Let education blueprint be our compass to a strong and united future

The Star Says

When the previous National Education Blueprint (2006 to 2010) was launched in December 2006, it promised drastic changes to the school environment to make students more confident, creative and innovative.

Existing weaknesses were to be tackled, including the lack of basic amenities in rural schools, the need to refurbish old school buildings, and the failure among a small percentage of the student population to grasp the 3Rs.

Among the goals set in that blueprint were for the establishment of a National Preschool Curriculum, the setting up of 100 new classes for students with special needs, increasing the percentage of single-session schools to 90% in secondary schools by 2010, and addressing the problem of racial polarisation in schools.

To what extent these weaknesses were rectified, and which goals were successfully implemented, we will soon know when the Prime Minister launches the new National Education Blueprint on Sept 11.

But while an excellent report card is an indication of how promises are delivered, the people will be more interested in what lies ahead.

Education affects all of us and we want to see policies put into place that will be good not only for the present generation, but for the many generations to come.

For too long, we have seen ad hoc changes in the education system that are not carefully thought out, and it is our children who have to suffer the most.

We need a visionary approach that does not pander to the parochial and short-sighted demands of different groups, made worse when politicians jump in to further their selfish interests.

The release of the blueprint in this election season is bound to raise the political temperature a bit but if we all care for the future of our beloved nation, we must be level-headed in the debate that is bound to follow so that we are guided by noble principles to help shape the education landscape.

The blueprint, it must be stressed, was not drawn up in a closed environment. Instead, the panel headed by former education director-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Zahid Mohd Noordin engaged the stakeholders in nationwide dialogues, and received thousands of suggestions in the process.

Its work was supported by another panel headed by Albuk­hary Inter-national University vice-chancellor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak that included prominent educationists and corporate figures.

And the Government is inviting further feedback after the Sept 11 launch by putting the blueprint on public display.

The transparent manner in which this blueprint has been drawn up, and the willingness of the policy-makers to listen further, should be applauded.

We have seen how certain issues have become so divisive that it is virtually impossible to engage different parties in the spirit of bipartisanship for the common good.

But let this not be so when we talk about education, for it is critical that we are able to look at this issue beyond the sentiments of the moment.

Let this National Education Blueprint truly be the compass that will guide us to a strong and united future as a nation, for the sake of this generation of students, and the generations to come.

Extracted from The Star Online (Wednesday August 22, 2012)