Archive for October, 2012

A Taste of Malaysiana inCentral Valley California

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

A Taste of Malaysiana in Central Valley, California

 

M. Bakri Musa

 

 

Thousands of Malaysians who have visited or studied in California over the years know of or have met “Kim” Ahmad Sabian (Pak Mat) and his wife Rose Mohamad.  Typically they know the couple through Rose’s signature Malay cooking.  They have catered to former Prime Minister Mahathir who on a visit to Silicon Valley during one Ramadan many years ago suddenly felt the craving for Malay food for his suhor (predawn) dinner.  They have also hosted countless touring diplomats and ministers who discovered that being away beyond a few days from their favorite sambal belacan and nasi lemak was too much to endure.

 

On the Saturday before Ramadan this year, Pak Mat and Rose were once again gracious hosts, this time for their California friends, families and neighbors.  There were also guests from far away – Malaysia – Rose’s sisters and brother, and their families.  The occasion was the wedding of their daughter Rosanna to her high school sweetheart, Kosal.  My wife Karen and I have known Rosanna since she was a little girl, so the occasion was special for us.

 

It was a traditional Malay wedding in all aspects, from the food and decorations to the akad nikah (exchange of vows) and bersanding ceremony, embellished with elements of Americana.  You would be hard pressed to savor a similar experience even in Malaysia today.  Rosanna, being American born and raised, is very much the girl next door:  poised, confident, elegant, and working her way through college!  The occasion was a creative and exquisite blending of traditional Malay wedding, to highlight Rosanna’s heritage, with elements of Americana to reflect the couple’s upbringing.  It is this artful fusion of the two that elevated the ceremony to new heights and made it so much more memorable.

 

 

Akad Nikah

 

The day began in the morning with a small akad nikah in the living room of the family’s Stockton home.  The room was made to resemble a serambi (verandah) of a traditional Malay house, with a lush carpet substituting for tikar nipah (palm mat).  In deference to comfort and modernity, there were two chairs for the bride and groom, flanked by another chair on each side for the official witnesses.  On the floor were trays bearing gifts the couple had for each other.

 

All around were family members and friends standing at the back or sitting bersela on the carpet.  The ceremony began with the family’s Imam Yusoof invoking a dua to bless the gathering.  Then he explained in English the meaning of marriage in Islam, a divinely sanctioned contract between a man and a woman.  It is entered upon freely and willingly by both parties.  As such, he emphasized, the relationship of wife and husband is complementary and respectful.

 

The Imam drew liberally from the seerahs (practices of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) to illustrate his point.  He recalled how the Last Prophet of Allah, even though he was an acknowledged leader adored by millions, yet at home he was the humble husband readily sharing in the household chores.  No household task was beneath this great man.  The Imam was clearly addressing not only the young couple but also the many who were already married or contemplating marriage.

 

Then the Imam asked Rosanna whether she freely consented to be the bride of Kosal.  When she replied in her clear voice in the affirmative, the Imam duly noted this and directed the two witnesses, one of whom was me, to also acknowledge this fact.  Likewise, the Imam posed a similar question to Kosal.

 

With that, the Imam solemnized the marriage and recited some duas both in English and Arabic, invoking Allah’s blessings upon the young couple.  I did not know what it was, perhaps it was the dua being recited in English so we could actually understand the prayers and what the Imam was saying, but there was not a single dry eye in the room.  The Imam touched everyone with his dua.

 

That I thought was after all the true meaning and purpose of duas and prayers, to touch us emotionally and not merely the meaningless incantations of foreign phrases that no one could comprehend.

 

Then followed the giving of dowry from the groom and the exchange of rings and gifts; those too, were simple.  After the ceremony, my wife told Rosanna that after factoring for inflation, devaluation and conversion rate, her dowry was approximately the same amount what she (my wife) received from me (RM49) at our wedding over 42 years earlier!  Yes, the greenbacks were creatively folded origami-style into a bird, an American eagle no less!

 

Rosanna and her family are mindful that the dowry is but a token and symbol of the love and commitment the young couple has of each other.  It is not, as it has now degenerated into, a culturally sanctioned extortion by the bride’s family to the groom’s.

