Saturday, February 26, 2011

The future of education in a multicultural society (notes)


The future of education in a multicultural society
Notes on a Roundtable on Education and  Multiculturalism in Malaysia
Dr. Azly Rahman, Speaker
Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, commentator
Dr. Ibrahim Bajunid, moderator
UCSI Multipurpose Hall, UCSI, Cheras, February 24, 2011

  • Q1: Being a multicultural society that Malaysia is, how should our education system be designed? Or, should it be designed at all? 
  • A. Education is a deliberate attempt to construct human beings that will participate in society as productive citizens. The question whether our education system should be designed or not is quite irrelevant when education, schooling, training, indoctrination, and the spectrum of ways by which the child is “schooled” are all based on intentional design. Schooling is the most contested terrain in any society; it is a battlefield or a conveyor belt for the creation of human beings. We go back one step before the question of design. In a multicultural society, who should be entrusted to design schooling – politicians or philosophers of education trained in the study of political economy and anthropology and alternative historicizing? Are those designing our schooling system equipped with the varieties of philosophical perspectives in education? – Essentialism, Progressivism, Romanticism, Cultural Rejuvenation, Social Reconstructionism,  Spiritual Capitalism, Technicism …or even Cultural Revolution  these philosophies calls for a different perspective of what a human being is and how to draw out the potentials in each and every human being, hence the Latin word “educare”, from which education comes from, meaning “drawing out ..”
  • My question for all of you – what philosophy of education will be suitable for a multicultural society such as Malaysia? And how do we translate such a philosophy into praxis (Paulo Freire “cultural action for freedom,)

  • Q2: The current design has created an eco-system wherein parents can choose between national school, vernacular school or Islamic schools. Is this healthy for nation building? The older model of primary education was with the strategic intent of laying the foundation for nation-building. Is that agenda now being sacrificed?
A. Choices emanate from an evolution of what society is. We must consider what “nation-building” means in the context of schooling. Natio means one people, from the French scholar Ernst Renan. The kind of nation we want to create,  depends upon the schools we build. How does one build an “American” school? It depends on the people’s understanding and degree of the embodiment of the Constitution of the United States and how America sees herself as a nation of immigrants wherein schooling that separates religion and the state complicates less the process of “nation-building”.

“All men are created equal endowed by the Creator the inalienable rights … “ said the preamble to the Constitution. Every morning one hears these words in unison, across America in all classrooms,  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United states and to the republic unto which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all…” 

What does 1Malaysia means not as an evolving concept that has undergone some kind of dialectical materialistic treatment and the cyclical theory of knowledge (thesis-anti-thesis synthesis) but a branding, sloganizing, hollow-fying concept of forced Oneness pushed into public discourse and into public sphere? 

What does a truly Malaysian school mean? Herein lies the evolution of ideological apartheid especially in our public school system. Where is the locus of control? How are race-based ideological battles fought in this terrain? Herein lies the separate schools Malaysians build.

  • Q3: But, should schools be seen as a tool for nation building at all? Isn't it the "nation-building" agenda that has created a divided society that we have now? Can not nation-building be simply the sharing national values of some universal form which prepares student for a globalized world?
  • A: On schooling and nation-building; this is a question of the post-70s era in which the debate rages concerning nationalism, pluralism, socialism, national-socialism, or even cosmopolitanism or millennialism. Countries or states were jumping into the bandwagon of perceiving education from a post-colonial or neo-colonialist lens arguing for the maintaining the race and ethnicity dimension of social and economic progress. The creation of the precursor to Barisan Nasional in the form of The Alliance Party in 1955 and subsequently the dominance and hegemony of this race-based coalition party has enabled the creation of an education system based on race-consideration.   

  • Q4: If given a choice, would parents choose schools based on medium of instruction or would they choose quality? In other words, if choice is given in a multicultural society, would that cause society to break down further?
A: Multiculturalism is not an option, radical multiculturalism as an educational philosophy is even not an option. I may sound like Plato, Kung Fu Tze, Jean Jacques Rousseau or Marx , “deterministic” – but there is a sense with phenomenological evidence in this country that this society is breaking down and we must seek solutions through education.
Consider these issues as I conclude: The protest over the selected reading Interlok, the rise of NGOs promoting dangerous ultra-nationalism, the suppression of free speech on campuses, the proliferation of indoctrination on campuses through the work of governmental outfits such as Biro Tata Negara, and the list goes on ...
But what is multiculturalism? Broader than what many of us here have conceived … “many cultures” , “many worldviews” “multiple perspectives” “multiple ways of knowing” – and to bring human beings from a variety of cultures of ability and disability to enable them to reach their fullest potential – the children of all races, physically, emotionally, technologically, emotionally challenged, the culturally deficient, and many more – all these to be brought into the process of being “educated  through schooling” so that each may learn and prosper and grow as critical, creative, ethical human beings who will use their knowledge and power to transform others and not to plunder and oppress.
We need to embark upon a long-term project of radical education transformation based on Radical Multiculturalism as philosophy. 

