Daim: We Failed Because of Education Ministry’s “Misplaced Priorities”

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The Education Ministry’s misplaced priorities are to be blamed for Malaysia lagging behind in the digitisation of industries, said Daim Zainuddin today.

The adviser to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said it is a fact that Malaysia has failed to grasp the idea and importance of a knowledge-based economy.

Daim said to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), Malaysia must go through a knowledge-based economy.

“To participate in IR 4.0, we must go through a knowledge-based economy and here Malaysia has failed because the government, through the Ministry of Education, has not got its priorities right.

“The ministry must not fail our nation,” he wrote in an article for The Edge financial paper.

He also blamed the ministry for its sluggishness in introducing educational reforms, adding that only a sound education system would ensure the government’s economic policies were effective.

“We are still arguing over whether we should teach mathematics and science in English, when the rest of the world has embarked on advanced curriculums that focus on IR 4.0, making their young people more competitive and relevant, in a world that is going to be dominated by artificial intelligence and robotics,” he wrote.

“When will we realise just how far behind we are and lacking?” he said.

For the record, coding and programming are currently taught in Year 6 for students taking the ICT subject. From 2020 onwards, coding will be taught to Year 4, 5 and 6 students.

Coding is also currently taught in lower secondary schools (Basics in Computer Science or Asas Sains Komputer) and upper secondary schools (Computer Science or Sains Komputer).

Daim said there are many things to consider when preparing youth for the future, such as how technology can be used to improve human life or identifying the “uniquely human skills” that can be developed for the future of the workplace.

“By asking the right questions and taking them into consideration in policy formation, we can create an environment where people are allowed to maximise their potential and pursue creative pursuits that are complemented by technology, not replaced by it.”

He, meanwhile, said while some are blaming foreigners for taking away their jobs, the reality is that technology will impact the most on future employment as robots replace humans in menial tasks.

But where one window closes, another opens, he said, noting that fields such as robotics, supply chain logistics and big data will still need skilled workers as technology advances.

“So the question is, ‘Are we in Malaysia ready for this leap?’ Let’s be brutally honest here – we are not. In fact, we are far from ready.

“We are still playing catch up with IR 4.0 training when others are already gearing for the fifth industrial revolution.”

“Education of the soul” should also not be sidelined, he added, saying a new generation of leaders and great thinkers, “not of sheep and cowards”, must be raised, who can think critically and logically.

“Is it moral to drill into students that other students are not entitled to certain privileges simply because they are not of a certain race, even if they are economically disadvantaged?” he asked.

“Is it right to think that if you are of a certain race that is economically successful, then you can look down on others?”

Daim also noted that while educational reform is part of the Pakatan Harapan’s agenda, “the snail’s pace” at which these reforms are taking place “gives credence to the grumbles and complaints that perhaps the political will to push through real changes is severely lacking”.

Daim also said pro-Bumiputra education policies must be replaced with a needs-based system.

He said many well-off Bumiputra were abusing the government policies to enrich themselves and some resorting to racial scaremongering to maintain their perks.

“We have been robbing the poor to further uplift those who do not deserve the support, and this widening of the education and income gap must come to an end.

“The scaremongering is only to encourage and continue this abuse. It is time to stop the ‘them versus us’ rhetoric,” he said, adding there must be more understanding and empathy across the racial divide.