That there are excellent and talented people shows that the system has been successful in many ways. By the thousands, Malaysian students do well in foreign universities.
It is assumed that the study and award of a degree marks a level of thinking beyond those who do not spend more than 10,000 hours mastering a discipline.
However, it would seem that in matters of race, religion, language, politics or ideology, the academic processes of objectivity do not exercise positive interventionist roles.
Educated people are not broadly educated in all fields. Legal, spiritual, literary, scientific-technological literacies are not mastered to a higher level enough to ensure objectivity in dealing with matters of race, religion, language and ideology, where primordial instincts and forces still reign.
With all the efforts and resources invested, it would seem that as a whole, the education system loses out to the negative messages by the mass media, particularly, negative messages from irresponsible leaders who pay lip service to national unity in their rhetoric but uphold values which transgress the principles of basic rights and other significant elements which nurture authentic national unity.
Positive national messages from schools compete endlessly with negative messages of disunity from families, communities, politics and mass media.
There is no choice. Education must win. When we examine what is in place for the building of a united nation from our multiracial society we note the following:
COMMON set of overarching national codes, such as Negaraku, Rukun Negara, Malaysian Educational Philosophy, National Integrity Pledge and various Educational Development Plans;
COMMON universal values;
COMMON national language;
COMMON international language — English;
COMMON core curriculum;
COMMON quality control protocols and common pursuits for excellence;
COMMON professional and management circulars;
COMMON public examinations system;
COMMON school sports meet;
COMMON teacher education (pre- and in-service);
COMMON educational leadership and governance frameworks;
COMMON school holidays;
COMMON code of discipline;
COMMON awareness raising of the importance and opportunities of vocational technical education;
COMMON agenda for knowledge information technology literacies; and,
COMMON shadow education — tuition, extra classes, examination frenzy in the culture.
Beyond secondary schools are realities in the world of work and in higher education institutions, which reinforce, and or reject many of the important matters achieved through the school system.
Detractors find all kinds of reasons to reject and discredit the good done by the national school system. The detractors are from religious or language pressure groups, political pressure groups, even business pressure groups.
Typically, detractors have tendencies towards supremacist ideologies, religious bigotry, racial zealots, people with vested personal interests, sometimes, even simply anarchists for, from their perspectives, nothing good or right is happening in the education system or in schools.
Professional non-governmental organisations and Parent Teachers Associations (PIBG) typically have the agenda in the interests of the students and the immediate communities.
Usually, rational criticisms have to do with finetuning the policies and practices in existence, or promoting new policies and practices not yet considered, or even reviving old policies and practices considered relevant and beneficial for the present generations.
If students succeed, it is the alignment of the efforts put in by the students, teachers, principals, parents, school board-PIBG and education system leaders.
If students fail to succeed, it is the misalignment and derailment of inspiration and hope, efforts and resources, and it is because of poor leadership across all levels, which cause wastefulness and efforts in vain.
Chew Tow Yow, in his doctoral thesis, wrote about the necessity for alignment of the formal curriculum, the instructional curriculum, the operational curriculum and the experiential curriculum.
The formal curriculum is the document issued by the Education Ministry regarding the syllabuses for the school system. The instructional curriculum is the interpretation of the teacher of the objectives and contents of any particular syllabuses.
The operational curriculum is the implementation of the course, whether in the morning or afternoon, in air-conditioned or non air- conditioned room, in or outside the classroom and the pedagogies used, as well as strategies for motivating students.
The experiential curriculum is what each student takes away from the learning experiences and how they construct the relevance of knowledge and sharpen their minds for the future, from what has been learned.
The challenge of all good teachers is to ensure that learners take away positive learning experiences that they can use throughout their lives. Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid NST Opinion 21 August 2015