 

The bersanding ceremony that evening was truly a Malay event, specifically a Minang tradition, reflecting Rose’s Rembau origin.  Although held in a hall rather than at the family home, the event was far from being one of those sterile modern catered ones.  Rose and her family had done all the decorations and cooking.  The pengantin dais was duly decorated with bunga mawar floral arrangements.  The only thing missing was a live kompang troupe.  The digital taped audios more than made up for that deficit.

The family’s male members were the orang pangkar, the hosts, serving the guests, including the head table which was served by the bride’s younger brother, Hisham, just as in the village of yore.

In a traditional Malay wedding, the bride and groom are indulged as raja sehari, royal couple for the day.  Just as we pay tribute to the king and queen, so too the assembled guests paid tribute to the bride and groom on the dais.  That is the essence of the bersanding ceremony.  It began with the parents of the bride and groom, followed by other family members and then friends and guests.  It was also a chance for them to bless and express their best wishes to the young couple.

 

What otherwise would have been a strange ceremony in an equally strange land went off smoothly.  Yes, a few of the guests took a while getting into the swing of things especially with the berinai and rice sprinkling rituals, but with Rose’s sister Norlela doing a splendid job as the Mistress of Ceremony, everyone quickly and smoothly became Malay that evening.  At the end, the bride and groom went around each table meeting all the guests and to have photo opportunities with them.

While the ambiance was definitely traditional Malay, this was after all a wedding in California. The couple’s first dance, to the tune of Oceans Apart after the bersanding, was an Americana element.

The warmth and intimacy of the celebration was such that the guests lingered long after the event. That after all is what events like weddings are for, apart from celebrating the joining of a man and woman as husband and wife, to renew the bonds of family and friendship.

 

Late in the evening when the last guests had departed, there was the groom and bride minus their earlier elaborate wedding attire, rolling up their sleeves and helping with the clean up.  Rose and Pak Mat’s new son-in-law Kosal had quickly adapted into his new Malay family, now becoming the orang pangkar. That more than anything brought back fond memories of the traditional weddings in my old kampong in Negri Sembilan.

 

 

 

The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts (Part 5 of 5)

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Part 5) M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

Last of Five Parts: Hard To Be Part of the Solution When You Are Part of the Problem

[In the first three essays I critiqued the Blueprint’s recommendations: specifically its failure to recognize the diversity within our school system and thus the need to have targeted programs; the challenge of recruiting quality teachers; and the link between efficiency, efficacy, and quality. Part Four discussed the report’s deficiencies. This last essay focuses on the very process of reform, or how to do a better job of it.]

The greatest weakness of this reform effort is its exclusive dependence on in-house or MOE staff, the very personnel responsible for the current rot with our schools. These individuals have been part of the problem for far too long; they cannot now be expected suddenly and magically to be part of the solution. That would take an exceptional ability to be flexible, innovative, and have the willingness or at least capacity to learn. Those are the very traits not valued in or associated with our civil service.

The Blueprint’s local consultants included Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez, Khazanah’s Azman Mokthar, and Sunway’s Jeffrey Cheah, presumably representing the three major communities. These individuals are terribly busy. Unless they took time off from their considerable corporate responsibilities, they could not possibly do justice to this important national assignment.

The international consultants were equally impressive. Again here I wonder how much time they actually spent talking to teachers, students and headmasters. Another significant flaw is this: With the possible exception of the Canadian, the others are from systems not burdened with the Malaysian dilemma of low educational achievements identifiable with specific ethnic or geographical groups. In Ontario, Canada, only the Toronto School System which is separate from the provincial has significant experience with the “Malaysian” problem. The Canadian is with the provincial system.

Many of those impressive consultants were conspicuously absent during the many public sessions leading one to conclude that they were more window dressing.

As for the public meetings, there were few formal or well thought-out presentations. Far too often those meetings quickly degenerated into “bitch” sessions, or to put it into local lingo, cakap kosong kopi-o (coffee shop empty talk), with a few vociferous and frustrated individuals hogging the discussions. Worse, there were no records of those hearings for preview, except for those amateurish low-quality recordings posted on Youtube. Consequently, opportunities for learning from those sessions were minimal.

The reform has its own website (myedureview.com) and uses the social media (Facebook and Twitter) extensively. Those dialogues in cyberspace were no better; the comments were un-moderated and simply the spouting of anger and frustrations. As for the few serious ones, the panel never engaged their contributors. The cyber forums, like the public hearings, gave few insights; the signal-to-noise ratio was low. There was no shortage of passion and strong views, reflecting the angst Malaysians have of their school system.

