Now the DPM is talking sense (UPDATED with Chinese Translation)

Remember, many leaders of today were once active ‘politicians’ and even student leaders back in the days when students were not barred from politics. What type of leaders do you think the students of today are going to become when it is time for them to take over in future?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister said that quality education is not just about money. It is about the development of the mind, personality and enhancement of each individual’s potential for the development of a learning society that recognises cultural diversity, democracy, human rights, moral values, equity of access to knowledge and life-long learning.

This is probably the most sensible thing he has said thus far. The problem is:

(1) does he mean what he says?

(2) he also said many silly things alongside this such as Umno’s struggle is not about racism. If one does not call Umno’s policy racism then what do you call it?

I have said this before and I shall say it again: a good or quality education policy is one where you teach the young how to think, question, debate, analyse and whatnot. If you stifle the minds of the young then do not expect them to excel.

Let me take one example. When I was in school back in the 1960s we read Indian history and one of my favourite subject matters was The Indian Mutiny of 1857. This is also known as India’s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion or the Sepoy Mutiny.

Of course, whether it is called a mutiny, a rebellion, or a war of independence, would all depend on who is writing that particular history book. The British writers would certainly use mutiny or rebellion, which are negative words, while the Indian or Asian writers would call it a war of independence, something more positive.

Nevertheless, because Malaysia in the 1960s had an English education system, and since the history books were written by Englishmen or Malaysians such as Joginder Singh Jessy (who were recipients of an English education), it was always referred to as The Indian Mutiny. And that was how we knew it throughout our school days — The Indian Mutiny.

Today, I do not know whether Malaysian students still read Indian history. Nevertheless, the history lesson today has been reduced to simple questions like: what was the date of The Indian Mutiny? And you are given three answers to tick against, only one being the right answer.

In our days it was very different. You were not asked to choose the right answer from three. You had to write essays with a minimum of a certain number of words. And the question was not about what date The Indian Mutiny occurred but what your opinion or thoughts about it are.

You would probably have to write a long analysis to a question such as: what caused or triggered The Indian Mutiny of 1857, what was its impact on the Indian independence movement that came later, and how has it shaped Indian society today?

Now, to answer that question you need to be a thinker. And to be able to be a thinker you first must need to be taught how to think. But does Malaysia’s current education system allow the students to think? How do you analyse and rationalise and think critically when your mind has been stifled and you have never been allowed to think?

The government is afraid of people who think. So the government would rather Malaysians become mental slaves. And the affect is worse for Malays because, being Muslims, Malays have been educated from very young not to question too much lest your akidah (faith) gets eroded. Thinking too much and questioning is the work of the devil, the Muslims are told. So better you just accept what you have been taught and not question whether there is any truth in it.

Malays also always talk about the zaman gemilang Islam (the glory days of Islam). This was the age of invention and innovation where the Middle Eastern region surpassed the West in science and technology. This is of course a fallacy. The glory days of the Middle East was not because of Islam per se. It was because the Middle East opened itself to learning from the other more developed societies of that time such as India and China.

Yes, the Middle Eastern region did invent many things and they were leading in many areas. But they picked up technology from the non-Muslims and improved upon it. It was like Japan, Korea and Taiwan soon after the Second World War. These countries never invented anything, at least in the beginning. They just did ‘reverse engineering’ and improved upon what the West had already invented.

So the same happened in the Middle Eastern region that flourished around a century after Prophet Muhammad. Many of the inventors, mathematicians, astronomers, physicians, architects, engineers, chemists, etc., were actually non-Muslims. But the Muslims allowed invention and innovation and that was why the region moved far ahead during the time when the West still thought that brain tumours were the result of the devil entering the brain — while the Muslims were already performing brain surgery to remove the tumour.

In fact, the Western thinkers went to the Middle East to learn and they translated many of the Arabic books into Western languages. And that is why many Western ‘scientific’ words are Arabic in origin. Even alcohol is an Arabic word. But when the Middle East closed its doors and shunned ‘imported technology’, it began to revert to the dark ages and the West surged ahead and left the Muslims far behind. The same thing happened to China as well when it embarked upon a closed-door policy.

If we want to learn from history and talk about the glory days of the Islamic Empire that is well and fine with me. But we also have to analyse what made them great and what eventually caused them to go into decline. Of course, corruption, abuse of power, injustice, etc., were also factors for this decline. But the greatest factor of all was when the rulers (government) no longer allowed its people to think and declared that innovation is bidaah or heresy.

