I don’t know much about the Malaysian Studies subject. But judging by those who have taken it, my conclusion is that it has no value for nation-building.
Through conversations with my children who have taken the subject, I have gathered enough data to conclude that it must be revamped if we are to produce a new generation of critical-minded and well-intentioned Malaysians.
I propose that the Malaysian Studies subject be renamed Building Malaysia and the Role of the Citizenry. The subject should be renamed to ram home a single and basic point: your country, therefore your fault!
The main message of this subject would be that citizens are the ones who must initiate change, whether individually, through civil society or through the ballot box.
Naming the subject Malaysian Studies does not imply anything. It is just another dry subject to pass.
Having described its main objective of producing a more conscious, responsible and tolerant citizenry, I propose that the new subject comprise three main modules.
Module 1: The Meaning of Democracy and Responsible Governance; Module 2: The Role of Civil Society in Initiating Change; and Module 3: Race Relations and the Open Society.
In Module 1, there should be three lecture sessions and one assignment. Two of the lecture sessions must be conducted by the lecturer but the third must be by an invited politician, preferably an MP or a state representative or a seasoned politician from any political party.
It is important that the students interact with elected representatives and engage with them. The assignment of the students is to attend either a parliamentary or state assembly session and write about one issue that was debated.
In Module 2 on civil society, there should be three lecture sessions and one assignment. Two of the lectures should be delivered by the lecturer but the third should be by an invited guest from civil society.
Through the lecture and Q&A session, students will be exposed to the challenges and activities of civil society in instituting change by going against or working with the government of the day.
This way, students will understand that they themselves can affect change instead of waiting for the elected representatives in Parliament, the state assembly or even political parties.
For their assignment, students should attend a forum by any civil society entity and write about the issues discussed and the personalities of the panelists.
The students should also be required to ask a question or make a comment during the forum and record both their question and the answer or response from the panelists.
In Module 3 on race relations and open society, students should immerse themselves in an issue that has strained race relations in this country.
There should be three lecture sessions. Two of the lectures should be given by the lecturer but the third should be by an invited guest on the challenges of race relations in this country. For the assignment, the students should group themselves and conduct a project in the community that would illustrate that they have managed to achieve a positive change in race relations.
Students can, for example, take a group of Year 3 students and provide a guided tour of a church, mosque or temple. The assignment must be practical and implemented with some measurement of success in change of attitude or sentiments and feelings.
The lecturers for the proposed subject must be scrutinised and chosen carefully so that we end up with the best people who actually believe in the importance of this subject for nation-building and communal harmony.
Applicants should be vetted to determine whether they have ever written a journal or media article concerning positive changes in nation building. Their CV should also contain attendance at forums or free seminars by civil society or government institutions.
Upon selection, these academics could be put in a KPI of writing and project implementation via the students’ projects as their research projects. The academics may take some of the students’ work and rewrite it into media articles or conference papers as well as book chapters for their academic promotion while giving proper acknowledgement and citation.
Universities are responsible not only for producing graduates with the knowledge or skills to work in an industry but also ensuring that their graduates can affect positive change in the nation-building construct. Otherwise, the country will forever be blighted by never-ending racial and religious rhetoric.
The education ministry should revamp the Malaysian Studies module with the utmost urgency, otherwise we will face another century of racial and religious strife that would plunge the country into the abyss of no return.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.