How important is education? That would be a question that has the most obvious answer ever; that is if I think that all of you have the same answer as I do and that education is very important. But the real question is – what kind of education?
Growing up, my parents always stressed to my brothers and me how we always need to learn and yes, get a proper education. Although academics was a big part of it, they also always stressed on many other things in life.
For example, my mother always taught me to stand up for what is right and never back down if you truly believe in something. Once, when I was in primary school, I had gotten an answer wrong in an English test when the question obviously could be answered several ways.
She made an appointment with the teacher to discuss it. Initially, the teacher was steadfast in the following the official answer key. But after the discussion, the teacher amended it. Puan Ayadurai and my family eventually became really good friends throughout my years in her classes.
Some might see this as a kiasu mother wanting her son to always score well and be perfect in school. But on the contrary, all my mother wanted was to show me that we must have faith in ourselves and to, like I mentioned, stand up for what is right.
After that one incident, she never had to make any more appointments with any of my teachers or even get directly involved. It was all up to me after that because she had shown how it was done and I could handle things on my own after that.
Another example would be how my father would always stress that although we must always try to do our best in our studies, we should never take it too seriously and worry ourselves about it. It is not the end all and be all.
When the time came for my Form Three PMR exams, my father came up to me the night before the exams and told me to just close my books and forget about studying. He took me out and we went bowling the whole night instead.
I was in a fully residential boarding school in Form Five (Star, Ipoh, if you were wondering), and when the SPM exams were about to start the next day, my parents came over to Ipoh to visit me and we all went out for dinner and yes, bowling again!
I consider myself to be very lucky. My parents gave my brothers and me a wholesome life education. They always knew that school alone, which at that time was so exam-oriented and academic, was not enough to help us develop.
They took us travelling to see different places, people and cultures. The number of books that we had in the house and were allowed to read seemed endless. And we had conversations and arguments about so many different things and issues. Nothing was off limits.
Wholesome and diverse
Today, I have children of my own. I understand what my parents tried to do when I was growing up and I try my best to do that for my two daughters too. My parents are still around and I’m thankful they are close by to help out.
My eldest daughter has entered the government school system and I don’t see much difference in it compared to when I was in school except for the diversity. It seems that there is a lack of diversity now and everything is a bit more polarised.
Recently, I sat down and had a long chat with Education Minister Maszlee Malik for an episode of my YouTube talk show called “Just Chit-Chat Lah”. The is where I sit down and have an in-depth one-on-one conversation with my guests.
I have to say that I am fascinated and in agreement with his approach to reform the education system by putting less emphasis on exams and introducing civics and life education. It sounds like what my parents provided for me and what I want to provide for my children.
What got me was when he explained to me that schools need to be filled with love and be inclusive. Schools need to be safe places where our children enjoy going to and can be happy. They need to be accessible and inclusive with nobody being discriminated against.
These ideas to create a future generation that is wholesome, diverse and has great values is great. Let’s make sure that these can be implemented well. It’s time to walk the talk. The country’s future depends on it.
Get Zan Azlee’s best-selling book ‘Liberal, Malay and Malaysian‘ today!
Buy more Fat Bidin books, films and merchandise at The Fat Bidin Store!