Paradigm shift needed to transform our country

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A paradigm shift may only occur when a coalition wins by a two-third majority and the economy is in total shambles.

Paradigm shift occurs when the usual way of thinking, talking, or doing things are replaced by new and different ways. These normally happen when fundamentals are progressively changed.

Developing a country takes time, starting with holistic education that seeks to address the emotional, social, and ethical needs of students, apart from academic studies and skills training.

Students must reflect on their actions and how they impact the local and global community and engage in projects that apply critical-thinking skills toward solving real-world problems.

But if education is centred on rote learning just to pass school examinations and plagiarism to gain academic qualifications, young adults will be unproductive, and citizens remain poor.

This is evident in our country as a huge number of poor-quality graduates were churned out every year. Being largely clueless, most are underemployed or remain unemployed for months.

Not in Singapore, though. It separated from Malaysia in 1965 and developed on its own to become one of the richest nations, thanks mainly to good governance and sound education.

Although the standard and cost of living in Singapore are high, the average Singaporean salary is several times higher than in Malaysia, allowing for more disposable income and savings.

Hence, there are about a million Malaysians or former Malaysians residing in Singapore, and another 350,000 Malaysian workers and students commuted daily from Johor pre-pandemic.

Malaysia had also lost much of its best human capital to many countries around the world, initially with the United Kingdom, then the United States, Australia, and in later years, China.

While other non-English speaking countries have adopted or promoted English as the second language to be better connected and exposed to the world, we are doing the exact opposite.

In fact, many of our politicians have succeeded in nurturing island mentalities in cultivating their support base by sowing fear and hatred towards other races, religions, and languages.

Those who truly love their own race, religion and language would focus on lifting their own community, which would be admired universally. But such efforts require too much hard work.

For example, the French are well known to be proud of their language and culture. Thus, they established more than 800 Alliances Françaises for 500,000 students around the world.

Granted, we do not have the resource to establish language centres overseas. But those who are passionate of our national language could at least open one in the country for foreign workers.

If many had done so, tens of millions of foreign workers that have passed through our shores over the past decades would have had the chance to formally learn the Malay language.

Many of them would be promoting or even teaching Malay back in their home country, and along with it the Malay culture, which has been enriched over the centuries through exposure.

Missionaries of the past had been greatly successful as they spread their religions with no prejudice against people of different faith, tradition, language, or culture.

But many politicians of today openly discriminate citizens of other races, which is against all religions. And ironically, even by political parties expounding religion to their blind followers.

Many early Americans may have read the bible daily and considered themselves devout Christians, yet they were blind to the fact they kept slaves and supported slavery.

And sadly, our country will not be transformed if people remain insular, which is best described using a Malay proverb “katak di bawah tempurung”, meaning frog under a (coconut) shell.

One of the best ways for Malaysians to be exposed to the world is for many of our citizens to be multilingual by not only learning our national language but also other important languages.

Mandarin and Tamil could easily be learned in vernacular primary schools and these students could later contribute greatly to economic and cultural ties with China and South India.

Likewise for Arabic, Japanese, Korean, German, French, and Spanish. In any case, learning at least three languages would expose Malaysians to a great variety of cultures and ideas.

Apart from the valuable exposure gained by communicating with people of different races, religions, and cultures, it is also necessary for those at the top to come down from the ivory tower.

It is usual for ministers to be accorded all the pomp and pageantry when visiting a government department or agency, but such exercises are unproductive and a big waste of time and money.

Recently, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong made a surprise visit to the Road Transport Department in Johor Bahru and was shocked with the long queue for counter service.

He rightfully described the counter service system as “ancient”. He then used Facebook to voice his unhappiness on a host of problems and the immediate actions that he had taken.

If he were to call for a town hall meeting anywhere in the country just on road transport matters, even the biggest venue would not be big enough to house all those interested to participate.

Instead of calling for better service to the public, I would propose a fairer system to calculate the rates for road tax, which had been based on engine capacity and type of fuel.

Charges for road tax should be based on the effect of vehicles on the road. If so, both vehicle weight and total horsepower ought to be used for calculating the road tax.

As heavy vehicles wear off the road more than light vehicles, a flat rate based on vehicle weight can be used for both private vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles such as taxis and buses.

As for goods carrying vehicles, the road tax should be based on maximum permissible weight with a full load. Should they overload, the fine each time should be 10 times more than road tax.

Apart from vehicle weight, the engine horsepower plus the power output from the batteries for hybrid or fully electric vehicles be used to calculate additional road tax at a reasonable rate.

Adding rates for vehicle weight and horsepower would not drastically increase the road tax for most vehicles but would be fairer, as heavier and more powerful vehicles should be taxed more.

This is thinking outside the box and not rocket science. But if we wish to modernise, we should not continue to be bogged down by antiquated methods, laws, and mindsets.

We should continuously take small, medium, and large incremental steps to move forward. If not, we will be stagnant and left behind while other countries such as Indonesia race ahead.

But our politicians are bankrupt of progressive ideas and prefer to harp on racial, religious, and language issues, and raise petty matters in parliament hoping to gain popularity and support.

These are likely to grow worse as the next General Elections draw near. A paradigm shift may only occur when a coalition wins by a two-thirds majority and the economy is in total shambles.

If not, our country will continue falling into a bottomless pit. But if everyone is forced to work together to rescue our country from total disaster, we could still rise from the ashes.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan from Kuala Lumpur.