Such an approach in the country’s education blueprint is essential to achieve development that is peaceful and sustainable, asserts Ronald Benjamin.
According to Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, a blueprint for education reforms would be ready by August after taking into consideration all findings and feedback from the Malaysian public.
This is a positive development because the character of our educational orientation over the years has been geared towards academic achievement (obtaining a string of As) and to a lesser extent on co-curricular activities. Then there is the complex nature of the school system that caters to the various ethnic, religious and social classes.
But the absence of a unifying psycho-spiritual philosophy in the current system to achieve excellence in education in schools and universities is most unfortunate. This is where reform is needed. The question is, why is the psycho-spiritual approach vital in shaping young minds?
First, taking a psychological approach to our educational endeavours would help students to know themselves and what their strengths and weakness are. This would help them choose subjects and professions that they are passionate about. The end result would be a purpose-driven education system that caters to the diversified interests and talents of our young people.
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The current education system merely caters to those who are academically bright based on a 90:10 ratio, where 90 per cent of university entry requirements are based on academic results and only 10 per cent on co-curricular activities. The importance of co-curricular activities is emphasised but little importance is given to the psychological reflection process after an activity.
Second, taking a spiritual approach to education would help in unifying the education system, which is now polarised along ethnic, religious and social class lines. Spirituality that centres on a love of God and of human beings will help students to break away from ethno-religious or rigid dogmatic ideologies that tend to define the world from an exclusive perspective.
Our Rukunegara mentions God in an inclusive way. A spiritual approach to education would also help our young students to learn the importance of love and reconciliation among Malaysians and care for the environment through spiritual connections. Such an approach is essential for Malaysia to achieve development that is peaceful and sustainable.
Therefore it is vital that the forthcoming education blueprint takes adopts an inclusive psycho-spiritual approach in shaping young minds. This approach would help our young students to see success not in terms of material gains but rather in the ability to cope with life challenges. They would also learn to live in solidarity with fellow Malaysians without being too concerned about ethno-religious identity.
Ronald Benjamin, an Aliran member, is a human resources practitioner based in Ipoh.