My thoughts on Education, UEC and National Unity
Dear YB Dr. Maszlee Malik,
Recently I read a lot of news and letters about UEC, some against it, and some are for it. Then there are numerous comments being made by readers about UEC which were not entirely true, so coming from UEC background, I felt compelled to write this following article to share my thoughts about our education system, UEC, and to clarify to those who doesn’t know much about UEC.
First of all, UEC and national unity are on the same page. During my years studying in Chinese Independent School, there was not once the syllabus urging us to embrace China or betray the Malaysia government. We were taught a very detailed World History, China History and also Malaysia History, sometimes separately but mostly concurrently. That’s the reason why we started our classes at 7:45am and finished at 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 7:45am to 1:30pm on Saturday. Most importantly, we have BM classes too despite some believed that UEC is all Mandarin based.
Secondly, a lot of people misunderstood that UEC is promoting a completely different culture than the true Malaysian culture, but that’s not true also. The main teaching of UEC, beside academically, is to teach us how to be a better person. There are eight mantras that the students must recognise and understand, namely;
One must be loyal to their country and nation. When our nation is under threat, we must defend it with all our might. When our nation needs us, we must stand up for our nation. Loyalty of course covers many other areas, such as spouse, our employer, and etc.
Be true and love our parents and elders. Be respectful to our parents and elders.
One mustn’t be a cruel person but treat our friends, family, animals and etc with kindness and being humane.
One should be a loving person who love mankind regardless of difference in race, religion and skin colour.
One must be polite to anyone regardless of race, age and religious differences.
One must understand and can differentiate the difference between right and wrong, and one should be strong to defend what is right.
One must be incorruptible and honest to everyone.
One must understand shame and disgrace, and do not bring shame and disgrace upon oneself, the family, nor the country.
If you want the best example, just read the story of Mulan where the story combines all the 8 UEC teaching mantras into one interesting story.
UEC is not something new, nor something that came upon just a few years ago. In fact, my UEC high school just celebrated the 100th years celebration few years ago, so UEC is part of Malaysia history, and it happened way before the Merdeka.
During my INTI college years, the Calculus courses was something I had learned during my high school years. Then I went abroad to the United States to further my study in Engineering, the Calculus III that was taught in university was something I had actually learned during my high school years, so I excelled in mathematics classes. Furthermore, I elected to take my Biology, Chemistry and Physics in English during my UEC years, so I was very much prepared when I entered college and university.
Also, during my time, I took both the SPM and UEC, and I can’t say it’s true for 100%, but majority of the Chinese Independent School students took both the SPM and UEC. So these students had been covered by the SPM, and UEC is just an additional certificate that these student take. And we all know that when we took the SPM, the Bahasa Malaysia is covered, so how can one say the UEC students doesn’t learn Bahasa Malaysia? From what I had gathered, in fact, some of these UEC schools are now making SPM a compulsory during their fifth year and UEC examination an elective during their sixth year.
Malaysia is a multiracial country and that made us so unique in this world. We have various race that made up this country, and the various culture, languages and lifestyle is what made us special. During my father’s time in the 50’s and 60’s, everyone, regardless of race, will come together to celebrate any form of festive days, like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas, and etc. Today, we have religious teachers teaching us that it is “haram” to wish someone Merry Christmas, and it is OK to segregate laundry shops because the Chinese are “tak halal”. UEC is not going to destroy our country nor hurt the national unity, but racial thoughts, racism, and race base policies are slowly and surely destroying our beautiful country. These racism is bringing us back to stone ages and preventing our beloved nation from progressing further technologically and financially.
The real threat to our education system by recognising UEC is that it shows the real standards of our national education system. By fear of being challenged academically, one can only stay stagnant and being complacent. In fact, I would suggest a total revamp of our education system from being spoon-feed to encouraging the students to think creatively, to challenge the system so that they can think more freely. With such system, we then can develop a new generation of smart youngsters to lead the country in the future. On the other hand, by providing them too much protection, we can only raise a generation of spoilt brats who are too well protected, weak, complacent, and ignorant.
Being fortunate enough to be able to study in the United States of America, and being fortunate enough to spend some years serving the local universities, I can safely say that our education is not on par with overseas, and our students were not taught to think more creatively and smartly, so our Research & Development strength is not there. I understood Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir has a dream of creating National Car 3.0 (first being Proton and second being Perodua) to leave behind a legacy, and I do not disagree with that idea but the timing is not right. We do not have enough smart brains for a real R&D like those in Toyota, BMW or etc. Taking old technology from these manufacturers and rebranding these cars is not going to teach us how to build a better car. What it does teach is how to copy and paste the same technology. If we have enough smart brains, then we can take these current technologies and do a proper R&D to develop new technologies that we can call it our own.
Without a complete revamp of our education system to promote creative thinking, racial unity, racial peacefulness and making people to understand that despite the skin colour difference, the race and cultural difference, we still bleed the same blood, we cannot develop our beloved country to become an advance nation to compete with the best of the best.
I understand that some quarters will feel that their status quo is being challenged, and they will be taking street protests or whatnot to display their displeasure. But for the interests of the nation and making Malaysia truly competitive in the world stage, I believe the Ministry of Education should be making a strong stand against those quarters to make a relentless case of revamping our education system instead of trying to please everyone. Right now, by lowering the standards so that more can graduate and more can graduate from universities is a form of protection that breeds complacent, ignorant, weak and brain-drained generation.
Prior to the 14th General Election, one of the pledge was to recognised UEC, but now, many people on the street started to feel short-changed by the new government. The impression that many get is the Ministry of Education is solving those small issues like changing the white shoes to black shoes, which I think is a mistake also. The MOE should be looking at the bigger picture on how to develop a new generation of competitive youngsters that can take on the world and challenge the best of the best. It doesn’t help also when the MOE is being capricious on the UEC issue, like the need 5 years to do a comprehensive study on the impact of UEC in unity of Malaysia and etc. If you are not planning to recognise UEC, just say so. If you are planning to do it, just do it without fear of certain quarters.
As for the recognition of UEC, for me, it has been many years since UEC doesn’t get their rightful recognition so it doesn’t really matter right now. Of course, if the Pakatan Harapan government can fulfilled their election promise, that will be the best. If not, then it doesn’t matter because UEC is recognized in China, United States, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, United Kingdom and many more, so one can only imagine the academic achievements for UEC holders. Unfortunately, UEC is from Malaysia, yet it has not been recognized. What is more important is to look at the bigger picture of a complete revamp of our education system to breed bright pupils so they can build a better future for our nation.
After almost 60 years of trying, finally Malaysian has a two-party system and the people of Malaysia successfully revolted the previous government without resorting to violence so I hope the PH government, including the MOE, will treasure the opportunity given by the people to perform better than that of the previous government, to bring results and development that we all needed and deserved. Please change the mindset that the newly introduce policies are not to ensure that you win the next General Election, but to develop the nation to new heights. I am sure if we see real development and policies for the best of interest for the nation, people will continue to elect you so you can continue the good work to develop the nation.