MRSM schools obstacle to national unity?

A Republic of Virtue

What educationists will see in the list of innovations are merely aspects of the formal curriculum; upon further analysis lies the hidden and informal curriculum as perceived from curricular theory; hidden is the deeply racial socialisation aspect.

By Dr. Azly Rahman

As hypermodernising societies such as Malaysia progresses in syncrony with the advancement of capitalism, and as race and religion becomes the foundation for decision-making in education, especially in elitist well-funded schools, Malaysia is faced with another dilemma of education and national development.
Is this country creating sophisticated ethnocentrists that will continue to sustain race-based ideologies?
Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (Mara Junior Science College) schools, well-funded, well-staffed with advanced degree faculties, and well-taken care of by the Malay-centric government may be one example of a phenomena of a successful failure in the system’s 40-year evolution.
The school system prides itself in innovative curricular experimentation drawn from best practice of schools, particularly those of the United States; as its original template was based upon.
What educationists will see in the list of innovations are merely aspects of the formal curriculum; upon further analysis lies the hidden and informal curriculum as perceived from curricular theory; hidden is the deeply racial socialisation aspect.
The overall picture lies in the impact of politics and education in the socialisaton of MRSM students. they parrot the teachers, the teachers parrot the politicians, politicians kowtow to money and power – that’s an example of successful failure.
We are all economic beings, homo economicus undoubtedly but it is education and only education that is the best means to re-engineer, restructure, re-level, and redesign society.
It is the only means to sustain individual and social progress, as philosophers Dewey and Freire would argue.
Valueless ideologies
While the advanced nations are prioritising multiculturalism, honoring cosmopolitanism, and globalising education, Malaysians, through their endless fights over education are making many steps backwards. MRSM has produced a breed of sophisticated professionals to sustain ethnocentric valueless ideologies out of touch with current cultural realities.
Consider, in a similar vein, how much is spent and attention paid to on yet another high-priced elitist project such as the Pintar Permata at the expense of other schools in dire needs of even basic amenities such as those in Sabah and Sarawak or in many poor states – is that equity and equality for all races? Or is it a showcase based on ignorance of the meaning of equality and education?
With all due respect to the administrators, teachers, parents, and students, I must say about the MRSM school system.
With its insistence on being a Malay-centric, MRSM these days are not preparing children to survive in a multicultural, cosmopolitan, and ever-changing world that requires English as an important skill, and an outlook that is more open to learning about other cultures especially in the context of a rapidly changing Malaysia.
Those specialisations in each MRSM school are merely cliches filled with educational terminologies that are not fully understood but fully acceptable as a platform to appease the needs of the current regime.
Regimentation is necessary it seems to tune the mind of the monolithic mono-cultural students to accept governmental dictates making them in turn, one-dimensional beings.
Are any of those MRSMs suitable for Malaysian children? Or are they merely training and indoctrinating grounds to prop up yet another breed of leaders that will sustain the culture of blind following neo-feudalism of Ketuanan Melayu that itself is a dying specie?
Do parents know what goes on in the culture of the MRSM boarding schools and what goes on in the minds of your children?
In this context, we must look at the difference between education, schooling, indoctrination, mind-control, and liberation in thinking. I would say that the MRSM system is a successful failure.
Retrogressive ideologies
In MRSM, that predominantly Malay-elite secondary institution for the best and brightest young Malays, Malay-centric indoctrination work have been happening since the 1980s. Courses such as Kursus Kesedaran (Self Awareness Courses) are conducted to instill the questionable idea of Ketuanan Melayu, making the children afraid of “Malaysian bogeymen and bogeywomen” and their own shadows.
Open-mindedness is rarely encouraged and students take control over each others’ lives transplanting retrogressive ideologies into each other’s head, with the help of ultra-nationalist and anti-multiculturalist teachers.
Even if these children survive the ideological ordeal and experience ‘tough love’ and go on to get their degrees from top American and British universities, they will still be Malays with a shallow understanding of multiculturalism or become more sophisticated Malays with more complex arguments on Ketuanan Melayu.
They will then design policies to affect the needed sustenance of ideology in order to protect the interests of the few. Neo-feudalistic cybernetic Malays are then the new creations of the political-economic ruling class. They run the country and many are now running it down.
As an educator wishing to see Malays progress alongside in peace and prosperity with other races, I call upon us all to put a stop to all forms of indoctrination held especially by the BTN (Biro Tata Negara); an organisation that is of no value to the advancement of the Malays they claim to want to liberate.
It should be taken over by progressive Malaysians and replaced with a systematic effort to promote not only racial understanding through teaching respect and deep reflection on the cultures of the peoples of Malaysia, but also teach conflict resolution and mediation through cross-cultural perspectives. All must question the presence of BTN on campuses. All must reject BTN’s programme for indoctrination.
Let us no longer allow any government body of that sort to set foot on our campuses or our schools. As Malaysians we have to demand an end to the further dissemination of racist ideologies.
Open up, not only institutions such as UiTM (Universiti Teknologi Mara) and MRSM but also Umno to more students of the major cultures. We will then have a great celebration of diversity and respect for human dignity in the decades to come.
We need to turn succesful failures such as MRSM into truly successful Malaysian educational ventures; an organic system able to prepare young Malaysian citizens for a diverse, multicultural, and rapidly challenging world – minus the cliches of educational innovation and blind nationalism that will be anti-national in character.

While the opinion in the article is mine,
the comments are yours;
present them rationally and ethically.