At a recent forum attended by the education minister, I had a unique chance to observe the citizenry in action with regards to the issue of education.
I suppose 30 years of pent-up anger about the issue was suddenly unleashed after May 9 and, with the openness of the new minister, an opportunity was raised to vent out these frustrations.
Everyone has ideas on revamping the education system. I, too, in many ways, have written or voiced out those exact comments in other forums and talks.
But what seems to be missing is patience and appreciation on the part of the citizenry of what has already been done: the planning and complexity of manoeuvring things in order to effect change in education.
The ministry has addressed many housekeeping issues on the provision of basic infrastructure like abandoned projects, broken furniture, inadequate book stocks, teachers’ workloads, and trying to change attitudes towards education management.
But the middle-class elites seem unimpressed with these efforts. They want to see change now.
We can only expect to see change if we start to think in the right direction. In the case of religious education, it will be a miracle if we see change in the next 30 years.
On the issue of English, on the other hand, I can see change in five years’ time.
Why can’t change occur now? I think the reasons are pretty obvious.
Changing 450,000 teachers is a doable, but Herculean task. Changing the mindset of the academia will not be easy after 30 years of complacency due to the Universities and University Colleges Act.
Changing the curriculum of professional education will be near-impossible if the ministry has no control over the professional bodies who ride roughshod over universities’ professional programmes. But it can still be done.
Fighting off extremist Malay and Islamic groups is like walking on water. We need a miracle! But miracles, too, can be engineered and managed, and change will come eventually.
For me, hearing about “values-driven education” and “humanising education” is already the signal for change.
The ministry has proposed a drastic change from the factory production-oriented school leavers and university graduates to a more tolerant citizenry on differences of faiths and culture. All teachers and academics should answer this call immediately and with utmost urgency.
What we can do now, we should do. What we can plan to change a little later, we put plans in place. The onus is on us not to wait for another education blueprint.
The call for change has already been sounded. The strategies for change have already been placed. The long-term issues of education are already being planned and are undergoing minute scrutiny before implementation.
What is required of the citizenry is their own efforts to understand the vision and change according to their own capacities and abilities.
What is needed are new ideas and suggestions to strengthen the framework that is already in existence. What is desired most of the citizenry is an open mind to the various sensitivities and time bombs of socio-political constructs surrounding the issue of education.
At the end of the day, we must understand that the minister concerned has no magic wand to conjure miracles.
As long as the objectives of change are clear and some small change has occurred, we should accept patience as an investment in life.
The battle to put in place the right people and perspective of change has already been won. The question for the citizenry now is: can we accept what has come and endure with patience for what is promised?
Can we look at change as a continuing process and not as a singular momentous event?
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.