Knowing the priority of our national education policy an important step to making Malaysia great again

A ONE-LINER statement in the Aug 19 Malay Mail news report caught the attention of Malaysians with some asking why Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PMX) should be “pandering to the people who still won’t support him”.

But this “blunder” could have come from the oversight of the Education Ministry’s officials or its minister during the launch of its “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith”, especially when they mentioned that the module will also be distributed to national schools.

This was until Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying clarified on Thursday (Aug 24) that the module would only be taught to Muslim students in the national schools.

While damage control is now being done to allay fears of non-Muslim parents, it is easy for naysayers and the Opposition to connect a few recent incidents to raise further eyebrows towards the Madani government.

Even with the benefits of doubt given to the government of the day, some pertinent questions will still linger on in the minds of non-Muslim parents in this country unless there is a clear policy about the national curriculum.

To the non-Muslim parents, these will always be their genuine concerns: Are there attempts to proselytise their children? If yes, are these efforts even sanctioned by the government of the day?

Responding to the news, a Sarawakian man wrote: “They will slowly require non-Muslims to take it (module) up as well, albeit in a disguised manner like what they did by inserting Islamic topic in Form 4 history book.”

This is the kind of fears that the Madani government would do well to assure parents that teachers are prohibited from converting their children.

As pointed out by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) in its statement on August 23, Article 12(2) of the Federal Constitution provides that “Every religious group has the right to establish and maintain institutions for the education of children in its own religion.”

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek (right) displaying the “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith” module

The council’s statement shows its concerns are pre-emptive of attempts to proselytise non-Muslim children, nothing more, and nothing less. The Council does not dispute that in line with Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, “the 40 Hadith can be taught in Islamic religious schools”.

As the reason for the concerns expressed by non-Muslims is understandable, it is important for the government of the day to understand is that such matters should be handled with great care.

Just as the family is the bedrock of society, the national schools are the bedrock of children’s education. Parents entrust their children to the teachers, in order for them to be better educated so that they can progress in their career.

In pursuing a Madani Malaysian society, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek should issue a directive to all school principals to allow children of different religious faiths to attend religious activities under the guidance of teachers of their own faiths to become better Malaysians by inculcating in them both moral and spiritual values.

This is, if the special classes on the 40 Hadiths are taught during school hours. Alternatively, it is to conduct religious classes after school hours since the school curriculum is already very packed especially when every new minister would add something to the curriculum.

The implementation cannot be done unilaterally. In this regard, the religious consultative council has asked for more consultation and engagement with all stakeholders in order to build a country based on mutual respect for each other.

For example, the schools should focus mainly on the curriculum that best prepares the children to face the challenges in their careers. – Aug 26, 2023

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