I shall leave these propositions for us to deliberate in this important forum on the future of multicultural education in Malaysia.

…………………………..

8 comments:

Faizah said...

Salam Dr AR. Is there any way that I can get hold of the full discussion on this topic?

Wintermute said...

In the multi - cultural urban US public schools the pledge of allegiance is chanted by Third World - descended children who are racially alien to the genetic posterity of the country's White Founding Fathers and these youngsters have no idea what the words mean.

The more taxpayers' money that is spent on heavily Minority, US public schools, the lower the educational standards become.

DR. AZLY RAHMAN said...

salam faizah,

according the organizers of the two talks (respectively IDEAS/UCSI and Yayasan Selangor/SelangorTV), videos will be available. I am not sure where they are but I hope they will surface on the web sometime soon.

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nono said...

Dr. Azly

Part 1
This is a letter from a poor Malaysian Chinese who obtained an exceptional result in her examination but was discriminated by the Malaysian government. She did not not get a place in the local university and had to go to the U.S.A. to get her degree.

Your blog is the right forum to discussed this crucial issue in which the Malaysian government is treating non-malays unfairly.

The letter speaks for itself.

Subject: A Letter from a Chinese Malaysian Resident In USA

Yang Amat Berhormat Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia,
admin@portal.gov.my

Dear Prime Minister,
We refer to the letter below from a Chinese Malaysian for your information.

Would you like to comment, please?

We look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours respectfully,
Eddie Hwang
President
Unity Party WA
UnityPartyWA@westnet.com.au
www.unitywa.org
Ph/Fax: 61 893681884

A Malaysian speaks up....

I am a female Chinese Malaysian, living in the Washington DC area in the United States. I have read many of the letters that often talk about foreign countries when the writers have no real knowledge of actually living in those countries.

Many draw conclusions about what those countries are like after hearing from someone else or by reading and hearing about them in the media or after four years in a college town in those countries.

I finished STPM with outstanding results from the prestigious St George's Girls School in Penang. Did I get a university place from the Malaysian government? Nothing.. With near perfect scores, I had nothing, while my Malay friends were getting offers to go overseas.

Even those with 2As got into university. I was so depressed. I was my parent's last hope for getting the family out of poverty and at 18, I thought I had failed my parents.

Today, I understand it was the Malaysian Government that had failed me and my family because of its discriminatory policies.

Fortunately, I did not give up and immediately did research at the Malaysian American Commission on Education Exchange (MACEE) to find a university in the US that would accept me and provide all the finances. My family and friends thought I was crazy, being the youngest of nine children of a very poor carpenter. Anything that required a fee was out of our reach.

Based on merit and my extracurricular activities of community service in secondary school, I received full tuition scholarship, work study, and grants to cover the four years at a highly competitive US university.

Often, I took 21 credits each semester, 15 credits each term while working 20 hours each week and maintaining a 3.5 CGPA. A couple of semesters, I also received division scholarships and worked as a TA (teaching assistant) on top of everything else.

For the work study, I worked as a custodian (yes, cleaning toilets), carpet layer, computer lab assistant, grounds keeping, librarian, painter, tour guide, etc. If you understand the US credit system, you will understand this is a heavy load.

nono said...

Part 2
Why did I do it? This is because I learnt as a young child from my parents that hard work is an opportunity, to give my best in everything, and to take pride in the work I do. I walked away with a double major and a minor with honours but most of all a great lesson in humility and a great respect for those who are forced to labour in so-called `blue collar' positions.

Those of you who think you know all about Australia , US, or the West, think again. Unless you have really lived in these countries, i.e. paid a mortgage, paid taxes, taken part in elections, you do not understand the level of commitment and hard work it takes to be successful in these countries, not just for immigrants but for people who have lived here for generations.

