Bring back the NEP

Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - The New Strait Time
April 5, 2019


Teachers reciting an oath during the National Union of Teaching Profession special gathering before the start of the 2019 school year. To fix the education ecosystem, we need to revive the national education philosophy. NSTP/AZHAR RAMLI

FRIENDS from the private or corporate sectors used to say that to work in their organisations they must be thoroughly acquainted with, not only the workings of the organisation, but also the philosophy. This is logical enough, otherwise it is a sheer waste to the organisation with little to contribute in an impactful way.

Similarly, this should also hold true for all education institutions. Meaning one must be well acquainted with the education philosophy before being allowed to dabble in education matters, more so to gainfully contribute to the institution; apart from grasping the institutional mission and vision by heart. In other words, the same rule should apply both ways. But does it?

As it stands, I am rather sceptical when it comes to educational institutions like the universities where all and sundry can meddle with them, despite the slightest inkling of what education is all about, officially or otherwise.

This is apparent based on the experience gathered over the years when dealing with many of them until today. Some may be great professionals in their areas of interest, but still have inadequate (at times confused) ideas of what the education philosophy is. Worse, some equate it to a bank, a factory or a hypermarket — depending on what they like best. What is baffling is why this was allowed to happen when the rule of thumb says otherwise.

On the local and national front, the situation can be more complex. This is evident given that the “Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan” (National Education Policy — NEP) has been around for more than three decades, yet little has been heard about it. Even among academics today.

The fate is worse than the Rukun Negara which has been in existence for about the same period. In some ways, this explains the tangle we are in, despite aspiring to be developed by 2020. The same could be said about education where there is no appreciation of its philosophical underpinnings as the root of it all. Why are we educating then? For what reason? The situation is far worse when compared with the Rukun Negara because not only is it conceptually more sophisticated, but also in the language use.

For a start, the NEP needs to be read in Bahasa Malaysia to feel its deeper nuances for a better understanding of all its elements to be internalised, let alone implement.

Already this means many would be written off, especially those still grappling to string a simple sentence in the national language at all levels throughout the education system, including their founders and owners. For them the falsafah matters not, as long as they can profit from education monetarily. This is a contradiction to the soul of the falsafah — as good as saying that such institutions operate at the periphery of the falsafah, if at all.

So do we wonder why the education ecosystem is chaotic, to say the least. As some are trying to “fix” this, the “fixers” themselves are equally naive about the falsafah and its demands and relevance. In all probability it will end up with too many cooks spoiling the broth particularly when the recipe lacks the wisdom inherent in the falsafah. Read: “Education without soul.”

Hopefully there is still a way out considering a book on the falsafah was released recently. Titled ‘Pentafsiran Baharu Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan dan Perlaksaannya Pasca 2020’, the book comprehensively covers issues ranging from the very inception of the idea to current issues like that of technology in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Artificial Intelligence.

The book also suggests how falsafah can be adopted into the existing global, international as well as the civilisational scenarios and the new challenges ahead.

In all, the volume gives the impression that the falsafah is no “pushover” if we are serious about instituting M‎alaysia in its own mould as spelt out clearly in the preamble of Wawasan 2020, which will end some eight months from now. The risk of being in denial — as we did over the last decades — is costing us untold deficits like we see today, and into the future if the lethargy continues.

It is worthy to point out that the education minister raised similar questions in his Amanat early this year as to where the falsafah stood in meeting our national agenda and global aspirations. Maybe it is time to give a considered and reasoned response, but only if the nation is very well versed with it. Not otherwise. The choice is clearly ours!

Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector