On Wednesday, a journalist from The Malaysian Insider asked what my views were on the state of education today. My response saw print under SIDEVIEWS, 25 July.
How different is education today, I was asked, compared to education when I was an educator? If I lasted 19 years as a teacher, it must have been a tolerable profession. Key operative word is “tolerable” despite that fact that in mid 60’s we teachers throughout the country went on strike to seek better remuneration.
When I opted to come back from Singapore after her separation from Malaysia to continue to make teaching my career my late meter-reader father warned me about the responsibility the job entailed. “I already got you a job at LLN (now Tenaga) through Raja Zainal” (then CEO.) As a teacher you are responsible for ALL students in your class. They spend more hours with you than with their parents. If one goes astray, you have failed as the teacher!” He sure threw a bucket of coldwater on my vocation. I stuck to teaching, emboldened by the challenge that I had my former teachers to emulate, the men who nurtured me for this noble profession. I spent 10 years in a Sentul school after which I was assigned to another to stem the drug and indiscipline in that school. So why did I throw all this away, loss of pension and gratuity after 19 years?
After 1970, all schools were converted into government or government assisted schools and Bahasa Kebangsaan would be the medium of instruction. Three months of inservice course to learn Bahasa was deemed sufficient for one to be proficient in this new medium of instruction. I plodded on, even on occasions when I was just three pages ahead of my students. That was the policy and I tried to do my best. And then I witnessed the insidious role race and religion snaked into the profession. When handball was introduced in the sports curriculum I purchased the necessary. I was called into office to justify why I purchased handball made from pig skin. I produced the ball that had the offending word “pigment” imprinted on it. When the omnipotent words race, religion and quota took precedence over merit that resulted in shameless polarization that divided our studentbody I wanted no part of this system and forfeited one month’s salary in lieu of immediate resignation. They say that once a teacher, always a teacher. I continued teaching as an internationally certified corporate trainer and coach where race, religion could not find a foothold in multi-national corporations but lost a lucrative contract with a statutory body when it was revealed that I was an anti-establishment blogger. So what’s new with this latest episode of the dressing room canteen? The politicizing of race and religion will continue unabated so we former teachers just pray that one day this beautiful country and its people can live together (again!) in harmony and undivided by people who use race and religion to control and separate us.
Updates: I received this comment in my email box:
Thank you Mr Khoo!
To answer ur question,race and religion didn't matter when I was in school in the 80s.we ran and played together and went to each other's houses for the festivals and ate!I had the best teachers,all races,at my convent school in ipoh.but being a reporter for the last 13 yrs,I knew things were changing. So I went against all family members and sent my girls to a chinese school.it was tough for them initially studies wise,but at least there is no discrimination.now,both my brown skinned girls operate like chinese girls, they almost think they r one of them!I have no problems with that.most importantly,they are happy in school and all family members have come around and very proud that they speak mandarin so fluently.I also don't have any problems with teachers,no slackers,discipline is top notch and the best part is how organised the school is. best decision I've made so far.
They say that blessings come in showers…..how true.
Former Member of Parliament for Termeloh, and formerly Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin said on 24 July at a forum:
“the current political culture from politics of race and religion must also change.”
As my Friday guest blogger read my dear friend Art Harun’s take on those different times in Patrick Teoh’s blog.