The growing prominence of religion in schools has had a negative impact on the education system, says Centre for Global Affairs (ICON) president Abdul Razak Baginda.

Speaking at a forum titled Malaysian Education: Where Are We Heading?, Razak said the kind of society that is being produced, as a result of the Malaysian education system, is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.

“Religion has crept, reared its ugly head in our schools and our educational institutions. It has a negative impact.

“Religion is now prominent in our schools.  There is too much religion in the system, but no politician will dare say it. Someone will accuse them of being anti-Islam.

“Which politician in his right mind will dare say it? We have imprisoned ourselves in this dilemma. Eventually it is non-existent,” he said.

Razak noted that while accessibility to education was no longer a real issue, compared with 10, 20 years ago, he questioned if “we are producing the kind of society we want?”

“What are we producing in our society? Is it any better? One would argue that it is even worse. It is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.

“Are we teaching our children the right things? Is formal education what we should stress on? Informal education is becoming increasingly important,” he said.

Also present were Khazanah Nasional adviser and consultant (education) Satinah Syed Saleh, and former youth parliamentarian Mohsen Alkaff.

Razak stated that society has fundamentally changed, even when people had the tendency to think that society has remained the same.

“Back in the 1980s and the 1990s, nobody could have imagined how society would change today. Social media is the single biggest impact.

“You can have anything you want in school, the minute the student leaves school, he has access to the world, to the phone. The influence he has, whether radicalism or something else.

“So, we need to stress on informal education. Who will be responsible for that? If no one takes responsibility, it will be a problem,” he said.

Razak also pointed out that Malaysians were highly dependent on the government, and tended to blame the government when something went wrong, such as “if my son or daughter is not toilet trained, or if my child does not know how to write”.

“They blame the government. Parents and siblings do not play their role in society. Too much is left to the government.

“Of course, the government is not immune from blame. But people surrender a lot of their own responsibility to the system,” he added.

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