2019 Malaysian education issues: A recap

2019 Malaysian education issues: A recap
I know that there have been many changes and issues in the Malaysian education field this year. But I’m going to review those that have been sensationalized and have become the topic of discussion among the public (drawing my observation from twitter) and politicians. 
1. Jawi issue
This is the most sensationalized and controversial topic since August and as we are approaching 2020, the discussion surrounding this topic hasn’t stopped. It’s all due to fears of Islamisation as propagated by Dong Zong as well their supporters. I think it’s all a misunderstanding and baseless fear that a script associated with Islam will immediately convert someone into Islam. Imagine if the script for Malay had not been romanized and it would still be written in Jawi today, every Malaysian would be writing and reading in that script. Even the Malay language Bible would be written in Jawi. The Kadazandusun language  would also be written in Jawi (IF romanization of Malay hadn’t occured) because the language itself does not have its own script. 
How will a 3 page lesson on Jawi calligraphy in a Primary 4 Bahasa Melayu textbook will result in students converting to Islam? As an agent in the education system and as one of the policy implementers myself, this is my take on it. The ministry has issued a statement saying that it’s not going to be tested [1]. If it’s not going to be tested, then knowing how most teachers employ the ‘teaching-to-the-test’ method for the sake of efficiency, it is less likely that Jawi will create an impact among the students. The Jawi part would most likely to be taught for a brief moment and then it will be forgotten because it wouldn’t be efficient to focus on something that’s not going to be on the test or exam.. The purpose would most probably be to expose non-Malay students a part of the Malay heritage. It’s just Jawi calligraphy and it’s not a comprehensive lesson to master Jawi to the point that  the students would be able to write and read in it.
I do empathize with Dong Zong’s concern however. Malaysia has been active in its Islamisation process through the education system since the 1980’s. But I think that’s because Malaysia has a reputation for being a dominant Muslim country (but not an Islamic country. Malaysia is not a theocracy.) and its purpose is to just instill Islamic values onto the majority who are Muslims. I think this resistance against Islamisation is a sentiment that many non-Muslims share probably because they’re loyal belonging to a particular religion other than Islam or holding onto a different belief. On another note, Dong Zong’s concern with Jawi as a form of Islamisation is a reaction that has emerged without knowing how the teaching of Jawi is actually going to be implemented. I think the whole Malaysia see Dong Zong as a laughing stock after it was announced that Jawi is only included in 3 pages. 
On the bright side, the issue got people learning about the history of Jawi and experts on it were willing to explain to the public.
2. Protests during a convocation ceremony
The UM graduate who protested against the Vice Chancellor of UM was acting upon his capacity as  a Malaysian citizen who is subjected under the Malaysian Constitution. The Constitution grants Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech. So, what he did was reasonable and within the law [2]. I’m aware that many perceive his actions as rude and disrespectful. However, based on his statement in this video (please watch the video to get a clear context of what I’m elaborating on here), he had gone through all the proper channels to express his dissatisfaction toward the Vice Chancellor but to no avail. I think he used the convocation ceremony as a platform because it was the last straw. Based on the principles of free speech, he did not violate his rights. Protesting during a convocation ceremony can be seen as rude and out of the norm in Malaysia, but it’s a form of peaceful protest. It’s time to challenge that norm.
As for the UMS graduate, he expressed his solidarity with the Palestinians by stating anti-Jewish sentiments and praising Hitler for his effort at exterminating the Jews back in World War 2 [3]. He protested against the Jews when what he should be protesting against was the Zionist movement. This is a result of not knowing world history when it should’ve been taught in the secondary school syllabus. Our school students are not being exposed about The Holocaust which is sad because it is the most important event in world history that could instill a sense of humanity by not perceiving other races as inferior.
What are the similarities between these two new graduates? They have performed a peaceful protest during a convocation ceremony. The differences is that the UM graduate expressed anti-racist sentiments and a call for fairness within an academic institution, while the UMS graduate expressed racist sentiments as a result of ignorance and misconception about The Holocaust. 
3. 2018 PISA result
The good news is that we’ve improved [4] but the bad news is that we are down below our neighbouring country, Singapore. Refer to the chart below:
Other than that, although we have improved, we have not reached the OECD average:
I have nothing much to say about our PISA 2019 results apart from we still need to find ways to improve our education system so that it meets the OECD average. My concern will be whether our ranking will improve in the next PISA or whether this is just a fluke. I’m aware that improvements in our education system is being made but I wonder if its effectiveness is really reflected in the latest PISA result.
These are the three main issues that I think highlight 2019’s Malaysian education issues, at least from my point of view.
[1] “Maszlee: Jawi for All Year 4 Pupils Decided in 2014, Will Not Be Tested or Assessed.” Borneo Post Online, 6 Aug. 2019, https://www.theborneopost.com/2019/08/06/maszlee-jawi-for-all-year-4-pupils-decided-in-2014-will-not-be-tested-or-assessed/.

[2] Malaysiakini. “Graduate’s Action ‘Reasonable and within Law’ – Former UM Students.” Malaysiakini, Malaysiakini, 19 Oct. 2019, https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/496254.

[3] Inus, Kristy. “Graduate’s ‘Nazi Salute’ Convocation Picture Goes Viral.” The Star Online, 26 Nov. 2019, https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/11/26/graduate039s-039nazi-salute039-convocation-picture-goes-viral.

[4] Kannan, Hashini Kavishtri. “Malaysia’s PISA Ranking Improves [NSTTV].” NST Online, 3 Dec. 2019, https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2019/12/544448/malaysias-pisa-ranking-improves-nsttv.

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