Nurture enthusiasm for sports and plant the seeds of love, care, endurance and character-building in our schools, urges Hamzah Osman in an open letter to the education minister.
Dear Dr Maszlee Malik
I wish to congratulate you on your appointment as education minister and for accepting the herculean task of rebuilding the pillar of our society – education.
I am confident you are the right man to do the job looking at your impressive, well-balanced educational background.
But you will face some obstacles within your circle because most of them are there not because they are qualified on merit but based on government policy and political patronage (though I won’t deny there are some genuinely good ones, which seems to be rare nowadays).
Although I read in the news of more eminent persons appointed to study how we can improve the system academically, I wish to share something regarding values and the total rebuilding of good character in schools.
Do you remember the annual sports days in schools in the 1970s? The invitation to parents would read something like this:
The headmaster and chairman of the PIBG
to our annual sports event.
Attached is the event line-up,
which starts on Sunday at 2.00pm and ends at 6.30pm.
Before the event, students would be coached by their respective sports house teachers. The atmosphere was electrifying and joyful to the students and teachers. The march-past rehearsals, relay practices and best decorated house competition all added to the festive mood created on the day of the event.
All this euphoria only remains in our memory. Much was lost in transition. This kind of sports event used to be a supply chain to the district, state and national levels in athletics and football.
Some of the other activities, missing from our schools nowadays, were the cross-country runs (up to national level) and road relays. Whatever happened to activities like the job week by the scouts and girl guides, ‘talentime’ contests, concerts and debates? All these activities inculcated values and built character and endurance.
What do we have now? Little to show. The world ranking of our national football team is a disgrace; our athletics is in a shambles; and our fans are more interested in foreign clubs.
The supply chain from schools has been been cut off and the state of sports in our country is a shadow of the past. Taxpayers’ money has been wasted.
Nowadays, schools have internal sports events, which are cut off from parents and the public because teachers don’t have anything to show off. In the 1970s, we used to have gymnastic performances from students, inter-school relays and even tug of war between teachers and parents as the last event during sports day.
In schools today, much is cosmetic like putting curtains in classrooms, beautifying schools, planting flowers and taking off your shoes when entering the principal’s office. These, I find nonsensical because I don’t see what the students learn. They do this stuff daily in their houses.
Please bring back the glory days of our schools. For a start, nurture enthusiasm for sports in schools. Plant the seeds of love, care, endurance and total character-building in schools.
Make it an offence to discriminate against students whether in sports or in the academic world. It is the teachers, rather than enemies from the outside, who can build or destroy a nation.
Any change to the present education system is not going to be easy as it will take at least a decade to bear fruit.
Some ‘holier than thou’ uncaring teachers might be stumbling blocks. I am pessimistic as it could be a case of putting new wine into old bottles. Remember the attempt to teach science and maths in English? It failed not because pupils were not ready. The hue and cry came from some teachers and so-called custodians of the Malay language.
Wishing you all the best Dr Maszlee.
Hamzah Osman, based in Rawang, taught in a secondary school for 17 years before resigning from the teaching profession in 1997. He then worked in an English daily, where he became foreign news editor and later joined another English daily before retiring.