Tok Mat: Khat issue shows how far Malaysia’s education still has to go

The Umno leader said education should be about teaching students to discover the value and importance of what they learn. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The Umno leader said education should be about teaching students to discover the value and importance of what they learn. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — The controversy over the introduction of khat in schools exposes the glaring lack of direction in the country’s education policies, Umno deputy president Datuk Mohamad Hasan said.

Stressing that the issue at hand was not about alleged Islamisation or the lack of consultation among political parties, he said what was exposed was the missing blueprint to foster curiosity and balance among Malaysian students.

“Islamisation doesn’t need khat to happen,” he wrote on Facebook yesterday.

“It’s also not about the lack of consultation between the Education Ministry and political parties. Since when was the national education curriculum formulated through consultation and political blessings?”

The Umno lawmaker instead argued that the controversy revealed the need to inspire “sheer curiosity” among students about their surroundings, adding that education should not be purely limited to science and technology as some detractors of khat proposed.

Mohamad, or commonly called Tok Mat, said education should be about teaching students to discover the value and importance of what they learn and argued that such characteristics were directly applicable to technical subjects.

He also proposed that Malaysia consider a form of “liberal education” that amalgamated the humanities and arts with science and technical subjects, saying it was crucial to teach youths how to cope with the digital age.

“This makes sense as we now live in an era of information overload. Children today are tech savvy. But they must also understand that science and technology must be beneficial to society,” he argued.

Tok Mat further asserted that Malaysia’s attractiveness to foreign investors was not solely due to its technical and scientific talent, but rather the country’s multiculturalism, harmony, and political stability that were now being tested.

The khat controversy also belied the narrative that Malaysia was on its way to becoming a developed nation and its citizens, a developed people, he added.

He then called the khat issue a tragedy for the country and Malaysians.

“As such, the challenge today is to develop the best education for Malaysia’s future. Until now, the education minister, Dong Jiao Zong, and other vested parties still do not understand this.”

After weeks of controversy, the Education Ministry announced last week that the introduction of khat in schools next year would be replaced with basic jawi lessons instead and only with the agreement of parent-teacher associations in vernacular schools.

Minorities previously opposed the move, with groups such as Dong Zong claiming that khat was a covert form of Islamisation.

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