Political ideologies are all around us. If we observe carefully,even in a field that we would not usually associate with politics would have applications of political ideologies being injected into its policies. This is because, without politics a country wouldn’t be in order. In education, there are several political ideologies that have been applied in our system.
The first one is classical liberalism. This is a political ideology that puts emphasis on individual liberty. The individual is more important than the state and the individual only becomes a citizen of the state through consent. The individual is also a rational human being and is able to make decisions for him/herself. This indicates that the individual is capable of autonomy and self-government. Classical liberalism is being applied through Malaysian education by its citizens having the freedom to choose which educational institutions to enrol into into. This applies to all types (public or private, in whatever medium of instruction) and all levels (primary to tertiary) of education institutions. Parents can choose which school their children should enrol into. SPM leavers could choose any university that they would like to attend. This kind of freedom allows individuals to define their own destiny and later experience the result of the hardwork that they have poured into after they have completed formal education.
The second one is modern liberalism. It is a political ideology that responds to the limitations of classical liberalism. What classical liberalism has overlooked was that although an individual is free and has the liberty to make choices for his/herself, sometimes he/she is not truly happy with the external conditions that have befallen upon him/her. Sometimes there is an invisible wall that even when the individual has decided to change his/her own destiny, the system that he/she is under makes him/her feel disadvantaged. So, modern liberalism advocates that there should be government intervention to help those whose positive liberty has been violated. This political ideology promotes the social welfare of the society. Liberty should be understood in broad, expansive and positive terms. In Malaysian education system, under the Pakatan Harapan government, recently, Education Minister Dr. Maszlee Malik has announced to open national school enrolment to undocumented children just as long as one of the parents of the children posseses a Malaysian identification card. Under the previous government, if one of the parents is not a Malaysian citizen, the children would not be allowed to enter national schools. The recent policy on the enrolment of undocumented children is an example of the positive liberty that has been provided by the government which is the idea that modern liberalism has put into as one of its basic principles.
Traditional conservatism is a political ideology that focuses on maintaining social order by having traditional authorities to direct and maintain it so that individuals could obtain peace and stability. It also argues that people should not have the freedom to violate moral precepts. This political ideology is very evident within the school system. The teaching of moral values, praying in schools, and obeying school rules and authority (teachers, principals) are the examples of how traditional conservatism is being manifested.
Socialism is a political ideology that argues that major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies. Public education institutions are such industries that are owned by the government and can be accessed by everyone regardless of social class. This grants everyone access to education so that society can be functional and contribute their knowledge and skills for the nation’s future development.
Social democracy integrates socialism and democracy. It is an effort to provide peaceful, legal work toward socialism. Multiparty competition and civil liberties are the democratic aspect that are being integrated into this system which will reinforce socialist efforts in order to protect and provide welfare for the society. In the aspect of educatiom, all of the above are integrated and reinforced. The government, through which they’ve been elected by the people (classical liberalism), applies socialism as one of its political ideologies so that everyone can get equal access to education. The elected government implements policies and help the disadvantaged perhaps by giving government scholarships to those who are poor but have proven to work hard and deserve quality education whether within the country or internationally. Modern liberalism is being applied here.
As you can see, there are no political ideologies that reigns in an absolute form in the aspect of Malaysian education. All of them intergrate and reinforce one another. Although public opinion tend to say we should separate education from politics, what they usually mean here is party politics. But even if education and politics are being separated, political ideologies will still run through the implementation of ideas and policies which in turn form the template of our education system.