These people are where they are today because of hard work. (Of course, I am not saying everyone in the US is hardworking... There is always the lazy lot that lives off of someone else's hard work. Fortunately, they are the
minority..)

Every single person, anywhere, should have the opportunity to succeed if they want to put in the effort and be accountable for their own actions. In the end, they should be able to reap what they sow.

It is bearable that opportunities are limited depending on how well-off financially one's family is but when higher education opportunities are race-based, like it is in Malaysia, it is downright cruel for those who see education as the only way out of poverty.

If you want to say discrimination is here in the US , yes, of course it is. Can you name a country where it doesn't happen? But let me tell you one thing - if you go looking for it, you will find it.

But in Malaysia , you don't have to go look for it because it seeks you out, slaps you in your face every which way you turn, and is sanctioned by law!

Here in the US , my children have the same opportunity to go to school and learn just like their black, white, and immigrant friends. At school, they eat the same food, play the same games, are taught the same classes and when they are 18, they will still have the same opportunities. Would I want to bring my children back to Malaysia ?
So they can suffer the state-sanctioned discrimination as the non-malays have had for over 50 years?

The injustice the non-Malay have to suffer in frightening silence is the most damaging problem one has to face throughout one's life. You just have to look at the mighty govt structures which completely favours only one race, the Umno Malay.
The Chinese and Indians are treated no better than the illegal Indonesians.
Racism and corruption are openly practised by the Malay politicians everywhere, Courts, schools/Uni, police, govt offices, contracts, GLC, NEP, ISA, local govt.

It's so powerful and intimidating that you walk with fear and keep your mouth shut on anything and everything political.
Religion is taboo unless you talk good about Islam.

As for being a slave in the foreign country, I am a happy 'slave' earning a good income as an IT project manager.

I work five days a week; can talk bad about the president when I want to; argue about politics, race and religion openly; gather with more than 50 friends and family when I want (no permit needed) and I don't worry about the police pulling me over because they say I ran the light when I didn't.

Have we seen the light at the end of the tunnel yet (Anwar Ibrahim)?
Or is it the head light of an oncoming Umno train ?
Lets hope its the former for the sake of all fair-minded Malaysians.

The dream of a Malaysian 'race' in the future is nowhere in sight with the present BN govt.

Where is Negara-Ku???

nono said...

Dr. Azly, Malaysia should have as you mentioned a radical multiculturalism concept of education.

An open letter from a Malaysian Chinese which was published in your blog showed the discriminatory atitude of the Malaysian government in favouring only one race - Malay.

The constitution of Malaysia specifically mentioned that all Malaysians should have equal opportunities in education, employment etc..

In practice, the government is not doing so.

Why, this racial discrimination?

The goverment and UMNO is always reminding Malaysians of the danger and repetition of May 13.

However, it appears that the government is encouraging this to happen through its discriminatory educational policies of favouring only one race - Malay, and where students of other races can feel they are being treated differently.

The government and UMNO must realise that in practising discrimination towards the other races thay are playing with fire.

The non-Malays said, the government and UMNO have gone too far in treating them and their children like dirt.

They don't mind to stand up and fight the government and UMNO for their rights.

Even with blood.

The non-Malays say that Malaysia is also their country.

They only die once and for a worthy cause,

May 13, this time, is about discrimination as suffered by the non-Malays through the hands of the government and UMNO.

Najib must remember that the majority of taxes are paid by non- Malays(Mahathir himself said so).

But it seems the government and UMNO does not appreciate the financial contribution made by them to the country.

It is like the story of the father who gave the best food to his non working children while those who worked very hard and who provided the monies for the food were treated badly and only given the leftovers to eat.

Najib and UMNO must implement this Radical Multiculturalism in the education system of the ountry with immediate effect to prove that his government is not practising discrimination towards the Chinese, Indians and the other races in Malaysia.

Also remove the book Interlok from the school's syllabus immediately as it is derogatory to the non malays.

Najib, remember the saying, you can fool Malaysians some of the time but you cannot fool them most of the time.

This is an ultimatum.

Take action now.

Anonymous said...

The Malaysian Government is actually colonizing Malaysia by channeling resources to the BN-linked Malaysians, and more than 90% are UMNO Malays. What happen to the rest of the 10% Non UMNO Malays? These Non UMNO Malays profit from government projects and in return they will pacify their respective ethnic groups of people, such as the Iban, Kadasan, Orang Asli, Chinese and Indians.

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