|Smart schools vs sick schools|
|Azly Rahman | Jun 9, 08 12:21pm |
| I read this excerpt of a AFP news story below with disgust.|
‘... One-third of Malaysia's schools do not have water and electricity, a minister said, pledging to fix the problem by 2010....
‘Deputy Education Minister Razali Ismail told Bernama that all 9,806 schools will have access to basic utilities by the end of a four-year education development plan....70 percent of schools already have access to water and electricity. The other 30 percent are mostly located in rural areas, but “we are confident the problem will be solved by 2010".
...Malaysia has implemented a series of five-year development plans with the aim of reaching developed-nation status by 2020..In the last national blueprint, announced in 2006, the government said RM1.15 billion would be spent to upgrade schools.’
All we continue to hear are slogans such as ‘2010', ‘Vision 2020', ‘developed-nation status’ and ‘billions of ringgit of funding’.
These cloud our vision of what schools ought to be. It is as if there is a ‘manufactured crisis’ going on: keep schools impoverished so that the government can keep making promises using empty slogans. The aim: only this government can continue to help those poor schools. This is the nature of mystification we have been fed with all these decades.
I recall then education minister Najib Abdul Razak making a statement about "smart schools" - that the first Smart School is being built at a cost of RM144.5 million. Apart from being wired, it would have a hostel for 800 students, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a hockey pitch, a hall and other facilities. Eventually all Malaysian schools will be operated on this concept.
Now we hear that many schools do not have water and electricity supply, let alone computers to make the schools and students smart. I think our children deserve better than empty promises by the ministry in charge of human intelligence and social reproduction.
What has that ministry done since Merdeka to allow schools to be left in such a state? What paradigm of nationwide school improvement has the ministry been using in order to create such a deformed version of democracy and education?
Is it a strategic plan to ensure that children of the poor will continue to perform the worst under such conditions, and that schools equipped with state-of-the-art technologies are select ones for children of the elite?
No wonder we have an increasing number of Mat and Minah Rempit, Along and gangsters - they were educated in the most deplorable circumstances perhaps. They were schooled in environments with teachers who are not committed and motivated, but also imprisoned in classrooms that do not have the basic amenities compared to ‘smart schools’.
Overhaul long overdue
It is simply unacceptable for this government to allow class stratification; schools not only become the stratifier of ethnic groups but also of classes of the poor, through the unequal distribution of resources. This is characteristic of the hideous form of schooling in Asian-style capitalist societies.
How can we develop the child's intelligence to the fullest if schools are designed to fail them miserably?
We must demand the exposure of the conditions of the schools - which schools get access to what and why. We must demand a comprehensive picture on why our schools are failing and unable to produce children smart enough to bring their intelligence, ethics, and problem-solving skills to the university and beyond an succeed in a world that is challenging.
The new governments of the Pakatan Rakyat must undo what the Barisan Nasional (BN) government has done to the most under-privileged schools. They must gather data on what is lacking in the schools and how resources are shared.
Certainly, if the situation has been exacerbated over the last 30 years of BN rule, how are we to see any changes in class and classroom stratification in the next 30 years?
We see many projects like the Petronas Twin Towers, Multimedia Super Corridor, Monsoon Cup and Iskandar Malaysia carried out as fast, so that governmentally-linked companies can make money for the select few.
Why does comprehensive school reform take ages to be implemented? This is the ‘prison-industrial complex’ approach we are taking in implementing national educational policy.
By maintaining the sense of deprivation of the physical, psychological and intellectual aspects of the schools, we hope to produce more of those citizens who will be desperate enough to find ways be and become like the successful ones, but through desperate means.
We are creating a larger underclass tempted by materialism in a system created to encourage conspicuous consumption - these citizens produced out of the smart schools-sick schools system.
What then must we do to heal the system, to make our sick school smarter? This is for the education ministry and progressive parliamentarians to answer.