This is the only way forward. Even the West managed to move forward only when its people fought against mental slavery and demanded they be allowed to think. Is Malaysia prepared to do this in the interest of, as the Deputy Prime Minister says, quality education?

I remember back in the 1960s, when I was in school, we had mock parliament and mock United Nations debates. The entire school would turn out to watch ‘Members of Parliament’ and the ‘delegates’ to the ‘United Nations’ debating issues. There were no sacred cows. Nothing was sensitive. Where do you think people like Anwar Ibrahim acquired his oratory skills if not in school where debates, ceramahs, and whatnot were not only allowed but also encouraged and organised?

Is the government prepared to abolish the law that forbids students from getting involved in politics? Even the Umno Youth leader, Khairy Jamaluddin, thinks that this law should be abolished. Give the students a free hand. Let them decide for themselves what they want to do. Let them think and ponder about which direction they wish to go even if that direction is opposed to ours.

Remember, many leaders of today were once active ‘politicians’ and even student leaders back in the days when students were not barred from politics. What type of leaders do you think the students of today are going to become when it is time for them to take over in future?

As what the deputy Prime Minister said, quality education is not about money. Yes, I agree. Quality education is about developing the mind. And the mind can never be developed if you subject the people to mental slavery. This is the first thing that needs to be removed, the shackles of the mind that the government imposes on its people.


DPM: Quality education not just matter of budget allocations

(Bernama) – The enculturation of quality in the education system is not just a matter of increasing budget allocations, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said on Tuesday, Oct 19.

He said quality education, in fact, was about the development of the mind, personality and enhancement of each individual’s potential for the development of a learning society that recognised cultural diversity, democracy, human rights, moral values, equity of access to knowledge and life-long learning.

“It is about how we collectively through concerted action enhance the image of Islam as a religion of peace, enhance the perception of Muslims as people of integrity, improve the perception towards the role of our wives and daughters in nation building and human capital development, and how we can improve the engagement of our youths in social and economic development.”

“Through these, we can improve the quality of life for all and make the world a safer place for everyone,” he said in his opening address at the Fifth Islamic Conference of Ministers of Higher Education and Scientific Research, here, on Tuesday.

“As policy makers, we are accountable to the public that our policies have current relevance, are effective in addressing socio-economic issues and that we are efficient at delivering the products.”

“However, we need to be aware that this perception of the role of education as the driver of socio-economic development could undermine some of the basic values of education and reduce the role of providers of education to that of factories.”

“Let us remember as providers of education, especially at the higher levels, that there are certainly broader contributions that education makes to the wider society such as social cohesion, better health, character moulding, and the development of critical and creative faculties essential for the building of learning societies so needed in a complex, fast changing world.”

“The development of character along with knowledge and competencies must be part and parcel of an extended definition of quality education which is also consistent with the Islamic concept of a holistic education.”

According to Muhyiddin, education without emphasis on character formation has practically no value in Islam.

“The Islamic concept of harmony in education includes the formation of a certain type of character rooted in humility towards Allah, lover towards fellow human beings, perseverance in times of affliction, honesty, decency, uprightness, courage to say the truth, a balanced attitude towards issues that involve human emotions and so on.”

He said with the glorious past behind, Muslim leaders must consciously motivate the people to regain the glory of Islam and encourage research and promote innovation as part of the culture of their institutions of higher education.

At the same time, he said, they must ensure that their educationists, researchers, scientists and innovators were guided by ethics.

Muhyiddin also mentioned that Malaysia had taken several innovative strategies to become a high-income nation by 2020 that would not only provide material prosperity but also a sense of purpose and belonging for its multiracial citizens.

“We have identified the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure and improve our efficiency and quality in six major policy areas.”

“Besides this, we are mindful that the quality of education must start from a solid foundation. Policies have been put in place to streamline the curriculum for all preschool centres, including private centres, to ensure quality pre-school education,” he said.

The conference is aimed at providing an opportunity for Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) member states and relevant organisations to discuss various important issues pertaining to higher education and scientific research in the Islamic world.

It is also to evaluate and follow up on the implementation of the Strategy for the Promotion of Science, Technology and Innovation in Islamic Countries.


Translated into Chinese at: