Patriot proposes that the Ministry of Education, working with other relevant ministries, focus on the participation of youth in extracurricular activities.
The government has intention to revive the national service training programme. While its objectives on paper might be good, serious consideration must be given to affordability, timing and the possibility of better and cheaper alternatives.
The national service training programme started in 2004, when Najib Razak was the defence minister and was dissolved in 2018 by the Pakatan Harapan government.
It was reported that a sum of RM8.4bn of taxpayers’ money was spent throughout the 14-year period, out of which 43% went towards the rental of training camps. A total of 885,956 youths participated in the training.
There was much criticism of the training programme, including that the main objective to instil patriotism and to foster understanding, harmony, unity and a caring Malaysian society had failed.
Although studies might show the programme was successful in achieving a score of about 80% in instilling patriotism, societal behaviour among our populace for both youths and adults does not show this.
There was also the accusation that the programme was to enrich cronies, with nearly half the total cost going towards the rental of training camps. The programme cannot and should not proceed until these criticisms are addressed.
The objectives and design of the training programme are well crafted and relevant to our multiracial and multi-religious society. However, we believe that training should begin at primary school level and move up to tertiary level.
The Japanese and Korean educational models in nurturing patriotism and other good values begin at an early age and are examples we can emulate. Western models may not suit us because their societies are too liberal and they may run counter to our conservative Asian values.
Whilst Patriot agrees that the national service training programme is a good programme, its revival at this time when the country is facing economic and financial woes, made worse by the ravaging coronavirus pandemic, is not necessary.
As an alternative, the Ministry of Education can focus on developing extracurricular activities that may produce similar results as the national service training programme, and at much reduced cost.
Activities such as scouting (brownies, boy scouts and girl guides), outdoor motivational camps, military and police school cadets, and school choirs are good examples. The Red Crescent and St John’s Ambulance are good examples too.
The ministry should have experts in motivational training capable of developing training modules that meet similar objectives as the national service training programme.
Patriot acknowledges that the aim of the programme is good for our youth, but it must begin at an early age. We propose that the Ministry of Education, working with other relevant ministries, focus on the participation of youth in extracurricular activities as a foundation to achieve national unity.
Retired Brigadier General Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)