MALAYSIANS have yet to accept the little changes that have been made in the education system from time to time. Now, they are bracing themselves to understand the implications of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 unveiled recently.
Why implications? The most affected by the changes are the parents, the schools and the children, in that order. As the major stakeholders in the education system, these three groups can never be won over by the tremendous possibilities, multiple choices and meaningful outcomes outlined in the plan.
The year 2025 is not too far away. Between now and the future, a lot can happen. Tinkering with the future is no small matter when it comes to getting something done in a short space of time.
A thing like education -- an important commodity to human progress and wellbeing -- can never be rushed to meet the deliberate programming of humans. In short, the fear is that something will have to be sacrificed for the sake of charting big numbers in the final evaluation of the plan's performance.
Admittedly, the "what" and "how" issues have been well-explained but the "why", which is to gear the education system to meet the needs of a distinct national identity, has been kept vague.
Questions can be raised about, for instance, our intentions to meet the aspirations of Vision 2020, our readiness to assume a global and regional role and, of course, our commitment to deliver on what we have promised ourselves.
A review of the differing perspectives of the three main stakeholders will reveal some interesting surprises.
Parents are the most worried when something new, such as the education plan, is introduced. Besides the financial demands of education competing against other household needs, we are distressed if we have to fork out more. Determining the real cost of education for a single child in the present is next to impossible.
There are other needs that require some of the parent's attention, with education being at the top. Multiply this with the number of children in an average family, it is understandable why parents object to unnecessary demands from them for the sake of providing their children with a decent education.
We have to avoid a situation where education becomes a burden to the parent instead of promising a brighter future for their children.
The most affected will be the schools and those administering and managing the education system. Heads of schools, for example, are asked to produce a creditable performance by way of keeping up with the key performance indicators set for them and the schools.
Standards have been known to be sacrificed to enable schools to maintain their records of excellence. The competition can get intense under the new system.
Heads of schools may decide to pass on the extra burden of financial strains onto the parents. Consistency in the provision of funds has always been a problem. The amount may not be the same every year. This will complicate planning and execution of any future projections.
The need to maintain a high standard in teaching cannot be compromised. The phenomenon of the parents having to send their children for tuition must not continue under the new plan.
Finally, assessing the real needs of the schoolchildren will have to be done with more care and dedication. Take the example of the frequent changes in the curriculum for the teaching of History, Civic Education, Science and Mathematics.
Given more thought, such changes could have been brought in as part of a comprehensive exercise to design a cradle-to-grave curriculum.
Continuity has to be the operative word in these changes. The piecemeal and ad-hoc approaches adopted all this while have to cease if only to give all the prerequisites to enable our schoolchildren to avail of the best possible opportunities to become the Vision 2020 generation.
Dr Azhari-Karim, former diplomat and associate professor, Kuala Lumpur The News Straits Times Online Opinion Letters to the Editor 14 September 2013