Gerak, as an association of academics, watched with great concern the events that surrounded the Federal Court’s hearing of an appeal (from Najib Razak) that had national significance.
We were discouraged not only by the conduct of some of the lawyers who were in attendance but also the authorities that allowed for a demonstration while the court was in session.
Let us be clear that without a free and independent judiciary, any claims to building a free and fair democratic society will be lost.
Over and above these specific concerns, we were troubled by the public display of conduct that breached all civilised and ethical rules.
As academics, we believe that students must have confidence in their teachers. For that confidence to be established, teachers must have the required mastery over their subjects and the pedagogical skills to enliven the teaching process.
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But more than these professional skills, any teachers’ command over their students is dependent on the teacher’s ethical disposition. This is a point that actually requires no affirmation, but one that increasingly is being trivialised by us educators and also politicians and administrators.
This despite the fact that genuine educators the world over, from all religions, have argued that education as a whole will fail without this important element of ethics.
We reproduce (below) the national education philosophy for the benefit of those among us who reduce education to just the transference of – often technical – skills. This is also for those who showed up in force to demonstrate and pressure the Federal Court judges at the Palace of Justice and those assembled in the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) urging the removal of the Chief Justice and the attorney general.
Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. Such an effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards, and who are responsible and capable of achieving high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the harmony and betterment of the family, the society and the nation at large.
The ethical element in education forms the core of our national education philosophy, which by law is to be “executed through a national system of education” (Education Act 1996).
The values expressed in the philosophy are often ignored by political stirrers of disharmony who cherry-pick the philosophy to suit their narrow ends.
For Gerak, the mid-August events in Putrajaya and what transpired at the PWTC a few days ago, are assaults on the national education philosophy and on education generally.
Lest we forget, teaching and learning do not take place in a vacuum within classrooms and lecture halls. Teaching and learning have no boundaries. Society, its vital institutions and the behaviour of those who animate them are all drawn into education.
Education becomes unstable, and our academics lose authority over its processes when the virtues they announce in the classrooms are thrashed and trashed in the larger open spaces where education takes place.
This was the dilemma faced by our members and, we are sure, other academics, when there were attempts to intimidate the Federal Court, and more recent developments indicating an unreasoning, desperate mass wanting to do more damage than that to our institutions of justice and democracy.
Do we teach the virtues so clearly announced in the education philosophy or do we teach how to breach those virtues, as some of our political leaders are doing?
Gerak stands firmly on the side of the former, as we believe must other groups and individuals. The nation, while celebrating Merdeka, also faces its strongest challenge, brought about principally by ruthless, unethical, desperate and reckless individuals wanting to manipulate party and society to save their skins.
We have a duty to fight back. – Gerak