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It has become the norm to equate politics with corruption, bribery, malfeasance and all manner of other evils. We accept such unsavoury practices as inevitable components of politics and learn to live with it.

As Malaysians, we have long been exposed to such evils. We learned to adjust to such “misbehaviour” as part and parcel of the political system. It took the shock of the humongous 1MDB scandal to wake us from our long slumber. Now, reality is staring us in the face. We learned that we face a huge risk if those responsible are let off scot-free.

So the people turned the tables and installed a new government with the new hope of creating a new Malaysia. But we are still finding it difficult to digest our new-found liberty and the unprecedented milestones achieved at the 14th general election. Many harbour hope that the future will be bright, and that we will see a new Malaysia with a new framework for moral integrity and religious and racial tolerance.

But the question remains: can the human psyche change with only a change in politics? Is political revolution meaningful without a mental and moral revolution? Are we ourselves grounded in a proper understanding of morality? How can such an understanding be achieved? These are questions that need immediate attention if we are to see positive change in the moral behaviour of our political leaders.

The answers can be found in the right education, centred on human values: right conduct, peace, truth, love and non-violence. To be centred on these values is to be centred on morality, which is necessary at all phases of life for a peaceful co-existence.

Our education system should inculcate these values from the moment children are enrolled in schools. Although many will contend that the family, as an important social institution, is the context in which to instil right conduct, schools can also reinforce the values learned at home. Given a conducive environment at home and the right atmosphere and exposure at school to right conduct, truth, love and non-violence, children can develop a sterling character.

Upholding peace and truth, sharing love and promoting non-violence are universal moral values that cut across the boundaries of race, religion, culture and language. All these can be imparted through the right education system.

Let us not be influenced by different approaches to utilitarian education. We are deeply obsessed with an education system that promotes the acquisition of material comforts as the end goal. When we denigrate the need for a strong character centred on fundamental human values acquired through the right education system, we are on track for more 1MDB scandals.

Education should not be a means of acquiring knowledge alone. It should help build one’s character. The end goal of education should be the moulding of good character. Malaysia’s education system should be restructured and embedded with character-building elements. This can bring about the right mental revolution. With this, we can churn out more leaders of conscience who are keen on upholding good moral values.

Nurturing good character is like having a compass that directs us on our journey towards our intended destination by showing us the right path. Amid the waves of distraction that seek to divert our attention from our intended goal, a strong character based on moral values will help give unsteady minds a sense of bearing and bring us back to the right path before it is too late.

Here, I am reminded of a true story told to me by a friend about his eight-year-old son. His son returned home from school one day at about 12.30pm. My friend had obtained medical leave from a nearby clinic after waking up late and realising that he would not be able to make it to work on time. When his son asked him why he had not gone to work, he told the boy what had happened.

Much to his surprise, his son told him that his teacher had taught his class that it is wrong to tell lies, and that one should always tell the truth. His son also reminded him that he himself had told the boy not to lie.

Not knowing what else to do, my friend apologised to his son and promised that he would not lie again. This is what educating children with the right values can do to help correct even adults when they tread on the wrong path.

The right education should teach us to constantly be on the WATCH – that is, to watch our Words, watch our Actions, watch our Thoughts, watch our Characters and watch our Hearts. So WATCH.

Sterling characters are the need of the hour. With characters centred on human values, another 1MDB scandal can be averted. WATCH.

Chandrasekaran Veeraiah FMT Opinion 22 September 2018

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