A Superior Approach

There is a better approach. To begin with, dispense with the current or past personnel of MOE; they are or have been part of the problem. Consider that the most consequential reform in medical education, The Flexner Report of 1910 was produced not by a doctor or even an educator but an insurance salesman! It still is the foundation of modern American medical education. In Malaysia, the Razak Report of 1956 transformed Malaysian education, yet its author was no educator or teacher.

The only qualification I seek in those undertaking reform would be a respectable education (meaning, they have earned rather than bought their degrees), a proven record of success in any endeavor, and the necessary commitment, especially time, intellect, and energy. Meaning, these individuals would have to take a sabbatical from their regular duties. I would have no more than five members, with one designated as leader.

Then I would give them a generous budget to hire the best independent professional staff, from clerks to answer the phones efficiently to IT personnel to design and maintain an effective website, to scholars, statisticians and data analysts. The budget should also provide for travel to visit exemplary school systems elsewhere. I would also have those panelists spend most of their time talking to students, parents and teachers rather than ministry officials.

The panel should also have sufficient resources to hire consultants from countries with demonstrably superior school systems. I would choose two in particular – Finland and America. Both have sufficient experiences in dealing with children of marginalized communities; Finland with its new immigrants, America its minorities. Yes, American public schools do not enjoy favorable reputation but there are islands of excellence for us to emulate.

I would avoid consultants from Korea and other East Asian countries for at least two reasons. One, they are ethnically and culturally homogenous; they have no experience dealing with diverse groups; the Malaysian dilemma is alien to them. For another, while the Koreans regularly excel in international comparisons, they do not think highly of their own cram-school-plagued system. Those who can, avoid it.

I would also look beyond the advanced countries to, for example Mexico for its Progressa Program, and Rwanda with its ambitious and highly successful One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) scheme. If poor Rwanda could have such an imaginative initiative, Malaysia could do even more. Rwanda demonstrates that an enlightened government approach could actually bring down prices. Rwanda’s computers cost under RM500 per unit! It could do that because the program is under the management of competent and honest foreign experts, not local inertia-laden bureaucrats and corrupt politicians on the take. Rwandan leaders are self confident and fully aware that they lack local expertise; they are not hesitant in calling in foreigners and do not worry about being “neo-colonized” or whatever.

Rwanda offers many other useful lessons. Foremost is that children from even the most physically and socially challenged environments could leapfrog the technological gap. That is pertinent for our children in Ulu Kelantan and Interior Sarawak. For another, reform in the classrooms spills into the wider community, spurring further reforms and developments there. Those Rwandan children dragged along their parents and grandparents into the digital age. Those elders are now open to the wider world; consequently they demand more of their leaders, like their villages having electricity so they could use their computers longer. They view those machines as agents of liberation and emancipation; now they can find out the price of the commodities they sell and the goods they buy directly from the market instead of being captive to the middlemen.

The only time I would call for ministry’s input is to have the staff enumerate the problems and challenges faced under the current system. This would also show whether they are indeed aware of those problems and whether their assessments match those of parents.

I would arrange the public participation component differently and also encourage input from all, individuals as well as groups. The initial submissions however, would have to be in writing. That would force presenters to think through their ideas. For groups I would stipulate that their report be accompanied by an attestation that it had been endorsed by their executive committees or general membership.

All submissions would be in Malay or English, with a translation in the other language. For those exceeding 300 words there would have to be an accompanying executive summary not more than 200 words, again in both languages. All these submissions would be posted on the panel’s website, with readers free to post their comments. Those comments as well as the original submissions would have to be edited (again by the panel’s professional staff) for clarity, brevity and accuracy, as well as to avoid embarrassing grammatical and spelling errors. That would lend some gravitas to the website as well as provide useful learning opportunities for those who surf it. The website as well as other media outlets must reflect the professionalism and excellence of the reform effort.

One does not get this impression now on reading the Blueprint or perusing the reform’s website.

The panel would then select from those submissions the few that are worthy for further exploration in an open public hearing. The purpose of those structured open hearings is to give the panel opportunities to elucidate greater details from the submitters, and for them to expand on their ideas. Those hearings are not meant to hear from new or on-the-spur commentators. Such a scheme would effectively cut out the grandstanders. Again, those proceedings, their transcripts as well as the video and audio recordings, would be posted on the website.

