“intellectual infrastructure” was lacking in Malaysian universities-Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (the Star Online)

Published: Thursday November 13, 2008 MYT 6:28:00 PM
Updated: Thursday November 13, 2008 MYT 7:58:00 PM

Najib: M’sian education system must change

By SHAHANAAZ HABIB

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian students are too passive and the education system must change to challenge and encourage them to be more curious, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that Malaysian minds were just not inquisitive and challenged enough.

“Our education system must change. Our children are just not curious enough. They must be curious about the world. They must ask questions,” he said.

“Malaysians are very good at rote learning. They spend hours learning,” he said, adding that society too was often passive sometimes out of a sense of respect for the other especially if he or she was more senior.

Najib pointed out that every society that is open to learning and knowledge flourished while those that closed up went into decay.

He, therefore, called for an intellectual renaissance in the country and wanted this to start at universities where the minds of students could be opened up and liberated.

He said Malaysian universities had beautiful physical infrastructure and excellent communications centres that were huge and rather expensive to maintain.

However, he noted that the “intellectual infrastructure” was lacking.

He said that more openness and a greater infusion of knowledge would create a stronger society.

“The whole paradigm shift must start in schools,” he said, adding that schools should make students curious and inquisitive.

Touching on an example, he said, he was struck by a question at his daughter’s university that asked if the Cold War had ended, a question which even he would have difficulty answering.

“You can’t find the answer in text books. There is no right or wrong. It depends on your power of reasoning and how you articulate your ideas. This is the (thinking) younger generation that we must propagate,” he said in his opening speech at the Seminar on Creating a Blue Ocean in Education and Training Sectors.

He said Malaysians should look at where they were today, where they would like to be in the future and find a way to get there.

“That to me is our challenge. I’m optimistic we will get there,” he added.

At another function on early education and ‘Each Child is a Gem of the Nation’ (Permata), Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the government had recently approved the Permata curriculum and programme for children ages four and below and there would be a national roll out of the programme next year.

He said RM200mil had been set aside under the 2009 Budget for child early education (from age one to six), adding that the Permata curriculum would be made mandatory for private centres.

Najib said there were 8,814 kindergartens in the country, most of which were privately run.

He also noted that as of 2007, only 10% or 3.1mil children in that age group attended day care centres, which was far below the 80% in developed countries.

He said the government recognised that the first four years of a child’s life were formative years and that 90% of rapid brain development happened during these early years and hence there was a need for a holistic type of early education.

Najib’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is the chairman of the Permata committee.

In her speech, Rosmah said, over the last 18 months, they had set up 14 Permata centres all over the country for a total of 380 children with 80 teachers, all with a minimum of a diploma education.

She said Permata was planning to set up another centre in an Indian majority area with the help of Wanita MIC.

She was also in favour of Najib’s suggestion that parents sending their kids to the Permata centre should sign a Aku Janji (I Promise) letter that they would at least spend four hours a month participating in the child’s early education.

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