said it was crucial for the government to appoint an experienced person to replace Maszlee.
He said the only people in the Pakatan Harapan administration with experience in running a ministry were Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin.
“They cannot go on with the mentality that they can learn on the job” he told FMT.
Tunku Munawirah Putra, secretary of Parent Action Group for Education, said her organisation hoped the new minister would dedicate himself to elevating the education system to be at par with global standards.
“To be successful as an education minister, one needs to have a two-prong path to provide education for all and to improve standards by striving to be the world’s best,” she said.
She said Maszlee, in his hurry to institute reforms, made questionable decisions that appeared to reflect badly on his sense of priorities.
She cited his move to provide access to education for the marginalised and said this did not directly serve the purpose of pushing students to excel.
Among the measures that Maszlee was praised for was his decision to return the joy of learning to schools by abolishing examinations in lower primary school.
He also introduced the free breakfast programme to encourage bonding between teachers and students.