Only after all the public hearings have been completed would the panel gather to write their final recommendations, with freedom for each member to produce his or her own separate or dissenting comment. That is the only way to be credible.

The current process produces nothing more than a sanitized press release of MOE, embellished with the imprimaturs of those impressive corporate and international consultants.

Measures of Success

There are only four reliable indicators of success with education reform, and all are readily measured. The simplest is to stand at the Johor causeway on any school morning and count the number of school children going south. Trend those numbers. If five years hence that number were to dwindle, then you know that Malaysian parents have confidence in their schools. To be really sophisticated you could factor in the birth rates and other variables. However, those would not add much.

Similarly, you could take the train on a Sunday afternoon and count the number of youngsters in Johor heading south for the week to stay with extended families or boarding houses in Singapore to attend schools there.

Those chauvinistically inclined might be tempted to conclude that regardless how good our schools are, those predominantly Chinese students would still go south. If that is so, then I have two other trends to monitor. One, visit the top universities abroad and survey the Malaysians there. How many (or what percentage) come from our national schools? In the 1980s I could count many; today, hardly any. That decline correlated with the deterioration of our national schools.

Another would be to trend the number of Malaysians enrolled in local international schools. Now that quotas for local enrollment have been lifted, that number would be inversely related to the level of confidence the elite has of our schools.

These statistics are easily collected and trended; you do not need fancy “labs” for that. PEMANDU should assign a junior staff member to collect them.

Reform must be approached thoughtfully, both with the process and the people selected to lead it. The full consequence of the changes we put today would not be felt till decades or even generations later. We are only now realizing and paying the price for the follies of the 1970s.

As a youngster my father would admonish me whenever I did something sloppily. Not only had I wasted my effort, he reminded me, now somebody else would have to undo what I had done before he could do it the right way. Triple the work and effort, essentially.
These reform efforts consume considerable human, financial and other resources. They distract everyone, from politicians and ministry bureaucrats to parents, teachers, and most of all the students.

We have to do it right, beginning by having the right people.

The writer is the author of, among others, An Education System Worthy of Malaysia.

The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts (Part 4 of 5)

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

The Havoc Education Reform Inflicts: Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Part 4 of 5)
M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com

Fourth of Five Parts: Roar of An Elephant, Baby of a Mouse

[In the first three parts I critiqued the Blueprint’s recommendations; specifically its failure to recognize the diversity within our school system and thus the need to have targeted programs, the challenge of recruiting quality teachers, and the link between efficiency efficacy, and quality. In this Part Four, I discuss the major areas the report ignores.]

Education Blueprint 2013-2025 lacks clear authorship. The document carries forewords by Najib, Muhyyiddin, and the ministry’s Secretary-General as well as its Director General, while the Appendix credits a long list of those involved in this “robust, comprehensive, and collaborative effort,” but the Blueprint itself is unsigned.

It is also impossible to tell who actually is in charge of this whole reform effort. According to the complicated box-chart diagram, the entire endeavor was anchored in a 12-member “Project Management Office” (PMO) that reported to the Ministry’s Director-General as well as to an 11-member “Project Taskforce” that in turn reported to Muhyyiddin. Both the PMO and Taskforce are manned exclusively by ministry officials. Then there are the local and international panels of experts.

Such a convoluted arrangement could easily degenerate into a morass when no individual is tasked to be in charge. Every military operation needs a commanding general; every orchestra, a conductor. That is the greatest deficiency with this reform exercise; no one was in charge, likewise with writing the report.

This is typical of the Malaysian civil service “management by committee” mode. So it is difficult to heap praise, or in this case, lay blame. That no one was in charge could be gauged by the final product. For a report that claims to be comprehensive, aimed no less at transforming the system, it is disjointed and lacks a central theme. It heaps praise on the system’s “remarkable achievements” for the past 55 years. If that is so, why reform it? The Blueprint embellishes how well our students had performed on national examinations over the years, and then cites the PISA and TIMSS reports that indicate otherwise.

There are also many technical but irritating deficiencies, as with the lack of references. The Appendix makes only general references to reports from such bodies as the World Bank, OECD, and UNESCO. Those are relatively easy to trace. However, when it quotes studies done by local universities, there are no specific references, leading one to suspect that those studies are not of publishable quality.

