JANUARY 17 — There’s a minor debate on social media about the role and necessity of Pendidikan Moral (or Moral Studies) classes in schools.
Perhaps times have changed but I recall more than 30 years ago, this class was usually held at the tail-end of the day. Almost as if its only purpose was to prevent students from leaving school one period earlier.
Rumour even has it the Pendidikan Moral class is where non-Muslims were sent to when Muslim kids had to attend a religion class. There were no tests or exams. Even if there were, nobody really cared.
Anyway, of late Pendidikan Moral has been on the ether. Some folks on Twitter are saying that the lack of moral education is the reason why we’re seeing so much corruption in society; these same folks also say that both Muslim and non-Muslim kids should attend this class together.
Some are saying the syllabus and pedagogy should be revamped; some have even proposed that the class be infused with problem-based learning or real-world case studies ie “What would you do if you saw someone steal a pencil?” etc.
Then of course some (in fact, many) are saying it should be scrapped as Pendidikan Moral is arguably one of the most pointless subjects in the entire Malaysian school system.
With not a bit of sadness — as I certainly believe morals are important in a society — I’m going to throw my lot in with the last position.
I think Pendidikan Moral needs to be scrapped because the teaching of morals is hard enough in an informal setting let alone within the education system.
Some subjects cannot be encapsulated within a textbook and spread out over, oh, 30-40 weeks of some academic calendar to be “administered” to tired kids once a week for 40 minutes at a go.
It’s already hard enough with Maths, Science and languages — subjects from the cognitive domain — it’s practically impossible with morals.
Getting an “A” in morals means absolute zero, perhaps even less than zero, when it comes to producing a morally transformed character. The irony about this subject is that nobody in school even CARES which, logically, should be a prerequisite for any kind of learning related to morals, right?
As most adults will attest, morality is caught not taught.
Of course, we can be “told” about what’s right and wrong but unless it enters into us osmotically over the course of our lives (like language or culture) or, conversely, “jumps” at us (like in a sudden car accident which changes the way we drive), moral lessons don’t stick very well.
Sad to say, osmosis and a crisis are two methods our education system do NOT "do."
Two other alternatives for revitalising Pendidikan Moral are a) all the teachers deliver such stimulating classes that students can’t wait to attend and learn from the class or b) all teachers in all other subjects “infuse” morality into their respective classes. Sad to say, I think we can more or less count these options out when it comes to the national education system.
Back to reality...
No college or university entrance requirement will give more than a passing nod at the grade for Pendidikan Moral; no tuition centre will charge a hand and a foot for ensuring kids score well in the subject; no student will fight for bragging rights by excelling in morals.
That’s just the way it is. The problem isn’t morality per se, it’s the implicit educational philosophy in Malaysian schools.
And as if that wasn’t damning enough, the way that Pendidikan Moral is taught hardly makes students long to attend the class. While this problem is somewhat secondary (as it dogs almost all the other subjects), with morals there is no inherent motivation to excel in this subject hence boring-ass rote memorisation will be the final nail in the already buried coffin of any interest the student may have in the subject.
And these, ultimately, are why the subject should be removed from the national syllabus completely: The system doesn’t care, the people don’t care, the teaching is terrible and, thus, the students hover between indifference and outright annoyance at the time wasted.
So why continue to run the class?
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.