The education minister should be congratulated on her initiative for making the Rukun Negara a living ideology among the young children in school.
While the Rukun Negara (National Principles) is accepted as Malaysia’s national philosophy by its people since its creation in 1970, it has not been given a central role in our country. Unlike the Pancasila in Indonesia, which has earned its place as a central unifying pillar of Indonesian society and seems to have been accepted as a central concern of Indonesian education, Malaysia’s Rukun Negara has not.
This plan by the Ministry of Education to encourage the formation of more Rukun Negara clubs in schools should be applauded. The students should be taught why the Rukun Negara was formulated by the National Consultative Council following the tragic event of the racial clashes of 13 May 1969.
Malaysia has survived from the tragedy with all community leaders showing a spirit of togetherness in dealing with the fundamental issues of poverty and unemployment. These problems were seen as the main cause of the economic imbalances along racial lines. Since then, with the implementation of the New Economic Policy, Malaysia has successfully redressed the economic imbalances among the races.
Although the economic imbalances have decreased considerably, some groups are exploiting other issues to create tension among the races. Thus, it is timely that the education minister is giving attention to the application of the Rukun Negara in school culture so that the young generation can grow up to become responsible and broad-minded citizens, not easily influenced by those who exploit race and religion for their political objectives.
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Compared to other countries, Malaysia is a young nation and more importantly, it is much more multi-racial than most, each race having its own cultural and religious heritage. As a nation, whatever their differences, Malaysians must learn to live as one big family, with the awareness that no one race can isolate itself from the others.
The Rukun Negara clubs should be set up in all schools including vernacular schools, and the religious schools that fall under the Majlis Agama Islam Negeri (state Islamic religious councils). Efforts should be made so that the state-controlled religious schools would fall under the purview of the Ministry of Education and be subjected to the Education Act 1996, which requires them to follow the national education curriculum.
In addition, G25 would like to see wider and deeper moves towards penghayatan (appreciation) of the spirit and principles of the Rukun Negara throughout the entire education system at all levels, from early childhood to higher education, covering both the public and private sectors of education in the country.
The spirit of the Rukun Negara is already in the national philosophy of education (falsafah pendidikan kebangsaan) but if it needs to be more clearly stated, the philosophy could be slightly amended to instil the spirit of Rukun Negara.
Serious review of the implementation of this new initiative should cover plans to instil deeper penghayatan of the Rukun Negara. This exercise should involve other sectors of the government and society at large, including educational experts, public and private sectors, and civil society organisations involved in efforts at spreading and deepening the spirit of unity among all Malaysians.
In fact, our nation needs this strong injection of unity built on the principles of the Rukun Negara, seeing how divided and broken up the nation is at this moment in time.
In the education sector, there is a very strong need to systemise the kind of message and action plans that should be properly thought through with the help and guidance of unity experts and experienced educationists from the Ministry of Education and universities – past and present – to work out a comprehensive plan of action and educational pedagogic plan. This plan can be shared and discussed through nation-wide pedagogic workshops to ensure the smooth implementation of the Rukun Negara principles and spirit without too much diversity.
This ‘coaching’ exercise involving teachers and lecturers at grassroots level, should go hand-in-hand with close monitoring and evaluation to obtain feedback for corrective action by the planning and executing teams.
It is important to note that among the principles of the Rukun Negara are the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. Therefore, we also would like to propose that, together with the Rukun Negara, the Federal Constitution should also be taught in schools.
These two subjects, Rukun Negara and the Constitution, complement one another. We can begin teaching pupils the principles of the Constitution as early as when they are in primary schools (but perhaps in the later years of primary schooling), especially on the aspects of fundamental liberties and human rights.
This is so that the pupils would be exposed at an early age to, and would be appreciative of, human values such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, personal liberty, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom to profess one’s religion.
The part of the Federal Constitution dealing with the system of government can be taught in secondary school. An understanding of the Constitution would make them understand their constitutional rights and obligations and would make them better citizens.
If the above can be properly planned and executed we could witness a deeper penghayatan of the spirit of the Rukun Negara and the Constitution throughout the education system and the entire nation. With one presumption: that sufficient funds can be made available for the entire operation.
The more pressing issue that needs to be addressed in our school is the lack of quality education, which needs serious attention. We reiterate again that empowering and building teachers and their teaching competencies must be given the importance it deserves. Teachers must be supported the right way so that they can build a positive learning environment for their students.
The school curriculum and time allocated for core subjects must be reviewed. For example, the primary school curriculum has many hours of religious education, leaving less time for STEM subjects (science, technology and maths). In primary school, the average time spent for religious studies is seven-and-a-half hours a week compared to the sciences at five hours a week and maths at six hours a week.
Making a few of the religious subjects a part of an afterschool curriculum will allow more time spent on STEM subjects during the day, while allowing Muslim students the option of attending the remaining religious subjects after school. It is utmost important that religious schools conform to the national education system to ensure that students who attend only state religious schools are also exposed to a well-balanced national education curriculum.
Although there was a “Malaysia Education Blueprint Report 2013-2025”, which highlights best practices from other countries, the weaknesses lie in its implementation. To improve, the implementation plans must be given priority by the Ministry of Education.
We call upon the prime minister to bring this report to the attention of the cabinet so that there is a consensus among ministers to bring about the necessary changes. – G25
The preamble of the Rukun Negara, and the principles of the Rukun Negara are as follows:
WHEREAS OUR COUNTRY, MALAYSIA nurtures the ambitions of:
Achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society;
Preserving a democratic way of life;
Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
Guaranteeing a liberal approach towards our traditional heritage that is rich and diverse;
Building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.
WE, residents of Malaysia, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends guided by these principles:
Belief in God
Loyalty to King and Country
Supremacy of the Constitution
Rule of Law
Courtesy and Morality