Those aside, my greatest disappointment is the Blueprint’s failure to address the system’s obvious and critical weaknesses that demand immediate attention: rural national schools; religious stream; and vocational education. All three regularly perform at the bottom; improve them and you improve the system’s overall performance. For another, the students affected are mostly if not exclusively poor Malays. This failure to address their problems is made more incomprehensible and inexcusable because those involved with this reform, from Muhyyiddin on downwards, are mostly Malays. While today they may live in plush bungalows at Putrajaya, scratch a bit and the kampongness would ooze out of their pores. During Hari Raya they all fled en mass balek kampong.

Surely on those trips they would hear and see the plight of the children of their cousins and other relatives. I too was once one of those children. On visiting my kampong recently, I was painfully reminded of my earlier challenges. Only now they are worse.

At least during my childhood I could dream that if I were to do well in school, I could escape my kampong. Today even if those children were to excel, their opportunities would be severely limited because their limited command of English.

Then there is the problem of school transportation. At least during my time there was a bus service, erratic though that was. Today there is none. Those children have to depend on fellow villagers who happen to have a car. If perchance he is sick or slept over that morning, then those half a dozen or so children that he normally packs into his tiny Kancil would miss school.

The biggest school expense my parents faced was their children’s bus fares. It still is for those village parents. American schools are required to provide free transportation especially for rural students. During colonial rule schools had hostels to cater for those from remote areas. If we have more such facilities then those students would not have to cross rickety bridges over dangerous rivers as often.

The wonder is that chronic absenteeism and academic underachievement are not worse with kampong kids. The Blueprint does not address this. A simple solution would be to have specific transportation allocation for each school for those pupils who live far away. The headmaster would then issue vouchers to be redeemed by the student and the village taxi driver. Better yet, the school could contract directly with individual village car owners and taxi drivers. There are other possibilities; all you need is for someone to first identify the problem and then diligently think about solving it.

The panel should be less enamored with advanced countries like Finland and South Korea, and instead learn from such poor countries as Mexico. The problems of our kampong children are closer to those of Mexico than South Korea. Mexico’s Progressa program pays poor rural families for their children to attend school. The scheme also extends to healthcare as with immunizations. The money typically goes to the mothers. The program has been modernized such that there are no transfers of cold cash as in the past, rather direct deposit into bank accounts. Yes, bank accounts for poor illiterate villagers! That also brings them into the modern economy, quite apart from bypassing petty local civil servants.

The poor are identified through direct surveys, so even those who do not register or distrustful of governments are not missed. The program is specifically divorced from the ruling political party; hence no political patronage and the associated corruption and leakage. The initiative has been remarkably effective in targeting the hard-core poor, and with low administrative costs.

Progressa reveals the close relationship between health, poverty, and educational achievements, and that all three could be simultaneously addressed effectively with a social initiative that is low cost, highly efficient, and remarkably efficacious. Progressa underscores the wisdom of former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, “You can’t educate a child who is not healthy, and you can’t keep a child healthy who isn’t educated.”

Then there are the dilapidated conditions of rural schools; many lack power and potable water. If they have power then they could use computers and two-way videoconferencing so that one teacher centrally located could serve several classes from different schools. This is particularly useful for small schools as they can be combined online. Similarly, the shortage of teachers for specialized subjects like music could be overcome by sharing one teacher rotated among many schools in one district. Both strategies are effectively used in rural America.

As for vocational education, we cannot be an economic power unless we have well trained and skillful workforce for manufacturing as well as for the service sector. Specifically for Malays, the only way for signs like “Mahmud Motor Repairs” and “Halimah Hair Saloon” to appear on our main streets is to train these skillful workers. Again, we do not have to re-invent the wheel. Germany provides an excellent example of industry/school collaborative apprenticeship programs.

Then there are the religious schools. They share all the challenges of national schools, only worse. Physically, the standard of hygiene of their canteens is atrocious while their hostels are death traps, lacking basic safety features as sprinkler systems. They lack even mosquito nets.

Beyond the awful facilities, the religious stream faces an even far daunting challenge. Its educational philosophy, pedagogical approach, and learning psychology are archaic, misguided, and simply wrong. This is an affliction peculiar not only to Malaysia but also most Muslim countries, and from the highest institutions like Al Azhar to the lowest local Al Arqam preschool.

