AS a plenary ministerial speaker at the recent The Education World Forum in London, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Education Minister, commented on the theme Planning for 2015; Policy-making Catalyst for A Decade: Measurement, Reach and Enterprise.
The event, dubbed the largest annual gathering of education and skills ministers in the world, is an internationally recognised ministerial forum to debate future practice in education. It is a closed event by official invitation only -- similar to the World Economic Forum that opened at about the same time -- and some 100 ministers attended it at the Westminster Conference Centre and Excel Exhibition, and Conference Centre in the capital city this year.
In light of the theme, Muhyiddin highlighted at least three issues relevant to the future of education. Foremost, he reiterated that ignoring values, ethics and spirituality is no longer acceptable given that about five billion of the world population are of the major religions. Values, ethics and spirituality should be included in a country's education system to counterbalance its more "secular" impact. The need for this is imperative to correct the perception of the oft-mentioned "education without a soul" dilemma.
He added: "We are committed to work together towards this aim in developing individuals based on good ethics and sound spiritual values as responsible leaders and learned members of the global community."
Secondly, Muhyiddin reckoned that education for education's sake is not sufficient if it does not take into account its impact on the environment, human relations and how current policies and strategies will affect the world that children will inherit in the near future.
This is timely with the closure of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development this year and an emphasis on behavioural change to meet the future needs of the planetary community for it to survive. Education, therefore, should move beyond the mere acquisition of basic skills in numeracy, literacy and learning outcomes to hone a global citizenship mindset among students. This means that education should also be based on promoting mutual understanding, combating corruption, democratising the use of new technologies, learning the history and cultures of other nations and appreciating the faiths of others, apart from being planet- and people-sensitive. Muhyiddin expressed confidence that Malaysians of the future will embody universal values in support of the spirit of global citizenship.
After all, the country's education philosophy is emphatic on the holistic objectives of developing a more rounded individual with strong humanitarian values.
To complement this, it was pointed out that, thirdly, learning outcomes require new measurements and yardsticks to complement the more conventional international benchmarks such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and The Programme for International Student Assessment. "This is in tandem with Eastern wisdom that recognises that learning is about being, and not about having, as we see today," said Muhyiddin and he called on all countries to focus on ensuring equity and quality in education from basic to tertiary levels.
In other words, education policies and strategies should be equitable and inclusive so as to reach the marginalised, including children with disabilities and to ensure it accommodates the needs of all children.
To date, despite the declaration of education as a fundamental right, the reality is that about 57 million children are in need of schooling, and two thirds of the adult illiterates are women, although some progress in enrolment has been made since the turn of the millennium.
The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 can take up many of the issues mentioned in the ministerial speech, and it can be fine-tuned from time to time into a more comprehensive plan for sustainable transformation of the education system as the country continues to commit to mapping out its own education system for a future beyond 2015.
The Malaysian education system is said to be heading in the right direction, with a solid foundation and all the ingredients for success in place. This is the consensus among foreign education experts present at the forum, although the caveat remains that all plans are to be implemented effectively.
These are, indeed, the immediate tasks that lie ahead. And failure is not an option!
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