Are our leaders lacking in true thinking? Professor Datuk Dr Ibrahim Bajunid seems to think so, as he states in his article, "What we lack are leaders who are also true thinkers" (NST, Jan 11).
He said: "Thinking has to do with clarity of values and assumptions. If the values and assumptions are not correct in the first instance, then the arguments used for thinking can lead to disasters."
An example of how "arguments used for thinking can lead to disasters" is probably the word "Allah", where Pas spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat decided to make an about-turn by saying that devotees of other religions, including Christianity and Hinduism, are not allowed to refer to God as "Allah" (NST, Jan 15).
Most political leaders don't think before they talk because, as Ibrahim said, "of the survival mentality of having to play to the gallery".
In the case of Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership, we can see that he does the talking alone based on deep thinking with others. It is important that only one leader should do the talking so that no conflicting messages are sent to the people.
Once a leader has made a statement, it is considered as official by the people and they want to see that what is said will be followed through with concrete action.
It is imperative that ministers are careful about what they say as what is reported in the press will be considered the gospel truth.
Take for example the letter from Hussaini Abdul Karim, "Crash dive is no 'soft landing'" (NST, Jan 15) where the writer said: "The decision by the deputy prime minister-cum-education minister, I understand, was made to allow all national school students who started learning those subjects in English to continue until they complete Form Five."
He continues: "However, it seems that many, if not most headmasters of national schools in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, have made their own decision to stop using PPSMI and have instructed teachers to teach those subjects only in Bahasa Malaysia from the new school term this year."
Is this then a question of "flawed thinking" by a minister or is it a question of headmasters not being able to think what is best for the students and the nation? Or is it that headmasters cannot think what the education minister thinks or is thinking?
ISIS senior fellow Datuk Dr Siti Zaleha Abdullah Sani in her article "Raising standards in basic education" (NST, Jan 15) wrote, "...when calibrated against 74 other participating countries, it shows that other countries are three years ahead of Malaysian students in their knowledge and understanding of Mathematics, Science and Reading".
My thinking tells me that it has to do with the medium of instruction being used in Sekolah Kebangsaan. Had it been in the English medium, my thinking tells me that our students will be up there among the best. And our students will have no problem getting a place at any American Ivy League university or at Oxford or Cambridge in England.
It is not that our Cabinet ministers have not done much "thinking" about the deterioration in the standard of our education system. As politicians, their hands are politically tied. As a short-term measure, English teachers are brought in from various countries to teach our students to "read, write and think in English".
A strong background in English is important to develop good thinking skills. The more you read, the more you begin to think. It can be a heavy academic book, self help book, biography or a novel. The love for books makes us think. Being products of Sekolah Kebangsaan, a big majority of students don't read. Why? Because most books are in English.
Ibrahim knows what he is talking when he said, "Today, students are not exposed to such quality texts as Straight And Crooked Thinking, Reading And Reasoning, The Art Of Thinking, and are not adequately guided by mentors who are challenged to examine their own thinking seriously..."
Because of this, "... what we lack are leaders who are also true thinkers".
Hassan Talib Gombak, Selangor New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 21 January 2013