Abdullah Munshi best described the approach and philosophy of modern education: It treats the human mind as a knife to be sharpened. Current Islamic education on the other hand considers the human mind a dustbin to be filled with dogmas.

The possibilities with a sharp knife are limitless. In the hands of a surgeon it can cure cancer; a sculptor, an exquisite work of art. With a dustbin all you could get out of it is what you put in, nothing more. That assumes nothing gets stuck or crushed at the bottom. Yes, a sharp knife in the hands of a thug is a lethal killing weapon. This is where religious education comes in so that when we send our young abroad to study nuclear engineering they will come home to manufacture radio-pharmaceuticals to cure cancer, and not build nuclear weapons.

What goes on in those religious schools and universities is indoctrination masquerading as education. The emphasis is on mindless recitations and the quoting of earlier scholars and luminaries. The strength of your argument is not based on logic or data but the pedigree of your quoted authorities. Religious education as presently practiced entraps rather than liberates Muslim minds.

The irony is that modern education has all the hallmarks of early Muslim practices and philosophy, at least until the so-called “closure of the Gate of Ijtihad” in the 12th Century. Many would attribute the decline of the Muslim world since then to this “closure of ijtihad” and with it, the closing of the Muslim mind. Those longing for an Islamic Renaissance would do well to first critically examine current religious education.

The other irony is that only in America and Singapore, two secular countries with Muslim minorities, have Islamic schools been modernized. Blueprint 2013-2025 does not even address religious education in Malaysia.

Religion is now a major influence in national schools. That is one reason why non-Malays are abandoning the system. Removing religious studies from national schools, as some are advocating, is not the solution. Then we would be back to my childhood days, where I was put in the hands of the pondok ustads in afternoon schools. The only way I survived that intellectual dissonance was to strictly compartmentalize my mind between my morning secular school and afternoon religious one. Sooner or later I had to reconcile the obvious contradictions. We should never burden young minds with such heavy dilemmas; instead we should guide them in reconciling the two and thus benefiting from both.

We should teach our young early that there is no contradiction between secular and religious knowledge, and that the division between the two is false and artificial. Keeping religion in our national schools would best demonstrate that unity of knowledge. Metaphorically put, modern education sharpens the knife while religious education guides one to use it as a surgeon or sculptor would, to good purpose. I do not suspend my rational capacity on reading the Koran or listening to a sermon, and I do not shelve my religious convictions when I conduct scientific experiments or operate on my patients.

Before we could bring religious studies into national schools, the manner, objective and philosophy of teaching it would have to be revamped. It should be taught as an academic subject, not as theology.

After discussing these major deficiencies, it would seem petty if not anti-climactic to cite the Blueprint’s other omissions, which pale in comparison. However, I will include two more. Though seemingly minor, they reflect the panel’s lack of diligence and failure to critically analyze data.

The Blueprint quotes at length in the text and appendix both TIMSS and PISA. Malaysia paid considerable sums to participate in those studies. They are well designed and tested a broad spectrum of students so as to get as representative a sample as possible. However, its report presents only a composite of the nation as a whole.

As is obvious, there are vast differences between the students at Penang’s Chung Ling versus Kelantan’s Madrasah Al-Bakriyyah, between SMK Ulu Temiang versus SMJK (Tamil) Ulu Tiram. Those differences would be captured in the data of TIMSS and PISA but Malaysian scholars and policymakers have not analyzed them.

In America, Singapore, and elsewhere those statistics are pored over, with reams of papers published. Not so in Malaysia. That is all the more surprising as the data are in the public domain. Had that been done, the disparities within Malaysia would have been shocking. Perhaps that was why the panel contends itself only with the composite findings.

The one chapter missing from the Blueprint would be, “Lessons From The Past.” There is no attempt at critically looking at past reforms, their successes and especially the failures. If we do not examine them we are no likely to learn and thus likely to repeat the same mistakes. Then when the next Minister of Education arrives, he too would once again embark on another “bold, comprehensive, and transforming reform.”

If I were to be tasked with this awesome responsibility of reviewing our education system, I would approach it differently. And that will be the focus of my next and last part of this commentary.

Next: Part 5: Cannot Be Part of the Solution if You Are Part of the Problem