THE early retirement of Cikgu Fadli, a primary school teacher who had repeatedly raised concerns about the Mathematic syllabus in the national school system, is not surprising.
His cryptic excuse for opting for early retirement is obvious when Free Malaysia Today stated that “he cared for the education ministry ‘too much’, after he was threatened with dismissal.”
Most people who have had any dealing with the ministry officials will know how toxic the environment is. Good people like Fadli will be unable to survive in such an environment, where Little Napoleons control. This is nothing new!
Such culture exists even in other government ministries and agencies, and often we hear of junior government servants being bullied by their superiors. Doctors and nurses, for example, have openly voiced out against the culture of bully within the hospitals, but most teachers’ complaints are not heard as much.
For example, one senior assistant was picked to attend some training, which is designed to prepare her on the path to become a school principal. However, she was sidelined and never received any offer. She has since retired from the teaching profession after serving for all her life.
During a small reunion with our primary school teachers, it surprised us that a certain teacher was promoted to be a headmaster because he was also the division head of a certain political party. The other teachers whom we have always looked up to never had the opportunity for promotion.
There are, in fact, many other such stories if one were to listen to the grapevine. Many retired teachers would be happy to share their stories, if there are people willing to listen, but do the government leaders at the Education Ministry care to listen?
Although thankfully there are still some good superiors in the government agencies, government leaders, especially the ministers, deputy ministers, secretaries-general and directors-general should put their ears to the ground.
If the leaders themselves are keen to solve the bullying culture, they will get to hear a lot of stories from the whistleblowers. The problem is that these whistleblowers are unwilling to go against their superiors for fear of being bullied further.
Fadli’s comments should, in fact, be taken positively by the hierarchy within the ministry. As someone who is in direct contact with the students themselves, Fadli understands how the syllabus may need to be revamped in order to properly educate the students.
One of the reasons why both private and international schools, as well as vernacular schools are thriving is because parents no longer have confidence in the school system.
For parents, it is a big sacrifice to send their children to private schools but unlike those living in Johor Bahru who can still send their children to schools in Singapore, for those who are living further away from the Straits of Johor, there are not many options available.
There is no point for Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek to claim that “Malaysia’s education syllabus is on par with neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Japan.”
Revamp the syllabus
Fadhlina, like most other ministers, are in a state of denial instead of getting to the bottom of things, and trying to solve the issues faced by the teaching profession.
Former education minister Maszlee Malek could have done a good job but sadly, he was more focused on things sundry instead of revamping the education system.
A lot of things have to be done to make the syllabus more palatable and meaningful for the students. For example, SPM Bahasa Malaysia has a syllabus that is aimed at creating Malay literalists.
The emphasis on grammar is too great that children find themselves memorising the various aspects of the grammar just to pass the examination. To be honest, how many people including the native speakers really care about the grammar when they speak or write?
Every time a new minister takes over the ministry, there will be one or two more pages added into the school textbooks. As it is, the children’s school bags are already too heavy for any of them to bear, but do ministry officials even think about the problem?
What the nation will eventually end up with are people who cannot even write a good essay in Malay. The graduates that our universities produce, are to some extent, unemployable.
Something needs to be done if Fadhlina is willing to listen hard enough to understand the issues that she is expected to address; otherwise, if she continues with the business-as-usual approach to revamp the education system, our young people will not be able to realise their potentials. – Feb 12, 2024.