In terms of reading, Malaysia ranked 58 out of 64 countries. In comparison, Singapore is ranked third. Therefore, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s concern is understandable.
Something is not right in our education system. Instead of debating the concerns and pointing fingers, let us identify the areas to improve and implement workable solutions to correct the flaws.
The new Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 must identify and address the weaknesses effectively and avoid the pitfalls of the Blueprint 2006-2010.
The survey numbers must not result in our authorities going into frenzy mode, losing focus and wasting precious time in the process. In the case of reading, to be ranked that low has serious repercussions if one were to think about the future workforce the country is churning out today.
Reading is not a habit among the majority of Malaysians. We cannot blame the 15-year-olds exclusively. If we were to survey the adults, probably our ranking would be too shameful to be reported.
Therefore, is it any wonder that most of our teens are not into reading as well? Teaching by example is still the best education approach. It is the simplest form of passing on knowledge, and the most effective.
This is probably where we have failed in attempts to identify the root causes of the slide in our reading competency.
FIRSTLY, reading is a habit (let’s exclude illiteracy, in this instance) and it can’t be taught by rote. Instead, it needs to be inculcated and taught by example rather than through rigid systems or programmes. It is adopted organically, not mechanically. It is a form of culture and arts, not science.
Therefore, efforts to inculcate such habits have to focus on making shifts in our cultural habits.
Society must be made to embrace reading and understand its benefits inherently. It should not be portrayed as something mundane, boring and a waste of time or, worse, only as a requirement to pass examinations. We must re-ignite the reading habit and entrench it as part of our culture.
Our libraries should be more welcoming. The habit should be promoted persistently and not just for gimmick or temporary publicity;
SECONDLY, it should be obvious by now that the earlier perception that focusing on the mastery of the English language in the education system could jeopardise the national language is unfounded.
If society does not have the habit of reading, especially the younger generation, how then can we preserve any language?
Perhaps, too much preoccupation on principles has distracted us from the core factors necessary in seeking to empower society with a bigger aspect of progress, that is the accumulation of knowledge.
We take for granted the simple habit of having the literacy and culture of reading as the basic building blocks of acquiring knowledge, and as a result, deprive ourselves of the ability to compete.
Since the new Education Blueprint is in its kick-off phase, let us not fall into the rigid mindset of the past. Make changes and adjustments to the blueprint where necessary in order to align the efforts towards the correct objectives. Do not let bureaucracies bog or numb us into inaction; and,
THIRDLY, we must have the diligence to pursue effective execution. In many instances, our plans are worthy and sound, but the execution is where the deviation from the objective occurs. Some may say it is an obvious analysis, but regardless of how obvious it might be, the fact is, no matter how meticulous and holistic our plans are, if we screw up the execution, failure is inevitable. Sugiman Sabri, Kulim, Kedah NST Letters to the Editors 12 June 2015