NUTP as the largest teachers’ organization in country should initiate a nation-wide debate on Mahathir’s statement on the “double hijacking” of the national school system from its original objective to cater to all races by those who sabotaged the Pupil’s Own Language programme and turned them into Islamic rather than Malaysian schools and to seek answers and solutions
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): As the largest teachers’ organization in the country, with a membership of over 100,000 teachers, the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) should initiate a nation-wide debate on the statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on the “double hijacking” of the national school system from its original objective to cater to all races in Malaysia by those who sabotaged the Pupil’s Own Language programme and turned them into Islamic rather than Malaysian schools and to seek answers and solutions.
The reaction of the NUTP secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam to Mahathir’s statement in yesterday’s Star is most disappointing as it was so insipid and lacking in commitment as to be downright irresponsible, when taking into account that one of the objectives of NUTP is “to promote an excellent education system that will create well-trained personnel relevant to the country’s needs, aspirations and wishes of an individual” – as stated on NUTP-online.
In his interview with the New Straits Times on Thursday, Mahathir spoke of two “hijackings” of the national education system from its original objective to cater to all races in Malaysia alienating non-Muslims as in denying the right of the Chinese and Indians to learn their own languages and introducing Islamic practices in the school system which “puts off the non-Malays”, with boys now forbidden from wearing shorts, even for playing games, and “even games are discouraged”, when “before, we had no problems with girls wearing skirts and boys wearing shorts, especially for games”.
This is a very serious admission of failure of the national education system by Mahathir, which is also an indictment of the teaching profession and the NUTP to ensure that the national education system did not stray from its objectives, resulting in the alienation of non-Muslim students.
What had the NUTP and the teaching profession done in the past two to three decades to prevent the double “hijacking” of the national education system as the teachers should be in the forefront to defend and uphold the objectives of the national education system to prevent their frustration and deviation by misguided forces for such a prolonged period of time.
In this vital national task, however, the NUTP had failed and failed big. This is why Siva Subramaniam’s insipid response to Mahathir’s admission of the double “hijacking” is such a complete letdown.
All the NUTP secretary-general could say was to call for “stringent monitoring of schools to prevent any deviation from the national education system”, proposing that district education offices and state departments should conduct stricter checks to ensure that school heads adhere to objectives, raising two fundamental questions:
· Is the deviation of the national education objectives as a result of the double “hijackings” solely caused by the administrative and monitoring failures of the district education offices and state departments? Is Siva Subramaniam suggesting that the district education offices and state departments had been a total failure in the past two to three decades to adhere to the original objectives of the national education system?
· Secondly, had the NUTP and the teaching profession no role and responsibilities whatsoever in this regard? Can NUTP list out what it had done in the past two to three decades to ensure that the national education system adhere to its original objectives to cater to students of all races, and in particular to uphold the Pupil’s Own Language programme in schools as well as to stop efforts to turn the schools from becoming more Islamic instead of being more Malaysian?
NUTP should compensate for its cardinal failure to prevent the “double hijackings” of the national education system in the past two to three decades by initiating a nation-wide debate to seek the answers and solutions to the educational crisis so as to re-establish a national education system to meet the twin objectives of forging national unity of our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious population and providing high-quality education to meet the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman